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Football

Hokies ready for tooth-and-nail fight with Fighting Irish

| Friday, October 8, 2021

As Notre Dame prepares to descend upon Lane Stadium, the attitude in Blacksburg is one of opportunity. The Hokies (3-1) started their season strong, defeating then No. 10 UNC in their home opener, 17-10. They then beat Middle Tennessee at home 35-14, the next week. In Week 3, Virginia Tech went on the road to Morgantown and suffered their first loss of the season to West Virginia 27-21. They returned home the week after that loss and easily handled Richmond 21-10, but now the Hokies are looking at an opportunity that could serve as a catalyst for their mediocre season and possibly turn it into a great season. 

Notre Dame will roll into Blacksburg ranked No. 14 in the AP Poll. The only ranked team remaining on the Hokies schedule, the Irish will also be the final non-conference opponent the Hokies have before they close their season with seven consecutive ACC matchups. If they are able to win against the Irish, it will be the first time since 2009 that Virginia Tech has recorded two wins at home against AP Top 25 opponents. 

Perhaps needless to mention, the Irish are heading into this matchup coming off a disappointing loss that snapped a 26-game home win streak in Notre Dame Stadium. The Hokies will be one of the three ACC members that will play the Irish coming off of their bye week. The Irish have played in Blacksburg just once in 2018, when they knocked off the Hokies 45-23 in front of their home crowd. The series record is 2-1 in Notre Dame’s favor with the most recent win coming in 2019, which saw a heavily scrutinized Ian Book lead the Irish down the field for a game-winning drive capped by the quarterback high stepping into the endzone, a highlight that will probably frequently be shown on the board at Notre Dame Stadium for at least another 40 years. It’s safe to say this particular matchup has never failed to provide some good entertainment. The first time the teams met in 2016 in South Bend, the Hokies were able to come back from a 24-7 deficit to beat the Irish by a field goal, 34-31. With the Irish in a sort of scramble mode in search of a true starting quarterback, the Hokies are primed to take advantage of everything that might be weighing heavy on the minds of the Irish coming into this matchup. 

However, Hokies head coach Justin Fuente knows that he will need to fight tooth and nail if he wants to scratch out a win over this opponent. 

“The thing that I took away from watching the Cincinnati game with Notre Dame is every inch, every piece of turf is going to be hard-fought for,” he said. “It’s going to be really difficult. Four yards is a big deal. We’ve got to be emotionally prepared for that sort of game.”

Though a win would surely jumpstart the Hokies season, Fuente is aware of what he is up against in the Irish and admits the results of last week might fuel the opponent. 

“I know they’re coming off a disappointment, which I know will just continue to fuel their fire to get back in the win column,” Fuente said.

He did not sell the staff and the program short of praise, however. 

“Very talented, well-coached, disciplined, tough football team coming in here. When you watch them play, you realize there’s a reason they’ve had so much success the last several years. Coach Kelly has done a fantastic job. They’re sound in their schemes and play with great effort, and they’ve got talent as well.”

Fuente knows what he is up against with this Notre Dame team, and he is embracing the challenge. For the Hokies, in front of a sellout crowd, this might prove to be one of their biggest games of the year and certainly one that can be a turning point in their season.

“We have an awesome opportunity here,” Fuente said. “We’re going to have a sold-out crowd. I’d imagine a raucous crowd with an unbelievable opportunity for our football team.”

 

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About Jimmy Ward

Jimmy is a senior at Holy Cross College, where he studies English and sports management. He is originally from Westfield, Indiana. Currently, Jimmy serves as an associate sports editor at The Observer. You can find him at @jimmyyward on Twitter.

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