Matchups Notre Dame Has to Win To Get Back on Track vs. Virginia

Another first for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish arrives on Saturday afternoon when they welcome the Virginia Cavaliers to the Golden Dome for the first time ever. These two teams have faced off on two other occasions, though the most recent instance came in a 2015 clash at Charlottesville in which the Irish came away with a 34-27 win.

The Irish are coming off a loss at third-ranked Georgia in which a bad third quarter doomed them, and a furious late comeback fell short. That means that running the table over the remainder of the regular season is the only possible path for a playoff berth. As far as their opponents for Saturday, Virginia is coming off a 28-17 victory over Old Dominion, a clash that would have been an embarrassing home upset to after having fallen behind early by a 17-0 score.

Below are some of the key matchups for Saturday’s contest:

Notre Dame Defense vs. QB Bryce Perkins

For three of the four quarters, Notre Dame’s defense held Georgia’s potent offensive attack in check. Lapses during the third quarter of that game proved costly, though some of that can be attributed to the fatigue caused by the ineffective offense during that stretch. In this game, they need to be on patrol against a mobile quarterback who already has more than 1,000 yards of total offense to his credit.

Perkins has been more vulnerable to interceptions so far this season, but he’s still connected with six receivers on scoring tosses. In addition, he enters this game as the Cavaliers’ leading rusher, so zeroing in on him is paramount to keeping the Virginia offense in check.

RB Tony Jones vs. MLB Jordan Mack

While the Irish didn’t completely abandon the run against Georgia, they only toted the ball 14 times during the contest. That’s because Jones is the lone back contributing due to injuries, but even he’s only gained 148 yards in three games. Virginia’s 2019 opponents have only averaged 2.2 yards per carry, which may keep the Irish throwing the ball. However, at some point, Notre Dame needs to establish its running game.

Mack knows how to bring down his man and stop them behind the line of scrimmage, given that he currently is tied for the Cavaliers’ team lead in tackles with 29. Despite missing four games last year, he still finished with 66 tackles, one year removed from his 114 stops in 2017.

OT Robert Hainsey/Liam Eichenberg vs. OLB Charles Snowdon

Both Hainsey and Eichenberg had their issues in the loss at Georgia as they were both flagged for false starts. In the case of Eichenberg, he had a miserable evening, with multiple false starts coupled with a penalty for unnecessary roughness and a personal foul call against him.

Those flaws need to be cleaned up since both are protecting Notre Dame’s backfield from the strong side rush of Snowdon, who has three sacks and six tackles-for-loss to his credit this year. Even when Snowdon hasn’t made them stop, he’s knocked away a pair of passes, so he could make Book’s comfort level drop if Hainsey and Eichenberg aren’t on their game.

CB Troy Pride vs. WR Joe Reed

Pride hasn’t been quite as active as his counterpart on the other side, Shaun Crawford, collecting just five tackles and deflecting one pass during the first three games of the season. Yet his underrated play from last season offers a window into what he can provide against the Cavaliers’ top receiver.

Reed wins that designation due to his status as Virginia’s best pass-catcher, grabbing 23 tosses that have been mainly short-yardage pickups. He is capable of being a deep threat and at 6-foot-1 won’t have the six-inch height advantage that Georgia wideout Lawrence Cager had for his touchdown over the 5-foot-11 Pride.

WR Chase Claypool vs. CB Bryce Hall

Claypool enters this game as Notre Dame’s top wideout with 15 catches for 256 yards and two touchdowns. The latter of those two scores came in the waning moments of the Georgia defeat. He’s become Book’s favorite target during the first three contests but is still waiting to have a monster game in which he continually serves as a deep threat.

Hall brings plenty of experience to the table and will be a challenge for Claypool. Last season, Hall led the NCAA in the area of pass deflections with 21 and has four so far this season. He could have headed to the NFL after last season but instead returned to lead the Cavaliers’ secondary, bringing a high level of intensity to the field.

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  1. There are basically three things that contributed heavily to our loss to Georgia. 1) We lost the turnover battle
    2) We set a Brian Kelly era record for penalties 3) We have no inside running game

    Since everyone around here knows this, why do I bother to post it? Because two of the three are easily corrected. Let’s limit turnovers against Virginia (who has a pretty good defense I hear) to no more than one turnover.
    Let’s get the penalties down to four or less per game. That should happen in the friendly confines of our own stadium.

    The inexplicable one to me is the running game. If we are to win a New Year’s Six Bowl this year, we need to be able to run the ball much better, as we all know. To Coach Kelly, Coach Long and Coach Quinn: Figure this out and fix it, please. I know we don’t have a blazing back at this time…but there’s more going on here…our O Line doesn’t get any push at all. You should not need a blazer to pick up three yards on second and two! C’mon dudes! Start over…starting this Saturday.

    Georgia was the better team. The three reasons for that are listed above. Change ANY ONE of the three things listed above, and that goes away, and we probably win. So change them all.

    BGC ’77 ’82

    1. Three key places to improve indeed. This game has the look of being another low-scoring game.
      Someone is going to have to shadow QB Perkins. Gilman?

      NDs D’ seems better when #11 is attacking the LOS.

      1. MTA…Gilman on run support…middle linebacker can spy him on what appears to be a passing play…but I have full confidence in Coach Lea’s
        ability to handle this better than I would!

        BGC ’77 ’82

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