Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 8, 2018*

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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32 OCT. 8, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY COREY BODDEN V irginia Tech came out of the gates strong this season, notch- ing a 24-3 win at ACC rival Florida State on Labor Day and a dominating 62-17 victory over William & Mary Sept. 8. Confidence skyrocketed for the Hokies, who rose as high as No. 12 in the national rankings. Then the wheels started to come off. It started with a stunning 49-35 loss at Old Dominion Sept. 22. The 0-3 Monarchs, a member of the Group of Five and Conference USA, racked up 631 total yards (494 through the air) and scored four touchdowns in the fourth quarter to secure the upset. To make matters worse, redshirt sophomore starting quarterback Josh Jackson went down with a broken left fibula and will miss an extended period of time. Then the next day, head coach Jus- tin Fuente announced the dismissal of starting defensive end Trevon Hill. The junior, who had a team-high 3.5 sacks through three games, was dis- missed for "not upholding the high standards we have for our student- athletes," according to Fuente. Replacing Jackson and Hill will be the top storylines moving forward, along with shoring up a secondary that was torched by the Monarchs. At quarterback, redshirt junior Ryan Willis is getting the opportu- nity to showcase his abilities with Jackson on the shelf. Against Old Dominion, Willis came off the bench and completed 9 of 18 passes for 131 yards with a touchdown and added 30 rushing yards on four carries. "Willis has a much stronger arm than Jackson, and that manifests it- self in pushing the ball downfield quite a bit more," editor Tim Sullivan said. "However, his accuracy and decision-making are still question marks. He's been in the system for only a couple years after transferring from Kansas, so his grasp of the playbook is coming around a bit. "He's also not nearly the natural runner that Jackson is, and can be uncomfortable with the ball in his hands — even though he seems to have a bit more straight-line speed." In similar situations, most would expect the Hokies to try to establish the run a bit more to allow Willis to go play action and take advantage. But with the way the Hokies run their offense, that may not be the case. "The nature of the offense is that the ball will be spread sideline to sideline as a priority," Sullivan said. "Whether through deep passes to the outside receivers, bubble screens or GAME PREVIEW: VIRGINIA TECH REBOOT A wounded group of Hokies hope to rekindle some magic at home against Notre Dame Head coach Justin Fuente posted a 19-8 record in his first two years in charge of the Hokies, but his third season has gotten off to a tumultuous start with a stunning upset loss to Old Dominion and some unexpected roster attrition. PHOTO BY DAVE KNACHEL/COURTESY VIRGINIA TECH ATHLETICS

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