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Blue & Gold Illustrated

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

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24 OCT. 7, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED TURNING POINT Leading 17-14, Virginia opened the second half with an onside kick that it recovered at midfield — but was unable to capitalize. Still leading by the same score, the Cavaliers' next series on offense began at the Irish 38-yard line. Two incomplete passes later and with Vir- ginia facing third-and-10, Notre Dame senior end Jamir Jones' strong rush forced a fumble by Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins as he went into his throwing motion. Junior tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa caught the loose ball and re- turned it 48 yards to the Virginia 7-yard line. Two plays later, senior running back Tony Jones Jr. scored from two yards out to regain the lead for Notre Dame (21-17) at the 9:20 mark. The Cavaliers had a pair of golden opportuni- ties early in the second half to take command with a two-score lead, but the Fighting Irish de- fense asserted itself to dramatically swing the momentum. STAT(S) OF THE GAME Notre Dame had a plus-four advantage in turn- overs (5-1), which virtually assures a victory at least 95 percent of the time. Especially notable is that four of the Cavaliers' turnovers occurred in the second half, when the Irish outscored Vir- ginia 21-3. A telling difference was in the first half Cava- liers signal-caller Perkins dictated the action, completing 18 of 22 passes for 235 yards with two touchdowns. In the second half, he was only 12 of 21 for 99 yards with no touchdowns, two interceptions and two lost fumbles, the second of which was returned for a touchdown by Fighting Irish senior defensive end Ade Ogundeji. Virginia had been a dominant second-half team during its 4-0 start, outscoring its opposition 76-24. However, Notre Dame tallied 21 consecu- tive points in the first 19:32 of the second half to build a commanding 35-17 advantage. AVOIDING THE UPSET There is nobody remaining on the 2019 regular season schedule better than the Irish — which is not to say a clunker can't occur somewhere, be it versus USC at home Oct. 12, at Michigan Oct. 26 or the type of situation versus Pitt or Vanderbilt in 2018 where the Irish will have to hold on for dear life at the end to avoid the upset. That's go- ing to happen with everyone (see No. 1 Clemson at North Carolina). An 11-1 Notre Dame probably would be hard pressed to get into the College Football Playoff because of the likely lack of a needle-moving victory. Either way, we don't envision the Irish finishing worse than 11-2 (including the bowl), and they will place in the top 10 for the second consecutive year for the first time since 1992-93. The program is by far the healthiest it's been since the early '90s. The main frustration remains that there also remain a handful of schools that will be difficult to eclipse on the CFP food chain. THREE OBSERVATIONS BY LOU SOMOGYI OFFENSE: RB TONY JONES JR. The senior running back and the Irish run game struggled last weekend against Georgia. Against Vir- ginia, though, Notre Dame made a point of rush- ing the ball early and often, and Jones delivered. He finished the game with 131 yards on the ground, 7.3 yards per carry and three touchdowns. Jones also had one reception for six yards, which provided the Irish with a first down in Cavalier terri- tory. Once Notre Dame had a double-digit second-half lead, Jones' patience and ability to run the ball burned clock and prevented Virginia from having a chance to get back in the game. DEFENSE: DE JULIAN OKWARA The senior defensive end entered the game without a single quarterback takedown and just three tackles to his credit, but he terrorized the Cavaliers with three sacks, two quarterback hurries and a crucial pair of forced fumbles. Okwara's first sack came on a Cavaliers drive that had already reached Fighting Irish territory. When he hit the quarterback, he also punched out the football and then, once already on the ground, recovered it. His other strip-sack led to a touchdown by senior de- fensive end Ade Ogundeji that put the Irish in control of the game at 28-17. SPECIAL TEAMS: LB BO BAUER The sophomore linebacker had three tackles on spe- cial teams. Two came on Virginia punt returns in the second half, where Cavalier return man Billy Kemp had already caused a few missed tackles. On both, Bauer seemingly came out of nowhere with a big hit, and the return resulted in a run of fewer than 10 yards. Overall, Bauer participated in Notre Dame's kickoff, kick return, punt and punt return units. TOP PLAYERS OF THE GAME BY ANDREW MENTOCK Senior defensive end Julian Okwara forced fumbles on two of his three sacks against Virginia, helping the Irish seize the momentum in the second half. PHOTO BY ANDRIS VISOCKIS

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