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irish insider

Head to Head: Virginia

| Friday, September 27, 2019

Irish passing

All things considered, quarterback Ian Book played great against Georgia. He went 29-for-47 for 275 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against the No. 3 team in the country, with virtually no help from the run game. With the emergence of tight end Cole Kmet and Michael Young making his return at receiver, the Irish passing attack is looking better and better. Virginia is solid defensively, but their secondary can be penalty-prone because of their physicality. Virginia is tied for the national lead in sacks with 20, but if the offensive line can perform like they did against the Bulldogs, this time without a stadium of rabid fans bearing down on them, they should be fine.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Irish rushing

The Irish ground attack has looked lackluster thus far. Granted, Georgia’s defensive line is one of the best in the country, but the Irish still seem to have under achieved this season. And with Jafar Armstrong out, the Irish ground game is asking a lot from Tony Jones Jr. and C’Bo Flemister. Take all of that and the fact that Virginia has held opponents to 2.2 yards per carry thus far, and the Irish could be in trouble. Cavaliers coach Bronco Mendenhall and his team have prided themselves on stopping the run, and it seems to be what Virginia sees as its key to a successful season. Virginia has the edge here. 

EDGE: Virginia

 

Irish offensive coaching

Chip Long has built an impressive chemistry with Ian Book, providing a variety of options to go deep to the receiving corps or scramble out of the pocket. Three games into the season, however, this offense has shown it has its fair share of weak points. Hopefully for Notre Dame, the addition of Cole Kmet to the lineup will help open up some of those options but the offense certainly looked rattled at times in Athens. Granted, the sheer noise would be enough to throw most any team off their game. But this Virginia defense is nothing to scoff at. They can give Book some trouble, particularly when it comes to edge rushing and in-game decisions, something he struggled with at times down the stretch against Georgia.

EDGE: Virginia

 

Irish offensive special teams

Irish punter Jay Bramblett had an excellent night in Athens, with three of his four punts downed inside the twenty-yard line. The freshman looks extremely comfortable, as does junior kicker Jonathan Doerer. While yet to be tested from outside of thirty-six yard range, the kicker is perfect so far this season. Beyond the kicking game, the Irish created a massive takeaway against Georgia with Chase Claypool recovering a muffed punt, showing the benefits the Irish often reap by putting their best players on special teams. After an offseason of questioning about the new Irish special teams group, the team appears to have found a winning combination, which is no small feat.

EDGE: Notre Dame 

 

Virginia passing

Virginia has never relied on its passing game. With a quarterback like Bryce Perkins, why would you? While they have technically attempted passing the ball slightly more than rushing this season, their nine rushing touchdowns to the six passing ones they’ve recorded indicate where they’re comfortable. Add in an air-tight Irish secondary and don’t anticipate the Virginia wide receivers to be getting too many looks come Saturday.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Virginia rushing

It was one thing for Louisville to have their two leading returning rushers both be quarterbacks. It’s a different story with quarterback Bryce Perkins leading the Cavaliers. Last season, Perkins and Heisman winner Kyler Murray were the only players in the country with over 2,600 passing yards and 900+ rushing yards. Perkins’ 65% completion percentage helps to open up running lanes for him, since teams have to respect his arm. With sophomore tailback Wayne Taulapapa contributing 3.9 yards per carry and five rushing touchdowns so far this season, Virginia’s ground game poses a threat. However, UVA doesn’t have the stable of running backs that Georgia has. With Brian Kelly saying the team came away from that game without too many bruises, in a game where the linebackers showed drastic improvement against arguably the nation’s best rushing attack, the Irish front seven shouldn’t wear down like they did against the Bulldogs.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Virginia offensive coaching 

The Cavaliers enter South Bend with a balanced attack, having run the ball 129 times and passed it 134 times through four games. This includes several games that saw the Cavaliers forced to run out the clock on the ground, so expect to see more of quarterback Bryce Perkins’ arm in this one. Even if the team does choose to throw more, broken plays will still result in Perkins creating on the ground. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall encourages his quarterback to get creative running, which has led to Perkins carrying it himself over twelve times per contest, even more than any Irish running back. This will be UVA’s toughest test of the year, they are going to throw everything in their playbook at the Irish, we will see how Clark Lea’s defense responds.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Virginia offensive special teams

Brian Delaney is no Rodrigo Blankenship. After facing Georgia’s faultless kicker last week, Notre Dame has much less to worry about this Saturday. Delaney is just 5-8 on field goals this season, which is a pretty tough percentage  — particularly in the ACC. In terms of returns, sophomore Billy Kemp IV is averaging 7.6 yards back a punt while senior Joe Reed is pouring in roughly 37.8 yards per kick, even taking one coast-to-coast in Virginia’s 52-17 rout of William & Mary. Regardless, Notre Dame’s had a quiet brilliance in its special teams this year, both offensively and defensively. After seeing Georgia last week, the Irish won’t let anything big get past them Saturday. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

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