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irish insider

Head to head: Virginia Tech

| Friday, November 1, 2019

Notre Dame Passing 

Last week’s dumpster fire in Ann Arbor certainly reminded the Irish faithful that there are still plenty of kinks to be worked out in the Notre Dame offense. For all his effort, Ian Book couldn’t get anything started, but his unit likely took a long, hard look at their game through the air this week at practice. Saturday’s contest against Virginia Tech is a good opportunity for Notre Dame to bounce back. The Hokie defense has been allowing their opponents an average of just under thirty points, most notably giving up 45 in a loss to Duke and 41 in a 6 overtime victory over UNC. The Irish should have productive receivers in this matchup, particularly since the ground game of late has left much to be desired. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Notre Dame Rushing 

Within an already lacking offensive scheme, the run game is painfully underperforming this season. The crazy weather of last week’s game exposed these gaps in the Notre Dame offense as Tony Jones Jr. and Jahmir Smith were unable to gain any momentum to counteract the Wolverines. It’s never a good sign when you’re pro-style quarterback is third on the team in rushing yards with 13. With the possibility of inclement weather making its way to South Bend this weekend, the Irish may have to turn to the ground game again and will need a much stronger performance. Meanwhile, one of the few bright spots in the Virginia Tech defense is their containment of the run game so this one goes advantage Hokies.

EDGE: Virginia Tech

 

Notre Dame Offensive Coaching 

To put it bluntly, Chip Long’s plan for the loss against Michigan was extremely disappointing given a bye week to prepare and a good yet predictable defensive coordinator in Don Brown. The weather certainly played a factor, but the Irish seemed to be taken completely off guard by it. That said, There were opportunities for the Irish in the passing game that Ian Book didn’t capitalize on. While that performance hurts the Irish offense’s reputation, they get a nice chance to rebound against Virginia Tech. The Hokies’ defense is helmed by Bud Foster at defensive coordinator, the longest active continually-tenured coach at a single school with 33 straight years at Virginia Tech. Foster is a solid coordinator, but the fact is that his personnel don’t match up to the Irish in any way like Michigan’s did. Even with Notre Dame’s struggles offensively, they’re going against a team that has given up 29.57 points per game with no marquee opponents whatsoever on their current résumé.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Notre Dame Special Teams 

Despite the numerous shortcomings one could point to in Notre Dame’s loss to Michigan on Saturday night, the special teams unit actually showed signs of promise. The unit managed to block a punt early on in the game, and of course Jonathan Jones’ decision to touch the ball after the fact turned a positive into a negative, but the blocked punt itself was impressive. Plus, Jay Brmblett fired off a few good punts, and Jonathan Doerer has looked pretty good since USC. Virginia Tech hasn’t shown particular promise in any special teams area, and since ND is home, its reasonable to give the Irish the edge here. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Virginia Tech Passing 

Virginia Tech quarterback Ryan Willis was touting a nine touchdown-five pick ratio and 61.5 completion percentage before he suffered a concussion which left him sidelined. That leaves the Hokies with second string sophomore Hendon Hooker, who remains largely untested in the limelight. That being said, Virginia Tech tends to favor the ground game, which is likely the same strategy they’ll employ against Notre Dame. The Irish can get off the line quickly, pressuring an already shaky Willis to throw into an incredibly skilled secondary. With the exception of last week’s game in Ann Arbor, Notre Dame have been successful in having their way on defense, and we should expect a repeat performance of that this week. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Virginia Tech Rushing 

Similar to the Irish, the Hokies run game has struggled as times, averaging four yards per carry. However their 71 first downs on the ground could prove beneficial down the stretch on Saturday. There’s no question who the go-to guy for Virginia Tech will be redshirt junior Deshawn McClease who has recorded 492 yards on 97 attempts. While the Hokies have a respectable run game, they’re yet to post an significant runs and as long as the Irish defensive unit can contain them to small yards they should have no trouble.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Virginia Tech Offensive Coaching

There was blame to go all around the Notre Dame football team during Saturday’s blowout in the Big House. That said, the defense at least had moments of strong play. After starting slow against the Wolverines, defensive coordinator Clark Lea did what he has done all season and made appropriate adjustments at halftime to, at the least, momentarily stifle the Wolverines offense and allow the Irish offense to make it a 17-7 game. The defense was by no means on top of their game against Michigan, playing well for only about a quarter’s-worth of the game, but they at least had the excuse of being exhausted for all the time they were on the field. Against Virginia Tech they will be back in home territory. They’ll also face an offense with quarterback questions and an offensive line featuring redshirt sophomores as their most veteran starters. The only issue will be if the Irish defense remains demoralized from the recent loss, but Lea should rally them enough in this one.=

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Virginia Tech Special Teams 

Virginia Tech special teams is true to form — slightly above average. The Hokies 48.25 yards per punt is strong but not enough to contain teams long term. On the offensive side of the ball, this team is yet to prove to be much of a threat on the return and Notre Dame’s special teams should have no problem keeping them in the backfield. Add in a lackluster 7-11 field goal completion and this team likely won’t be scoring through their special teams. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

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