Virginia Tech storms back from 17-point deficit to beat Notre Dame

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – Another football game. Another second-half collapse.

Notre Dame (4-7) allowed a 10-point halftime lead to slip away as Virginia Tech (8-3) escaped with a 34-31 victory Saturday.

Joey Slye’s 20-yard field goal with 4:16 to play gave the Hokies their first lead of the game. From there, the Virginia Tech defense stiffened and shut down the Irish.

This was the eighth Notre Dame game to come down to one possession, seven of which were losses.

Trailing by 10 to start the second half, it took Virginia Tech just five plays to cut the difference to three, 24-21. Steven Peoples scored on a two-yard run, but the score was set up by a 62-yard slant pass from Evans to Cam Phillips.

The Irish had a little karma come their way in the third quarter. After the Hokies cut the lead to three, they had a defensive stop and got the ball back. Evans lofted a long pass that hit a streaking Phillips in the hands. Instead of him hauling it in for what could have been a touchdown, he lost the grip and Notre Dame’s Drue Tranquill intercepted.

Three plays later, Josh Adams found a crease and went 67 yards for a touchdown and 31-21 lead.

Early in the fourth quarter, Virginia Tech cut the difference to seven with a 23-yard field goal by Joey Slye. The Irish had a defensive stop that kept the Hokies out of the end zone.

Notre Dame’s defense had another stiff challenge. Virginia Tech started its possession on the Irish 49. The Hokies got to the 22 when, on second-and-seven, Evans’ pass to Isaiah Ford was ruled as an interference penalty on ND’s Cole Luke, even though Luke had inside position and Ford initiated the contact. Two plays later, Evans hit Bucky Hodges with a seven-yard pass to tie the game with 9:13 to play.

Virginia Tech took its first lead of the game with 4:16 to play when Slye capped a 10-play, 51-yard drive with a 20-yard field goal that put the Hokies up, 34-31.

Not a lot of defense was played in the first half while Notre Dame took a 24-14 lead.

For the 10th time in 11 games, the Irish scored first on a one-yard run by Adams.

Virginia Tech, which is among the nation’s worst in fumbles, lost the ball on its first possession when quarterback Evans coughed it up. Thirteen plays later, Justin Yoon hit a 25-yard field goal.

Notre Dame receivers Chris Finke (31 yards) and Miles Boykin (18) each caught the first touchdown pass of their careers.

The Hokies had their own offensive successes. Evans ran for a 23-yard touchdown early in the second quarter, then threw a 16-yard TD pass to Cam Phillips just before intermission.

Virginia Tech’s Cam Phillips (5) runs in a touchdown in front of Notre Dame’s Julian Love (27) during the Notre Dame-Virginia Tech NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN