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Blue & Gold Illustrated

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

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Page 22 of 55 OCT. 7, 2019 23 VIRGINIA RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE On the strength of eight Fighting Irish sacks that resulted in 59 yards of lost yardage, Virginia's net total of four yards on the ground was the fourth lowest by a Notre Dame opponent since 1996. Similar to Notre Dame at Georgia last week, the Cavaliers had little hope in the ground attack, and the Irish did a particularly good job of spying and keeping quarterback Bryce Perkins — the top rusher in the team with about 50 yards per game — in check while not permitting him to break containment. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame VIRGINIA PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE It was a tale of two halves, with Perkins completing 18 of 22 passes for 235 yards and two scores for a 17-14 halftime lead. That was followed by the relent- less pass rush, led by senior end Julian Okwara, that took over the contest in the second half when it forced four turnovers and limited Perkins to 12-of-21 passing for 99 yards. There was also a combination of Notre Dame mixing coverages, some over- shadowed "coverage sacks" on the back end, and Perkins on several occasions holding on to the football too long. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. VIRGINIA RUN DEFENSE The Cavaliers entered the contest ranked 12th nationally in run defense at 75.0 yards per game and 2.2 yards per carry, and through three quarters the push from the Notre Dame offensive line was subpar, totaling only 58 yards on 20 carries. But in the fourth quarter senior Tony Jones Jr.'s seven carries totaled 97 yards, with 28- and 30-yard romps, the latter for a touchdown to salt away the contest. Encouraging was that both sophomore C'Bo Flemister (six carries for 27 yards, with an 11-yard touchdown) and the return of sophomore Jahmir Smith (three carries for eight yards) helped keep Jones relatively fresh in the fourth quarter to post his career-high rushing total of 131 yards. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. VIRGINIA PASS DEFENSE Senior quarterback Ian Book completed 8 of 8 passes for 68 yards in the first quarter, and then connected on 9 of 17 for 97 yards in the final three. The tendency to bail out of the pocket early returned, and several missed reads on deeper routes kept the offense relatively mired over the final 45 minutes. Completions of 37 yards to junior tight end Cole Kmet and 28 to fifth-year senior wideout Chris Finke were the highlights, but All-American cornerback Bryce Hall also did some quality work while keeping senior wide receiver Chase Claypool contained with only 30 yards on six catches. ADVANTAGE: Virginia SPECIAL TEAMS Virginia had the edge in punting net yardage by an average of four yards and also converted both field goal attempts, while Notre Dame's Jonathan Doerer missed his lone attempt, from 47 yards. Virginia opened the second half with a surprising onside kick that it recov- ered at the 50, pinned Notre Dame at the 2-yard line with the ensuing punt, began the next possession at the Irish 38-yard line — and later in the quarter recovered a fumbled punt by return man Finke at Notre Dame's 41-yard. Yet, the Cavaliers didn't score on any of those three possessions. ADVANTAGE: Virginia THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS Notre Dame was 6 of 15 (40.0 percent) while Virginia was 4 of 14 (28.6 per- cent), but the Irish also were 2 of 2 on fourth downs, while the Cavaliers failed on fourth-and-one at the Irish 32-yard line when trailing only 21-17. Most crucial was Notre Dame converting all four third downs during a first- quarter touchdown drive that helped tie the game 7-7. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame TURNOVERS Notre Dame was plus-four (5-1) in this crucial category, recording the most turnovers in a game in seven years (see By The Numbers on 25). Furthermore, there was a 28-0 disparity in scores off the turnovers. Each of the first three Virginia miscues came on lost fumbles by quarterback Perkins amidst a heavy pass rush. The first two set up 54- and seven-yard touchdown drives, and the third led to a defensive score on a 23-yard fumble return by senior end Ade Ogundeji. Interceptions by safeties Alohi Gilman and Kyle Hamilton during the fourth quarter resulted in another touchdown after Gilman's pick, and then just run- ning out the clock on the latter interception. Virginia could not capitalize on Finke's lost fumble on a punt in the third quarter. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame ANALYSIS Virginia lived with dynamic quarterback Perkins when it took a 17-14 halftime lead, but it died with him as well in the second half when the Irish outscored the Cavaliers 21-3 and bludgeoned him with a pass rush that was the best in the 10-year Brian Kelly era in any single game. Defense and special teams almost carried the day last week at No. 3 Georgia, and this time the defense took over the game. In the first 7:46 of the second half, Virginia started possessions at the 50, the Notre Dame 38-yard line and the Notre Dame 41-yard line — and totaled zero points off them while either leading 17-14 or trailing only 21-17. Squandering those opportunities was crucial to the outcome. ON PAPER REVISITED BY LOU SOMOGYI Senior safety Alohi Gilman's fourth-quarter interception led to an Irish touchdown. He finished the game with three tackles and one stop for loss. PHOTO BY ANDRIS VISOCKIS

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