Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 2, 2019

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

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Page 45 of 63

46 NOV. 2, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI BY THE BYE IN NOVEMBER While it would take some time to go through the archives to confirm as fact, it's highly improbable Notre Dame ever has had a schedule where four consecutive opponents have a bye the week prior to facing the Fighting Irish. Until now. Virginia Tech is the first of four consecutive Notre Dame foes in No- vember who will have a little extra time to recuperate and prepare for the Fighting Irish. • The Hokies won 43-41 in six overtimes at home versus North Car- olina Oct. 19, then had their second bye of the season Oct. 26 while Notre Dame was playing at Michigan. We would be remiss, though, not to note that the week after Virginia Tech's first bye weekend Sept. 21, it followed with a 45-10 home defeat to Duke —its worst outcome at home since a 49-12 defeat to Houston in 1974. • Duke hosted the archrival Tar Heels Oct. 26 before head coach Da- vid Cutcliffe's Blue Devils will be off Nov. 2, while the Fighting Irish entertain Virginia Tech. • Navy has a Friday night outing at Connecticut Nov. 1, but doesn't play again until it travels to Notre Dame Nov. 16. • Finally, Boston College hosts Florida State Nov. 9 and then is off Nov. 16 before heading to face the Fighting Irish on Senior Day Nov. 23. Notre Dame's depth will be vital to combat the cumulative and residual effect of its opposition coming off at least some form of rest. This was a topic that was addressed internally throughout 2018 after the Fighting Irish had posted a record of 9-12 in the month of November during the five seasons from 2013-17, and even in many of the victories appeared to be running on fumes. Last year 's squad responded su- perbly with a 4-0 mark, with three of the victories coming on the road, capped by the best all-around per- formance of the year in a 36-3 rout of then-No. 12 Syracuse in New York City, followed by rallying from a 10-0 deficit at USC on the other side of the country and clinching a bid to the College Football Playoff. Notre Dame has not had back- to-back unbeaten Novembers since 1966-68 under Ara Parseghian — and even then, the Irish had ties at No. 2 Michigan State (10-10) in 1966 and No. 2 USC (21-21) in 1968. To actually not go unscathed in consecutive Novembers hasn't oc- curred since 1948-49 (although Notre Dame did have a tie at USC on Dec. 4, 1948). JUSTIN FUENTE: GETTING BACK ON TRACK By the end of the 2016 college football season, first-year Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente estab- lished himself as one of the top rising 40-and-under head coaches in the country — and maybe even a future candidate to replace Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, whose tenure was on the brink of running its course following a 4-8 record in his seventh season. Having led Memphis to a top-25 finish in 2014 with an American Athletic Conference title, and then a 9-3 mark in 2015, Fuente debuted at Virginia Tech in 2016 with a Coastal Division championship (earning him ACC Coach of the Year honors), a 34-31 win at Notre Dame on Senior Day — while rallying from 17-0 and 24-7 deficits — and finished No. 16 in the Associated Press poll after coming back from a 24-0 margin to post a 35-24 win versus Arkansas in the Belk Bowl. That earned Fuente an immediate contract extension through 2023. In 2017, Virginia Tech finished No. 24 in the AP poll with a 9-4 mark. Following a 21-8 overall start at Blacksburg by Fuente, a 49-35 defeat to Old Dominion and an inordinate amount of attrition resulted in a 1-5 tailspin in 2018 that included a 45-23 defeat at home to College Football Playoff-bound Notre Dame en route to a final 6-7 mark. A 0-2 start in the ACC this year, most GAME PREVIEW: VIRGINIA TECH Top STorylineS Head coach Justin Fuente earned ACC Coach of the Year honors his first year at Virginia Tech and posted a 19-8 mark his first two seasons, but the Hokies stumbled to a 6-7 record in 2018. PHOTO COURTESY VIRGINIA TECH ATHLETICS

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