Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 2, 2019

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

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42 NOV. 2, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED Junior tight end Dalton Keene is also a threat in the passing game, particularly near the end zone. He has already snagged four touch- downs this season, after having three all of last year. Redshirt junior Deshawn Mc- Clease and freshman Keshawn King are both having solid seasons at run- ning back, averaging better than 4.5 yards per carry, but McClease is often banged up and neither appears to be much of a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. A big improvement so far this year has been the line, but it still is rela- tively young. "The offensive line is better than it has been, but the bar was set pretty low the past two years," Sullivan said. "It's getting better. They're a lot better in pass protection, especially with Hooker in the game because he's mobile, because he can break tackles and because it adds to the run game when you have a true quarter- back run threat. "I think you're seeing improve- ment, but it's certainly not an area of strength." DEFENSE In the modern era, Virginia Tech and its coordinator, Bud Foster, have been known for producing stout de- fense. But heading into late October, the Hokies ranked just 86th in defen- sive efficiency. Still, one area where this defense excels is getting after the quarter- back. Virginia Tech is tied for 11th in the country in sacks per game at 3.57, and they are accomplishing this by committee. No one player has more than four sacks, while four have three. The leader of the defense so far this season has been undersized junior linebacker Rayshard Ashby. The 5-10, 237-pounder was named All-ACC honorable mention in 2018 and is on his way to earning first-team honors this year. He leads the team in total stops (71) and tackles for loss (10). No other individual Hokie has more than 43 total tackles or five tackles for loss. "He's putting up monster stats for sure," Sullivan said. "I think he's been the ACC Linebacker of the Week three times already in seven games." On the line, redshirt junior defen- sive end Emmanuel Belmar has mul- tiple years of starting experience and was expected to be a leader on this defense, but according to Sullivan he has struggled for much of the season. Still, he has managed to accumulate 27 total stops, 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. In the secondary, the Hokies are good at getting their hands on the ball and have 32 pass deflections on the season. A major contributor to this area is corner Caleb Farley, who has 10 passes broken up in seven games. The 6-2 redshirt sophomore has the length and the quickness to be an effective cover man. Sophomore safety Chamarri Con- ner leads the team with four sacks, ranks second with seven pass deflec- tions and five tackles for loss, and third with 39 tackles, while senior rover Reggie Floyd is fifth on the team with 37 tackles and third with five passes broken up. MATCHUP WITH THE IRISH The weekend before their tilt with the Irish, the Hokies are idle. This should give them extra time to get healthy and prepare for Notre Dame, but Sullivan is not sure that will mat- ter much. He believes that Virginia Tech wide receivers will be able to make some plays down the field against Notre Dame, but is worried about other matchups, including their improved but still subpar offensive line against the potent Irish defensive ends. A feather in the Hokies' cap could be that the two teams played last year and that they already have ex- perience going up against senior quarterback Ian Book. Meanwhile, Notre Dame has never seen Hooker play in person. Still, Sullivan believes the Irish of- fense will have a big enough day that it won't matter. "If Notre Dame didn't score 45 points, it would be like a pleasant surprise for Virginia Tech," he said. "As a matter of just how much the Hokies score opposite that, I would say they have been pretty good in the past couple of years at making scores look good because they're trying to chase from behind but are never re- ally getting close. "Maybe a score of 45-31 seems pretty reasonable." ✦ GAME PREVIEW: VIRGINIA TECH Senior rover Reggie Floyd ranks fifth on the Hokies with 37 tackles through seven games. PHOTO COURTESY VIRGINIA TECH ATHLETICS 2019 VIRGINIA TECH SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Aug. 31 at Boston College L, 35-28 Sept. 7 Old Dominion W, 31-17 Sept. 14 Furman W, 24-17 Sept. 27 Duke L, 45-10 Oct. 5 at Miami (Fla.) W, 42-35 Oct. 12 Rhode Island W, 34-17 Oct. 19 North Carolina W, 43-41 (6OT) Nov. 2 at Notre Dame (NBC) 2:30 p.m. Nov. 9 Wake Forest TBA Nov. 16 at Georgia Tech TBA Nov. 23 Pittsburgh TBA Nov. 29 at Virginia TBA 2019 NOTRE DAME SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Sept. 2 at Louisville W, 35-17 Sept. 14 New Mexico W, 66-14 Sept. 21 at Georgia L, 23-17 Sept. 28 Virginia W, 35-20 Oct. 5 Bowling Green W, 52-0 Oct. 12 USC W, 30-27 Nov. 2 at Michigan L, 45-14 Nov. 2 Virginia Tech (NBC) 2:30 p.m. Nov. 9 at Duke (ACCN) TBA Nov. 16 Navy (NBC) 2:30 p.m. Nov. 23 Boston College (NBC) 2:30 p.m. Nov. 30 at Stanford TBA ACCN — ACC Network

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