Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct 9, 2021

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

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34 OCT. 9, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED GAME PREVIEW: VIRGINIA TECH BY TYLER HORKA V irginia Tech has been waiting three years for this opportunity. The similarities between then and now are too much to ignore. The Hokies welcomed No. 6 Notre Dame to Lane Stadium in the sixth week of the 2018 season. This is the sixth week of the 2021 season, and the Fighting Irish are once again headed to Blacksburg as a ranked team. Virginia Tech was 3-1 then, and it's 3-1 now. The Hokies lost to a beatable oppo- nent (Old Dominion) in their third game then, and it happened again (West Vir- ginia). Lane Stadium was sold out then, and it's sold out now. So is there any rea- son to believe this year's outcome will be different than 2018's, when Notre Dame trounced No. 24 Virginia Tech 45-23? Maybe, maybe not. For those who are siding with the lat- ter, perhaps this will make you even more comfortable in your line of thinking: Notre Dame did not start the 2018 season in particularly impressive fashion. Sure, the 24-17 victory over No. 14 Michigan in Week 1 was satisfactory. But an eight- point win over Ball State and a five-point victory over Vanderbilt weren't exactly reassuring outcomes. Then came the 56-27 conquest on the road against Wake Forest and a 38-17 home triumph over No. 7 Stanford, and the Irish were off and running. Notre Dame started this season with narrow wins over Florida State and To- ledo. It powered past Purdue in a game that was a struggle for three quarters and did the same against Wisconsin to a much more intensified degree. Brian Kelly's squad might be in another prime position to go on the road and han- dle the Hokies. The parallels on both sides are uncanny. Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente is going to do everything he can to make sure history does not repeat itself. The best way he can do that is to focus on what this version of the Hokies have to do to pull an upset and shock the college football landscape. Which, given every- thing that has happened in the sport so far this season, definitely isn't out of the realm of possibilities. "It's a crazy world out there," Fuente said Sept. 27. "Just turn the TV on and watch a college football game. There is no telling what you're going to see. What we need to do is focus on ourselves. "You see teams that are historically re- ally good struggle. I mean, Bowling Green beat Minnesota. It's all over the map. What we need to do is control what we can control and worry about ourselves, our improvement and the goals we set forth for this week. Trying to get those ac- complished knowing that there are a lot of twists and turns this whole thing can take as we go down the road." A SPUTTERING OFFENSE Virginia Tech's 2021 season has already taken some twists and turns. The season-opening victory over No. 10 North Carolina doesn't hold the same weight it once did. Virginia Tech has since lost 27-21 to West Virginia, while North Carolina was taken down 45-22 by Geor- gia Tech — a team that opened its sea- son with a beyond-puzzling 22-21 loss to Northern Illinois. In their last appearance between the white lines, the Hokies scraped by Rich- mond 21-10 at home. The "wow factor" was absent from the Virginia Tech of- fense. One of its three touchdowns came on a punt return. Redshirt junior quar- terback Braxton Burmeister finished 17- of-27 passing for 212 yards with a touch- down. Through four contests, he has thrown for 186.5 yards per game with five touchdown passes and one interception. The Hokies have not gained more than 400 total yards of offense in an outing this season. The high-water mark thus far was a 383-yard performance against Middle Tennessee State. Burmeister knows where Virginia Tech must take the next step. "Finishing drives," he said. "We've had a lot of drives that we've started out Facts & Figures NOTRE DAME AT VIRGINIA TECH Game Info Date: Oct. 9, 2021 Site: Lane Stadium (Blacksburg, Va.) Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET Television: ACC Network Radio: This game can be heard on Notre Dame IMG affiliates. Series Facts: This is the fourth meeting for Notre Dame and Virginia Tech. Notre Dame holds a 2-1 series lead. The Irish won the last meeting 21-20 in South Bend on Nov. 11, 2019. Head coaches: Virginia Tech — Justin Fuente (41-27, sixth season); Notre Dame — Brian Kelly (106-40, 12th season). Noting Virginia Tech: Three of the Hokies' top four seasons for total offense in the last 25 years have occurred during Justin Fuente's tenure … Redshirt junior quarterback Braxton Burmeister has a 5-0 record at Lane Stadium … Burmeister recorded the fastest sprint speed (22.53 mph) of any Virginia Tech player in off- season workouts … Offensive lineman Tyrell Smith is one of eight FBS players in his seventh season at the same school … Virginia Tech is 27-0 under Fuente when allowing 17 points or less and 13-0 when allowing 10 points or less … Virginia Tech has recorded 17 multi- interception games since 2016, and the Hokies are 15-2 in those contests … Virginia Tech ranks third in the ACC in total wins (41) since Fuente took over in 2016 … The Hokies are 11-1 under Fuente when recording five or more sacks. TWISTING AND TURNING The Hokies started 2021 with an upset win over then-No. 10 North Carolina, but their season has had a different feel since then Redshirt junior quarterback Braxton Burmeister has nearly 900 yards of total offense through the Hokies' first four games. PHOTO COURTESY VIRGINIA TECH ATHLETICS

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