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

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30 OCT. 7, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED H ere are several observations from Notre Dame's 35-20 vic- tory versus Virginia. DEFENSE: THE GOOD AND THE BAD • The Notre Dame defense found its groove in the second half against No. 18 Virginia. Overall the Irish re- corded eight sacks, forced four fum- bles and made two interceptions on the day. The line created havoc throughout the game, but had little to show for it in the first half because the secondary behind it was not playing sound and fundamental football. Once the two levels of the defense met each other on the same page they were able to put this game away in the second half. • On Virginia's first score of the day, Notre Dame brought in a pack- age it has not used all season and had sophomore rover Paul Moala on the field at the same time as junior rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. Notre Dame was in man coverage and the receivers on the left side of the formation ran a pick or cross- ing patterns. Senior cornerback Troy Pride Jr. stayed with his man and Moala initially stayed with his until Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins scrambled to his left. Moala left his man to stop Perkins and the senior signal-caller was able to throw the ball over Moala for an easy score. • Sophomore corner TaRiq Bracy had two plays on the same drive that ultimately led to a Virginia touch- down. The first play was a deep post where Bracy allowed too much space between him and the receiver. He got beat on a hard outside-step, inside- move combination and could not catch up, which allowed a 39-yard gain. Four plays later, Bracy was in tight coverage and in great position to make a play on a fade to the back of the end zone, but he did not get his head around and Virginia's Hasise Dubois made a great catch for the score. There is nothing wrong with the coverage as Bracy was right there, but he cannot make a play on the ball if he does not get his head around in time to find the football. OFFENSE: BOOK STRUGGLES, BUT RUN GAME COMES ALIVE • Senior quarterback Ian Book was making his 14th start of his career at Notre Dame, but at times it seemed like he was making his first. When the Irish were backed up on their own goal line to start their first pos- session of the third quarter, they were looking at a third-and-six from their own 6-yard line. Book had a clean pocket, but decided to bail within two seconds of the snap. There are two things he could have done that were positive at that point. He could have waited for the routes to develop and see if there were any passing lanes to throw in, or he could have waited a little longer and even- tually a lane would probably have opened up in front of him to run. As it was, he tried to run too early and ran right into his own line for no gain and an eventual punt. The other issue that seems to be persisting with Book is his penchant to stare down receivers. At times it works, like on the 37-yard throw to junior tight end Cole Kmet, but it can hurt when he insists on throwing to fifth-year senior wideout Chris Finke when he is bracketed — while he had a wide-open senior Chase Claypool on a post route right behind Finke with three steps on his man. • The run game made strides. The Irish generated a 100-yard back (Tony Jones Jr., 131) against Virginia, the first team this season to crack the 100-yard rushing mark against the Cavaliers' defense. They were having a good amount of success using their "G-scheme" against UVA where the right side of the line crashes down and senior left guard Tommy Kraemer pulls down the line to kick out the contain player. Jones stayed patient in this look and picked up big chunks of yards. • It was also good to see sopho- more running back C'Bo Flemister get meaningful carries and using those six attempts to earn the trust of the coaching staff. His 11-yard touch- down run showed his ability to run over and through defenders on his way to paydirt. With the return of Jafar Arm- strong still a couple weeks away, Notre Dame needed someone else to emerge, and Flemister did that against Virginia. SPECIAL TEAMS: MISTAKES • Special teams has been a true bright spot for Notre Dame this sea- son, which is probably surprising to many. I have been very impressed with all the units up to this point. Unfortu- nately, they struggled against Virginia. The onside kick to start the second half is inexcusable. The first thing you tell the front line in pee-wee football is to make sure the ball is over your head before you retreat to block. This was a lack of focus by the front line, and it could have cost the Irish if not for their defense dominating. The muffed punt by Finke was un- characteristic of his play as a return man and, frankly, that is the reason he is back there — his sure hands. He misplayed the punt in the air and came up short on it, which caused him to drop it. Fortunately, Virginia wasn't able to capitalize on it. Notre Dame has a cupboard full of options to put back there and it might be time to see them. ✦ Breaking Down Notre Dame's Win Versus Virginia THOUGHTS FROM THE PRESS BOX VINCE DEDARIO Vince DeDario has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since August 2019. He can be reached at Sophomore C'Bo Flemister emerged in the run- ning game with six carries for 27 yards, high- lighted by a tough 11-yard touchdown. PHOTO BY ANDRIS VISOCKIS

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