Notre Dame Football Primer: Irish’s 1st Trip to Virginia Tech

The Irish are heading to Blacksburg, Virginia to play in one of the most hostile environments in all of college football. Fresh off a 21-point victory over top ten Stanford, the Irish face #24 Virginia Tech on the road. After a 3-point loss to the Hokies in 2016, Notre Dame will look to even the series this Saturday Night.

Essential Game Info:

  • Game Time: October 6th at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC
  • Location: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia
  • Matchup: Notre Dame is 0-1 all-time against Virginia Tech
  • Current Odds: Notre Dame -5.5

Blacksburg Weather Forecast

The current forecast for GameDay shows a 30 % chance of rain with a high of 79 degrees and a low of 62. Below is a look at the next 5 days leading up to the game (this will automatically update to be the most recent 5 days throughout the week).

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Virginia Tech Details:

  • Conference: ACC (Coastal Division)
  • Head Coach: Justin Fuente
  • 2018 Record: 3-1
  • 2017 Record: 9-4

Virginia Tech Storylines:

How good is Virginia Tech? In Week 1 the Hokies went to Tallahassee, Florida and demolished the Florida State Seminoles. They were promptly launched into the Top 15.  Florida State, however, is currently 3-2 with a close win over Samford. Just 2 weeks ago the Old Dominion Monarchs beat Virginia Tech 49 to 35, in the biggest upset of the college football season.

Last week, Virginia Tech dominated the 22nd ranked Duke Blue Devils on the road. Led by backup quarterback Ryan Willis. Prior to the loss, Duke had wins at Northwestern, at Baylor, Army, and North Carolina Central. Now Virginia Tech is back in the Top 25 rankings for the matchup against Notre Dame. The Hokies showed great resiliency by coming back after that monumental upset, and subsequently losing their starting quarterback.

Quarterback Josh Jackson out indefinitely. Jackson fractured his fibula during the Old Dominion game just 2 weeks ago. He is not listed as “out for the season”, but he will not be playing this weekend. Also, Trevon Hill, Virginia Tech’s best pass rusher was kicked off the team after the Old Dominion loss. Two of the Hokie’s best players won’t be facing Notre Dame this weekend.

Players to Watch Saturday. Ryan Willis is the new starting quarterback for the Hokies. He does not lack experience. As a transfer from Kansas, Willis has career totals of 266 completions, 55% completion percentage, 3,057 passing yards, with 15 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He is not a dual-threat; Willis has -48 rushing yards in his career on 110 attempts. Almost all of those statistics were compiled at Kansas in 2015 and 2016 though where he did not have much of any support.

Against Duke last weekend, Willis went 17 of 27 for 332 yards with 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Willis is accompanied by running backs Steven Peoples and Deshawn McClease. Peoples has 55 carries for 302 yards and 5 touchdowns. While McClease has 45 attempts for 214 yards and 1 touchdown. Despite their decent numbers,  the entire running game only totaled 81 total rushing yards against Duke last week.

The Hokies main receiving target is the 6-2 Damon Hazelton who has 15 receptions for 348 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Notre Dame Storylines:

Notre Dame Defensive Line. Jerry Tillery went off against the Stanford Cardinal with 6 tackles and 4 sacks. The Notre Dame Defensive line has been the difference against ranked teams. In the first half, Stanford was able to convert on 2 touchdown drives. But in the second half they were completely shutdown by the entire Irish defense, and more precisely the Notre Dame defensive line.

The Fighting Irish had a total of 5 sacks and 1 turnover. Perhaps the most dominating statistic of the night was the Stanford rushing total. In the entire game, the Cardinal only totaled 55 yards on the ground. Bryce Love may not have been 100%, but to hold the Heisman Runner-Up to those 73 yards on 17 carries was tremendous.

Injury Updates. Unfortunately, the only thing that may be able to slow down Notre Dame is injuries. Last weekend Notre Dame lost its best offensive lineman Alex Bars for the season. Bars will be replaced by veteran Trevor Ruhland who has already started at Wake Forest, but there is still no replacing the production from Bars. Again, the Irish will be missing running backs. Jafar Armstrong is still out with a knee infection, and Tony Jones Jr. is banged up, but will likely play through it this weekend.

Drue Tranquill suffered a broken hand against Stanford in the first quarter and was able to pay through it. Tranquill will likely be playing through it again this weekend, someone the Irish cannot afford to lose.

The Notre Dame Offense taking off. Ian Book continues to impress each week. He went 24 of 33 for 278 yards passing and 4 touchdowns, with a few dropped catches as well. He was balanced with 15 rushing attempts for 47 yards. The Irish Offense put up 550 yards of total offense against the #7 team in the country.

Dexter Williams blasted into the game with a touchdown on his first carry. He went on to carry the load rushing with 21 carries for 161 yards, and 7.7 yards per carry average. With Armstrong out and Tony Jones Jr. not 100%, he will have to carry the same load again this weekend. Once Notre Dame has all its running backs healthy, they will be even deeper as a unit.

Head to Head Matchups:

Notre Dame Offense vs. Virginia Tech Defense: Ian Book has completely changed the Notre Dame Offense. After only averaging 23 points the first 3 games, the Irish have averaged 47 points the past 2 weeks. Old Dominion scored 49 points on Virginia Tech just two weeks ago. Although this game will be played on the road and the Hokies likely won’t play that poor this weekend, I still give the Irish the advantage.

Advantage Notre Dame

Virginia Tech Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: The Fighting Irish Defense shut down the Stanford Cardinal last weekend. Yes, Virginia Tech scored 31 points against Duke, but they only totaled 81 yards on the ground. Ryan Willis had a great game last weekend as well, but I want to see what he can do against the Irish.

Ryan Willis has more interceptions in his career than touchdown passes. That may have been a product of playing at Kansas, but we’ll find out this weekend. The Irish Defense has the advantage.

Advantage Notre Dame

Special Teams: Virginia Tech’s Kicker, Brian Johnson, is 4 of 4 on the season. His counterpart, Justin Yoon, has gone 6 of 9 on the year. Virginia Tech has one of the best punters in the ACC, Oscar Bradburn, who averaged 44.8 yards per punt just a week ago. Notre Dame’s punter and captain Tyler Newsome is a great punter as well and averaged 51.3 yards per punt last weekend against Stanford.

I don’t see a distinct advantage for either time, I have a tie for this matchup.

Tie

My Prediction:

After losing to Old Dominion two weeks ago, Virginia Tech bounced back in a major way last weekend. I fully believe that Notre Dame is the better team all around, but this game is being played in one of the hardest environments in college football. Lane Stadium is famous for being extremely difficult to play in.

This will be Ian Book’s first ranked road contest. But he is not attempting this challenge alone. Book has the support of one of the best defenses in the country. The Fighting Irish defense has shut down opponents all season long. On the offensive side of the ball there are several players that won’t be available this week. But, with the support of the running game, emerging wide receivers, and his ability to run, Ian Book is setup for success this Saturday Night.

In 2015, the #1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes traveled to Blacksburg and came away with a 42 to 14 victory. Last year, the #2 ranked Clemson Tigers went to Virginia Tech and traveled home with a 31 to 17 victory. If Notre Dame is truly going to be an elite team and consistently be in the playoff hunt late in the season, these are the games they must win, like other top tier programs. I have the Irish winning by 2 touchdowns.

 Prediction: Notre Dame 31 Virginia Tech 17

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24 Comments

  1. There might be a dozen or so teams it is wise to bet against regardless of who they’re playing. There are a few elite teams one should expect to dominate most of their opponents week to week. The rest of what’s left might defeat the rest on any given week. For ND to be among the elite this year, and I believe they are, they must overcome the natural tendency to let down (see Ball State following UM), especially so when on the road and following a huge win versus a rival who had beaten them three years in a row. The crowd was electric Saturday night, but the juice was provided by the determined excellence of the team. The challenge this week is to dominate back to back against quality teams. That’s what the elite do.ND had the superior talent and speed versus Stanford, and made it obvious last Saturday night, especially to the Stanford’s players, watching their demeanor and body language as they left the field from the middle of the third quarter on. When NDs players held up four fingers before the final quarter began, it was more than prophetic, it was evident.
    ND should beat the Hokies by at least two TDs; but they still have to go out and do it. Both teams must compete having two of their best players sidelined. I’m hoping that the fourth quarter decimation of Stanford is the start of NDs dominance late in each game – offensively now, as well as defensively all year long, from here on out from Va. to southern California, regardless of who they are playing or where, or when. Stay tuned.

  2. After listening to many comments about how nasty it is in Blacksburg I’m going to have to assume that this means it will be quite noisy for the Irish and they will find/feel no love. I have the strangest feeling that this “no love” environment will not bother the Irish as they demolish and beat down Virginia Tech!

  3. “There is a pathetic little man around. But his self-unawareness renders him oblivious.”

    Finally, you described yourself rightly, little Davey boy. The hormone therapy must be working.

    There might be some hope for you yet, loser.

    Let me spell it out for you, little Davey boy:

    G-O I-R-I-S-H!

    Get it? If not, then get out of our site, self-absorbed, sophomoric, moronic troll!

  4. I like the cut of your jib, Bob. This is the ideal Brandon savior game. I believe he gets into the game not by design, however, but for necessity, as Book gets dinged up. VT will be well prepared to harass Book, but will be unprepared to deal with Brandon. He runs for 150 yards in second half, and Yoon wins it at the buzzer.

  5. Losing Alex Bars is terrible, but in terms of game preparation, the real hole is at running back. Jafar Armstrong is out with a knee infection and Tony Jones is questionable with an ankle sprain – the two starters along with Dexter Williams. That leaves Avery Davis, who is serviceable and two freshman, only one of whom has seen the field – C’Bo Flemister.

    I’d say the Irish could use a 6’2″, 220 lb. player with a demonstrated skill at running, at least for this game. 8-10 plays – that’s all. Enough to give Tech something they have not prepared for and, yes, there could be one, but just one, gimmick play. I realize it’s risky to put your back-up QB in this position. But Joe Theismann returned punts for the Redskins before he played QB for them. And as they say in the Navy, a ship is safe in the harbor, but that is not why ships are built. Shock the world and play Brandon Wimbush at running back this week.

  6. This is a Notre Dame moment. Blacksburg? That’s simply RFD Virginia, buried in the Shenandoahs.

    It lacks the “sophistication:” of, say, Roanoke.

    And they are unveiling the statue of Beamer before the game. He coached at his alma mater and did for Va Tech what Bowden (your OPINION of Bowden is irrelevant to his historic achievement in Tallahasee) did for Florida State. Yeah, buddy, let’s throw more gasoline on the Hokie bonfire!

    And it’s at NIGHT!!!! Only a wimp, a pansy, a shirker, a lurker, would want it any other way.

    The fair denizens of Southwest Virginia (who consider people from Harrisonburg as Yankees!) have been waiting for this a long time.

    To be successful you have to be able to play TOUGH consecutive games. Consider Bama which migh have to beat Auburn, Georgia, Notre Dame and Georgia again to win it all.

    We’re not playing Ball State any more!

    All eyes will watch, and the coaching staff will remind the players that this, THIS SATURDAY NIGHT in Blacksburg is why they agreed to matriculate in Michi-freaki-ana. It sure wasn’t for the zephyrs, the cuisine and wood nymphs. It was to play BALL!

    If you’re not wanting
    THIS OPPONENT
    THIS SITE
    THIS BEAMER STATUE UNVEILING
    THIS TIME OF NIGHT
    Then got off my, and Rockne’s and Leahy’s and Ara’s, lawn!

    Go Irish!

  7. Kelly was completely unprepared for the Alabama game environment (only partly because he was busy setting up job interviews).

    Then he was glazed and stunned entering Clemson….maybe no one ever told him it’s called Death Valley.

    So if it happens again Saturday, will that be enough?

    1. They almost beat Clemson at Clemson, they lost 22-24 to the team that played for the NC. Go be a hater somewhere else. What about the wins that he’s gotten. People like you are pathetic.

    2. “They lost before they took the field,” says a one who was a loser before he was conceived!

      Hey, little Davey, how’s Nebraska doing? What other games are you enjoying instead of ND’s? Maybe go troll those teams’ fans.

      You’re just pathetic, little man. Is your life so utterly devoid of meaning you have to come on here to demean yourself?

      I hope you have the National Suicide Hotline number near by. ND win or defeat, something tells me you’ll still be one miserable SOB!

      1. Well SFR, I was going to ignore that comment about conception, but I just have to say…”nice”

        BGC ’77 ’82

    3. Dave….I don’t comment here much but I do read the comments and I have seen your’s and wonder no more why other fans here think you’re a moron, troll etc. After giving it much thought I realized that a singer by the name of Lily Allen wrote a song just for you. It’s called (f_ck You) and its all about a hater just like you. I am not joking look it up on napster or where ever you get your music. I swear Lily drew this one up just for you my friend!

  8. Wow, someone’s confident with that score. I’m not quite so optimistic. It all depends on whether ND continues to improve as it has the last 2 weeks. I can’t help but remember Miami last year, and Miami was not an elite team last year.

    But it helps this game is earlier in the year.

    If ND comes crashing back to Earth, on the road in such a hostile environment, this could be a long game. VT would love nothing more then to derail ND (as most teams would like to do to be honest). They will have to tune all that out.

    But it’s equally possible ND continues to improve. The ingredients are there for a 2 TD win if they take it. They have the right players and are firing on all cylinders right now. They just have to exert their will. The defense will have to dictate the game as they did in the 2nd half against Stanford. Do that and we could have a good game.

    Honestly I’m reluctant to make any predictions. The win is there for the taking, as long as they don’t let it slip away.

    1. I’m with Damian on his defensive comment. They need to DICTATE VT’s offense and not react to them.

      Go Irish!!!

  9. You don’t know what you are getting into at VT. VT is much better than what you are saying. You are forgetting about what Coach
    Foster did to Ohio State at the Shoe. Also, That ODU game was the worst loss in school history, but you are putting too much into it.
    I hope everyone thinks this way going into Lane Stadium. Enjoy.

    1. I agree that the ODU loss was a mulligan. Every team has a couple each year. It is the (inverse/converse) of the old saw that you can’t get a team all the way up more than twice a year.
      Per Glenn “Bo” Schembechler and countless others.

      A team owns each game, agreed, but there are games in BOTH directions that are out one or two standard deviations from the norm. Witness Miami over our Irish last year. What happened to Miami the next few weeks?
      Quod erat demonstrandum

    1. Tillery could be evolving into the “Browner” or “Zorich” type of down lineman BK has been missing. I know that is saying a lot, even asking a lot, but he seems to be delivering, especially in the big games.

      BGC ’77 ’82

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