Instant Observations: Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – Quick observations from Saturday’s game between No. 16 Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, a 21-20 Irish win….

• Ian Book scampered seven yards with 29 seconds remaining for the winning score. That capped an 18-play, 87-yard drive that took 2:53.

• Trailing by six, Notre Dame (6-2) got the ball back on a Virginia Tech punt at its own 13 with 3:22 and one timeout remaining.

• Notre Dame had nine three-and-outs the previous week at Michigan. The Irish then gained four yards and went three-and-out after winning the toss and taking the ball to start.

• Five of Notre Dame’s first eight drives were three-and-outs.

• The Irish finished with 448 yards of offense.

• The last Atlantic Coast Conference team to beat Notre Dame in South Bend? Virginia Tech in 2016, after twice rallying from 17 points down.

• Ian Book had more completions (nine) by the opening four minutes of the second quarter Saturday than he did the previous game against Michigan (eight).

• Saturday was consecutive win No. 16 for Notre Dame at home. It’s the third longest streak in school history. The Irish haven’t lost at home since early in the 2017 season to Georgia.

• Jafar Armstrong’s lost fumble late in the second quarter, returned 98 yards by free safety Divine Deablo for the tying touchdown, snapped a streak of 1,273 carries by Irish running backs without a fumble lost. Prior to Armstrong’s giveaway, an Irish back last lost a fumble on Nov. 21, 2015 against Northwestern.

• Armstrong's 19 carries were a career high.

• After gaining 15 yards on its first four drives, Virginia Tech racked up 45 yards on eight plays, aided by a pair of 15-yard penalties, to tie it at seven late in the first quarter.

• Notre Dame finished with 107 rushing yards after tallying 47 against Michigan.

• Irish defensive end Khalid Kareem had the game's only sack.

• Running back Tony Jones Jr., the team's leading rusher (571 yards), did not play after suffering what Brian Kelly said was an "upper-body injury" in last week's loss to Michigan.

• Wide receiver Javon McKinley made his second career start for the Irish. Cornerback Donte Vaughn, a potential redshirt candidate, started and played in his fifth game this season, which eliminates any possible preservation of a year of eligibility.

• When Book threw a first quarter interception in the red zone, it was the first time this season that Notre Dame failed to score inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. The Irish were 24-for-24 in the red zone, which ranked first among Football Bowl Subdivision schools.

• Irish freshman safety Kyle Hamilton had his targeting tackle call (and subsequent ejection) overturned late in the second quarter. Hamilton sealed the Irish win with a third-down interception and two seconds left.

• Early in the fourth quarter, Hokies safety Jermaine Waller was ejected for a targeting tackle on Armstrong, which gave the Irish 15 yards and an automatic first down after an initial loss of five yards.

• Nine different Irish receivers caught at least one pass.

• Already without right guard Tommy Kraemer (knee) for four to six weeks, the Irish had right tackle Robert Hainsey go down on the first play of the second series with a left ankle injury. Josh Lugg replaced the junior captain, who hobbled to the tunnel on crutches. He didn’t return.

• The Michigan hangover carried over to Saturday’s player walk from the Guglielmino Center toward the Hesburgh Library and into Notre Dame Stadium. Normally, the path is lined with fans standing three, four five deep. There were spots Saturday where they were zero deep. And it was quiet. Really quiet. Almost like spring game quiet around campus.

• Among the few bowl representatives present Saturday included a contingent from the Camping World Bowl, a possible landing spot for Notre Dame. That bowl, in Orlando, Fla., is played Dec. 28.

• Mishawaka Penn High School product Paul Moala, a sophomore drop linebacker, wore No. 43 on the Irish kick return team. Irish wide receiver Lawrence Keys III also, on the kick return team, also wears No. 13. Double numbers aren’t allowed on return teams.

• Announced wind chill at kickoff was 35 degrees. Snow flurries started at the end of the third quarter.

• Next up for Notre Dame is a trip to Duke, which will be the fifth night game this season for the Irish, who still may play a sixth to end the season at Stanford. That kick time remains a TBD.

Notre Dame’s Jafar Armstrong (8) tries to evade Virginia Tech's Rayshard Ashby (23) during the Notre Dame-Virginia Tech NCAA Football game Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.