The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won their 40th straight game against an unranked opponent on Saturday night with a 28-3 showing over the Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville. It was a weird mix of domination and missed opportunity throughout the night.
Let’s get into it.
We found out just a short while before the game that defensive end Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Drew White were unavailable to play due to the flu. This meant Nana Osafo-Mensah (DE) and Bo Bauer got the start against UVA. Bauer in particular had himself a game. The senior linebacker had 9 tackles on the night along with 1.5 sacks and a pass breakup. Notre Dame needed to make the backup quarterback uncomfortable, and Bauer answered the bell with some relentless play.
A MIXED BAG
Notre Dame racked up 423 yards of offense without a single player accumulating over 100 yards of total offense. The Irish used some end arounds and jet sweeps to accent the rushing game, which was 249 of the 423 yards. Kyren Williams had 70 yards on 14 carries and Logan Diggs had 64 yards on 9 carries — with only one touchdown between them (Kyren Williams 22 yarder). Lorenzo Styles, Braden Lenzy, and Chris Tyree were all given opportunities on jet sweeps. Between the three of them, they accounted for 100 yards rushing.
LOGAN DIGGS WITH THE HURDLE pic.twitter.com/o2cjc4Dtwt— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) November 14, 2021
Much was made about Brennan Armstrong being out of the game, and there wasn’t nearly enough discussion about Kyle Hamilton being out for another week. To make up for a lack of Kyle on the defense, Marcus Freeman and Chris O’Leary were forced to get creative and move some players around. Xavier Watts and Ramon Henderson saw plenty of action at safety for the Irish. Watts had 5 tackles on the night and looked quick and aggressive against the run, while Henderson had 4 tackles (.5 TFL) and an interception. D.J. Brown added to the production with an interception in the endzone late in the game.
Brian Kelly singled out Braden Lenzy after the game for his “gritty” performance, but it was Michael Mayer and Kevin Austin that really carried the Irish passing game. Mayer finally looked like early season Mayer with 7 receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown. Kevin Austin only had 3 receptions for 37 yards — but two of them were first down pickups on third down, and the other was a great catch from a great throw.
While there are parts of this game that were disappointing, it sounds like this week was very tough on Notre Dame with the flu bug.
Brian Kelly says 13 players were in and out of the practice lineup this week with illness. Drew White’s flu temp got up to 103. Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa was 101 in pregame.— Pete Sampson (@PeteSampson_) November 14, 2021
THE PART THAT HURTS THE WORST
Notre Dame only had one 3 and out on the night, but they also had two failed 4th down conversions, an unnecessary deep throw from Jack Coan that resulted in an interception, and after driving 85 yards — Tyler Buchner and Logan Diggs fumbled at the mesh point to turn it over inside the ten yard line. It was that fumble that would change the perception of this game. Virginia just kicked the cowardly field goal, and this long drive could have been a major answer to make it 35-3. The difference between 35-3 and 28-3 may only seem like 7 points, but we all know that there were only a small amount of style points available in this game — and those were it.
On the surface (and maybe a little deeper) this game was a missed opportunity to throw up a heavy 45-3 type of performance. Does it move the Irish up 3 spots in the CFB playoff rankings? No, but it doesn’t sprinkle doubt like this win likely did for some.
At any rate... the Irish are now 9-1 with games against Georgia Tech and Stanford remaining. The odds of Notre Dame finishing the regular season 11-1 and at least knocking on the playoff door are very high. Winning is hard, and winning is good. Notre Dame won big on Saturday night (the final line before kickoff was -8.5) — so that’s good enough.