Preview ’18: Notre Dame Out for Revenge In First Trip to Virginia Tech

When the calendar turns to October, the first opponent on the Notre Dame football schedule will be the Virginia Tech Hokies on their home field in Blacksburg. The clash will mark only the second meeting ever between the two teams, with the Hokies emerging with a tight three-point win in South Bend two years ago in game where the Hokies got away with several shots to the head of then Irish QB Deshone Kizer .

Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente is beginning his third year and hopes to improve on his 9-4 record from 2017. Just one week before the the Irish watched the national title hopes collapse in Miami, the Hokies met the same fate in a 28-10 defeat. Tech fans should be happy that another possible challenge for ACC supremacy and more is possible this season.

Virginia Tech Offense: Crossing Fingers

How successful the Hokies are largely depends on whether quarterback Josh Jackson will be able to take the field. Academic issues are clouding his status, with his absence a potentially devastating blow after throwing for just under 3,000 yards and connecting on 20 touchdown passes. In addition, he ran for 324 yards and crossed the goal line six times.

There’s enough depth in the Tech running game that Jackson may be able to focus his energies on the passing attack. The tandem of DeShawn McClease and Steven Peoples will power much of the attack, with McClease having led the team in rushing and Peoples providing bulk for the tough carries.

Grinding things out might be the best course of action, given the question marks that exists among the receiving corps. The hope is that the duo of Eric Kumah and Sean Savoy, can fill the hole left by the departure of Cam Phillips. Damon Hazelton arrives to challenge the wideouts after transferring from Ball State.

The offensive line is missing two starters from last season, though one of the returnees is massive tackle Yosuah Nijman. At 6-foot-7 and 325 pounds, Nijman is the type of personnel to keep Jackson safe. The key issue will be making sure that the middle of the line has been properly fortified, with center Zahariah Hoyt the key component in keeping things humming.

Virginia Tech Defense: Plenty of Holes to Fill

The defensive line is an area that’s usually able to keep opposing quarterbacks on their toes, with Ricky Walker at tackle the key player His numbers were almost identical to Tim Settle, who left for the NFL, with Walker finishing last year with 4.5 sacks and 12.5 stops behind the line.

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The linebacking situation is cause for concern, if only because of the unknown. Most of the players who will start this season have little experience, with true freshman Dax Hollifield in a situation where he can immediately earn a spot in the lineup. Based on their special teams work from last season, the duo of Dylan Rivers and Rayshard Ashby are good candidates to see plenty of time on the field, while Mook Reynolds probably possesses the most experience.

The secondary has usually been a strong point, but injuries and academic matters may blow a huge hole in that strength. Caleb Farley and Divine Deablo are two players coming back from injuries who will need to step up and deliver this season.

Virginia Tech Special Teams: Kicking is Up in the Air

Replacing Joey Slye at kicker will be the chief problem in this area, with the battle between Jordan Stout and Brian Johnson during training camp determining who will be his replacement. Punter Oscar Bradburn is the centerpiece of a unit that provided shut-down coverage in this department. On the return front, C.J. Carroll will be the central figure to watch.

The Last Time Notre Dame Played Virginia Tech

In the only other other meeting prior to this year’s date on the Notre Dame football schedule, the 2016 squad was busy wallowing in a miserable 4-8 season when this game took place. Two 17-point leads in the first half were indicative of how that season spiraled out of control. A 17-0 lead gave every indication that a victory was forthcoming, but after holding a 24-7 lead, they saw their offense shut down for most of the second half before losing. 34-31.


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  1. First, Fuente is a fine coach and is very wise also. When he went to Blacksburg, he walked on eggshells to respect the legacy of Beamer, who was to VA TEch what Bobby Bowden was to Florida State football.

    Second, he warmly embraced, first, and retained, second, the legendary LunchPail guy, Bud Foster.

    He has a second year quarterback who got a lot of the kinks out of his system last year.

    While they lost defensive players, they actively recruit the Tidewater and usually have some athleticism for Foster to deploy.

    But beyond the X’s an O’s the biggest opponent Notre Dame will have that day will be a toxic blend of the INEVITABLE letdown after the emotionally charged Stanford game and a RAVENOUS Blacksburg throng who has waited for Notre Dame to come a calling. VATECH plays Duke the previous week, as David Cutcliffe prepares to exit soon, fading into the sunset.

    It will evoke Clemson ’77 and Alabama ’80, the latter when Devine took his lads into the Belly of the Beast at Legion Field and beat Bear Bryant at his own position/possession game, 7-0.

    Situations in college football are often more relevant than X’s and O’s.

    Until further notice, I regard this as the MOST LIKELY Notre Dame loss of the season.

    1. I watched the replay of that Nov. 15,1980 ‘Bama game that Sunday AM while my wife was in labor. 7-0. Scott Zetek of that DL was a beast that day. I ended up with a son and a W vs. Bama. A memorable weekend. It will take another great D’ effort on the road this season to secure such a win vs. VT. The more I see this challenging stretch in mid-season, and the way it concludes with four road games and one home game (vs. Fla. St. ) makes me feel nauseous with dread- I’m hopeful but these “odds will be great . . . to win over all!”

      1. Michael and Duranko: My dear old dad said it was a “zero” coverage defense on certain plays…all 11 men committed to the run on those plays.
        If so, the Bear saw it because if I remember right, three times Bama had a pass called with a guy wide open and nothing between him and the endzone…and couldn’t connect three times. I remember thinking to myself, “this game could have ended 21-7!

        BGC ’77 ’82

      2. Well, to our Archangel and BGC. That day, the day of your son’s birth, Michael, was one of my very favorite Notre Damgames of all time. I respected Bryant, I didn’t have to like him. My distaste for the Confederacy metastasized on April 4, 1968, as I was one of two “Yankees” in a barracks in Fort Polk, Louisiana, taking infantry AIT prior to a one year paid vacation in southeast Asia. King was murdered by Hate that day; in our barracks that day I heard enough from the Bubbas and Lesters and Leroys to make me want to get an M-60 and spray the barracks. Those southern rednecks were my TRUE enemy.

        Birmingham was significant also because of 9/16/63, Bull Connor and much more.

        Devine was an odd duck. He gave “lousy podium” but could win big games. He went into Bryant’s backyard and played a game plan that would have done both Paul Bryant and the great General Bob Neyland proud.

        That game made Bryant’s lifetime record against Notre Dame 0-4.

        To this day, I run into an occasional southerner of a certain age who contends that ’66 Bama would have beaten Notre Dame. uh, uh. That Notre Dame team of ’66 was VICIOUS and HUGE in both trenches.

        I watched it at a friend’s house in Lagrange, Illinois. He was a Hockey player for ND, from Southie in Boston. His wife was an SMC graduate. They both have passed on.

        As you know Michael it was an overcast day, and somehow, someway, those road whites with the golden helmets showed up even better on an overcast day.

        Zettek? That was his greatest day.

        So Happy shutout to Devine
        Happy performance of a lifetime to Scott Zettek.
        And God bless the child of our Archangel and Mrs. Archangel.

        ‘And your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions>”
        perhaps our young domer friends can see those same beautiful visions we once saw.

        To two who understand the meaning and the passion: “Go irish”

  2. This might be the return of Dexter Williams’ game after his four game suspension . . .that in itself ought to be worth watching.
    This might be a statement game as to whether this year’s ND team will be road warriors or not.
    As we all know, some teams relish in the difficult road challenges; others wilt and fold. Stay tuned.

    1. High emotional engagement is not something you can count on any given Saturday for ND games, and especially ‘softer’ games…I’ve seen so many inexplicable shi+ sandwiches….to complete nobodies…at home!….I’ve lost count. They go away happy, feeling they played great, while the truth is that the team with superior talent just didn’t show up to play. Either for a critical set of downs, or a quarter, or the whole game.

      And beyond just dependable consistency, ROAD games require an entire EXTRA gear in the players. And TOUGH road games require a super-focused, fine-tuned, playoff-ready machine show up.

      Kelly is simply not the guy who can get them ready. I haven’t seen him do it yet, and I HAVE seen him completely fail to do it.
      And I don’t see him ever learning how to do it. After all, he’s been at this for 28 years now.

      1. Yes, we’ve had some road problems, as I’ve said before. But a Kelly coached team did go into Norman and beat Oklahoma soundly. So, I would not say “I haven’t seen him do it yet”. But we’ve also muffed some possible playoff spots with road possess…(at Stanford in 2015 and of course at Miami in 2017). If we are going to win a playoff spot we need to finish strong in November.

        BGC ’77 ’82

      2. Winning in East Lansing extends your ND coaching career now? These “new standards of excellence” are just pathetic.

        At Oklahoma was a good game. And it was followed the next year by one of the “team wasn’t ready to play” and lost the game on the first qtr.

      3. Has Jim H won in East Lansing yet? And if Jim H loses to Ohio State and MSU again this year, will that end his coaching career at Michigan? Newsflash, David, MSU has been pretty good off and on since Saban was there.

        BGC ’77 ’82

  3. Nows the time for this, you write like a pitiful hack. You are so bent on “ Kelly” . Could it be cause you’re afraid to put your real name to your attitude, for fear of getting pink slipped.

    1. David, I doubt there will be a “shellacking” either way. This on could devolve into a low scoring defensive battle. For both teams, I think, defense will be a season long strength. I can foresee this one going down to the wire.

      BGC ’77 ’82

  4. This reminds me of going to Purdue when Tiller was coach, or going to East Lansing the week after beating Michigan. You just know they were waiting for us. But against VT we will be improved over the last meeting. If everyone remembers, we made no adjustments at halftime (of course we were leading)…but they made adjustments, and shut us down. We now make a lot more, and better, adjustments than under BVG.

    BGC ’77 ’82

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