The Notre Dame Fighting Irish picked up their fifth straight victory to improve to 9-1 on the season with a dominating 28-3 victory over the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday night. That domination was largely aided by a major absence on offense for the Cavaliers, though the Irish offense did their part by rolling up 423 yards of total offense on the night.
Virginia was already facing a tough test because of their weak defense, but it was their inability to mount a consistent offensive attack that doomed their chances of an upset. Notre Dame’s strong defensive performance marked the second straight week that they held an opponent without a touchdown.
Below are some of the key factors related to the Irish win:
Catching a Huge Break
Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong had injured his ribs in the Cavaliers’ last game two weeks ago, though no update on his status had been offered. However, just prior to the game, Armstrong was ruled out, a decision that took away a signal-caller who would have offered a stiff challenge to the Notre Dame defense.
Instead of dialing up a pass-happy attack, Virginia was forced to offer a more balanced approach that resulted in no points during the first half and just three for the game. True freshman Jay Woolfolk took over the starting reins for the Cavaliers, but a pair of three-and-outs along with a second-quarter interception laid the groundwork for a 21-0 halftime lead by the Irish.
Rushing Forward Again
For the second time in the last three games, Notre Dame ended up with more than 200 yards rushing by collecting 249 for the evening. In this particular instance, the Irish backs largely spread the wealth. Kyren Williams set the tone once again with 70 yards on the night, showing off some impressive moves on a number of his runs. One of those came on a 25-yard scoring dash in the second quarter.
A positive sign for the future Irish running game could be seen in the efforts of a pair of freshmen, Logan Diggs and Lorenzo Styles Jr. Diggs got the attention of the Virginia defense near the end of the first quarter with a 26-yard run that was highlighted by an impressive leap for extra yardage. In the fourth quarter, he picked up 19 yards on another run and finished with 64 yards on just nine carries, while Styles made the most of his single carry with a 37-yard scamper. That dash helped set up the final Irish score of the first half.
Plugging the Hole
The depleted Notre Dame receiving corps was in need of someone to step up and replace Avery Davis after the Irish wideout tore his ACL last week. While Michael Mayer and Kevin Austin continued to do their part against Virginia with seven and three receptions, respectively, it was Braden Lenzy who gave a hint that he can come to the rescue.
Lenzy ended up matching Austin’s three receptions for 23 yards, with his touchdown catch early in the second quarter doubling the Notre Dame advantage to 14-0. In addition to his receiving skills, he showed himself to be a running threat on a 31-yard end-around in the third period. The trick play started a drive that culminated in Austin’s one touchdown reception in the contest.
Same Old Same Old
The Notre Dame defensive unit had their own gaps to fill in this game due to the flu-related absences of Drew White and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa. Both players have been effective assets all season and also serve as captains, but the duo of Bo Bauer and Riley Mills kept up the pressure as part of the seven-sack effort.
Bauer’s third-down sack, which Mills also contributed to, came on the first series of the second half. Virginia appeared ready to get back into the game by marching down the field. However, Bauer’s sack pushed the Cavaliers back six yards back to the Notre Dame 26. Virginia subsequently missed from 44 yards out on a field goal attempt, which no doubt killed a good deal of the momentum they had built. Mills then picked up a sack on his own to put an end to a Cavaliers drive later in that same period.
Notre Dame returns home next Saturday to host the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who are coming off a 41-30 loss to Boston College. Tech fell victim to defensive woes in the second and fourth quarters against the Eagles, allowing 34 points in those two periods. The loss was the fourth in a row for the Yellow Jackets and marked the third time this season that they had allowed more than 40 points in a single game. They enter the contest with a 3-7 record