Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct 9, 2021

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

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38 OCT. 9, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED GAME PREVIEW: VIRGINIA TECH BY TODD D. BURLAGE VIRGINIA TECH RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Traditionally the cornerstone of a Virginia Tech offense, its rushing game has underperformed so far this season, and the Hokies are still trying to fill the production void left from when All-ACC tailback Khalil Herbert went to the NFL after last season. In their last game played on Sept. 25 before a bye weekend, the Hokies managed only 106 rush- ing yards in an unimpressive 21-10 win over FCS opponent Richmond, matching their single-game rushing low from the previous game, a 27-21 loss at West Virginia. Virginia Tech features three rushers who tallied at least 35 carries through four games, but none have yet to reach the 160-yard mark. Redshirt juniors Jalen Holston and shifty Raheem Blackshear have provided almost identical carries and production at tailback. Holston has 36 tries for 159 rushing yards and one touchdown. Blackshear has 38 attempts for 144 yards with three touchdowns. The Hokies — whose offensive line was thinned through natural attrition and offseason transfers — average 138.8 rushing yards per game, which last week ranked 12th in the 14-team Atlantic Coast Conference. And while the Notre Dame defense entered its game against Cincinnati ranked in the middle of the NCAA statistical pack in run stoppage, that rat- ing doesn't reflect the improvement this unit has shown since allowing 264 rushing yards to Florida State in the season opener. Through four contests, Irish junior and breakout linebacker JD Bertrand was still averaging more than 10 tackles per game and remained on pace to record well over 100 total stops this season. Advantage: Notre Dame VIRGINIA TECH PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE When 2020 Hokies starting quarterback Hendon Hooker transferred to Tennessee in the spring, the Virginia Tech offense came under the care of redshirt junior quarterback Braxton Burmeister, a former Oregon transfer. Burmeister has been solid, though not spectacu- lar. He's completed 62 of his 101 passes for 746 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. The Hokies' front-line pass catchers are notable — four have at least 10 receptions and five have at least one touchdown catch. Junior wide receiver Tré Turner (16 receptions, 250 yards, one touchdown) and sophomore Tay- vion Robinson (14 for 166 yards and two touch- downs) have emerged as Burmeister's favorite targets. Off to a slow start, junior James Mitchell (five Redshirt junior Raheem Blackshear has 38 carries for 144 yards with three touchdowns this season. The Hokies' rushing offense (138.8 yards per game) ranks 12th among the 14 ACC schools through Sept. 30. PHOTO COURTESY VIRGINIA TECH ATHLETICS On PaPer

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