Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 9, 2019

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

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Page 21 of 55

22 NOV. 9, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED TURNING POINT Throughout the second half, there was one obvious answer. With Notre Dame leading 14-7 and facing third- and-goal at the 1-yard line and less than 30 sec- onds remaining until halftime, a hand-off to junior running back Jafar Armstrong into the middle was stoned by Virginia Tech middle linebacker Rayshard Ashby. The defender's helmet hit and dislodged the football, and safety Divine Deablo grabbed it in the air and raced for a 98-yard touchdown. It was shades of the 2011 season, when Notre Dame fumbles inside the 5-yard line that were re- turned for scores resulted in losses to South Florida (23-20) and USC (31-17). This time the Irish were able to rebound from the potential 14-point swing. Crucial in the comeback was with Virginia Tech leading 17-14 early in the fourth quarter, it had a first down at Notre Dame's 12-yard line — but managed only three points. Had the Hokies made it 24-14 instead of 20-14, it might have been game, set and match. STAT OF THE GAME Notre Dame's all-time record entering this game when one of its quarterbacks attempted more than 50 passes was 0-10. Senior Ian Book and his cohorts became the first to win such a contest despite throwing 53 times, and complet- ing 29 for 341 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The number of attempts by Book eclipsed his previous career high of 47 in the 23-17 defeat at Georgia Sept. 21. He did not have a game last year where he had more than 39 passes. It was also the most pass- ing attempts by a Notre Dame quarterback since freshman Tommy Rees, the current Fighting Irish quarterbacks coach, had 54 during a 28-27 loss to Tulsa in 2010. The dubious 0-10 mark began with Terry Hanratty's school-record 63 attempts in a 28-21 loss at Purdue in 1967 and continued through Everett Golson's 52 in a 31-27 defeat at Florida State in 2014. SURVIVE AND ADVANCE While there will remain angst and hand-wring- ing about Notre Dame continuing to struggle on offense, we shudder to think of the backlash had it fallen to 5-3 instead of improved to 6-2. This was a shell-shocked football team after last weekend's no-show at Michigan, and it could have snowballed into something worse amid a downward spiral. Instead, the relief of rallying to victory perhaps can put into context some notable goals still available: • Finishing 5-0 in November for the first time since 1930. • Back-to-back unbeaten seasons at home for the first time since 1987-89. • A New Year's Six Bowl invitation and win for the first time since 1993. • Consecutive top-10 placements for the first time since 1991-93. Surviving such a game could be just the jolt needed internally to reinvigorate positive energy and perspective. THREE OBSERVATIONS BY LOU SOMOGYI OFFENSE: WR CHASE CLAYPOOL In a game where Notre Dame often struggled with offen- sive execution, the senior wide receiver's competitiveness and determination played a significant factor in the Fighting Irish victory. On the game-winning drive alone, Claypool had two catches for 39 yards, highlighted by the 26-yard reception on fourth-and-10 with the game on the line. On the other reception, he did an incredible job to catch the ball and get a foot in bounds. Claypool was targeted 17 times and had eight catches and 118 yards, including three receptions of 20 yards or more. DEFENSE: CB DONTE VAUGHN After being a non-factor against Michigan last weekend, the senior cornerback had a major impact in the win over Virginia Tech. He finished the game with six tackles and two passes broken up. Virginia Tech threw his way eight times for just three completions and 27 yards. One of those deflections was near the Notre Dame goal line and helped hold Virginia Tech to a field goal in the fourth quarter when the Hokies were already leading 17-14. SPECIAL TEAMS: P JAY BRAMBLETT Due to a couple of shanks, this wasn't the true freshman punter's best game of the season, but he still averaged 38.8 yards per punt and had two that went for more than 50 yards. But the real reason Bramblett received this honor is due to his game-saving hold on the extra point at the end of the game. When Notre Dame scored the touchdown with 29 seconds left in the game to make it 20-20, all the team need was an extra point to all but seal the victory. On the play, the ball was snapped low and looked unman- ageable. But as the holder, Bramblett stayed calm, caught the ball off the ground and got a clean hold down that junior kicker Jonathan Doerer drove through the uprights for the victory. TOP PLAYERS OF THE GAME BY ANDREW MENTOCK Senior cornerback Donte Vaughn (No. 8) notched six tackles and broke up a pair of passes, including one near the goal line that helped hold Virginia Tech to a field goal. PHOTO BY ANDRIS VISOCKIS

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