Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 9, 2019

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

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Page 27 of 55

28 NOV. 9, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED H ere are several observations from Notre Dame's 21-20 win over Virginia Tech. DEFENSE: IRISH STUFF HOKIES RUN GAME The defense returned to form fairly well in this game, yielding only 240 yards to a Virginia Tech team that was averaging 400 yards per game. The most impressive part of that stat is that the Hokies run game picked up merely 101 yards on 36 carries (2.8 yards per attempt). The fact that third-string quarter- back Quincy Patterson started the game told everyone that the focus was going to be on the run game for Virginia Tech, but he was able to use his receivers to his advantage by tossing 50-50 passes and letting his guys attempt to make plays. Irish senior defensive ends Kha- lid Kareem and Julian Okwara both played much better than they did at Michigan a week ago. They were able to disrupt in the run game and did a pretty good job of setting the edge for the majority of the game. They were a big reason for the success of the run defense versus the Hokies. The linebackers were a vital ele- ment of the defensive plan and they played stout and physical for most of the game. Fifth-year senior As- mar Bilal was especially impressive on his backside pursuit, showing off his speed chasing down ball carriers from behind. He and Drew White combined for 15 tackles on the day, and it just seemed like White was around the ball all day. This was a significant bounce-back game for this unit. OFFENSE: LOTS OF YARDS, JUST ENOUGH POINTS The play of senior quarterback Ian Book was subpar for the vast major- ity of the afternoon, despite passing for 341 yards. This was not a good Virginia Tech defense, and he strug- gled to find open receivers the whole game. Book missed junior tight end Cole Kmet, who was wide open in the end zone twice. He threw behind senior wide receiver Chase Claypool on a post route on the final drive that, at the very least, would have gained 40 yards. Once again, on way too many oc- casions Book was quick to escape the pocket and also to throw off his back foot when there was no sign of pressure in front of him. The bottom line is that Notre Dame earned the win and it was in large part due to the play of Book on the final drive, but he still needs to get much better if they want to win out and attain the goals that are still in front of them. Claypool had a great ball game despite a drop on the final drive of the game. He finished the night with eight catches for 118 yards and was targeted a game-high 17 times. Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster stood by his guns and was in man coverage for the majority of the game, and at times Notre Dame was able to take advantage of that decision. There were many more op- portunities where they could have picked on the Virginia Tech corners but either chose not to or the ball did not get to Claypool in a place where he could go get it. The loss of senior right tackle Rob- ert Hainsey early in the game to a significant ankle injury was a huge setback for this offensive line that is already coming off a subpar perfor- mance at Michigan. The Irish would like to do better than the 2.8 yards per carry they averaged in the run game, but Virginia Tech was bringing heat most of the game. For the most part, the line gave Book time in the pocket to make plays down the field. Keep in mind, Notre Dame threw the ball 53 times and Book was sacked only once. SPECIAL TEAMS: BRAMBLETT SHINES AS HOLDER Special teams had a hit and miss performance, literally and figura- tively. Freshman Jay Bramblett had six punts for an average of 38.8 yards per kick and was able to pin Virginia Tech inside the 20-yard line only once. On the other hand, he had two punts that were more than 50 yards. Junior Jonathan Doerer missed a 35-yard field goal in the middle of the fourth quarter that could have proved costly, but the Irish were bailed out by strong defense and the fact that Book took the offense 87 yards to close out the game. Doerer was able to kick the game- winning extra point, which was no gimme kick because the snap skipped into Bramblett's hands. Bramblett did a great job to not only catch the snap but get it upright in a position for Do- erer to convert the extra point. ✦ Breaking Down The Comeback Against Virginia Tech 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 Fifth-year senior linebacker Asmar Bilal (No. 22) recorded seven tackles and helped the Fighting Irish limit the Hokies' ground game to 101 yards on 36 attempts (2.8 yards per carry). PHOTO BY ANDRIS VISOCKIS

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