Virginia Tech’s bid to an upset of No. 6 Notre Dame fell way short as the Fighting Irish just had too many big plays and the Hokies failed to respond. As a result, the Hokies suffer another devastating non-conference win with Notre Dame hammering a 45-23 win in Lane Stadium.
Starting with a 56-yard pass from Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book to Chris Finke that set up a field goal to push the Irish lead to 10-0. Still, the Hokies were able to withstand the early tug-of-war until the second half. That’s when Notre Dame running back Dexter Williams broke off a backbreaking 97-yard touchdown run as his offensive line parted the sea for him to race down the football field. The score was after the Hokies were forced to punt in a 17-16 game to start the third quarter, as it took Notre Dame just two plays on their opening second half drive to gain full control of the ball game by extending their lead to 24-16.
A missed field goal by the Hokies on the ensuing drive was met by another big play touchdown for Notre Dame, as Book connected to a wide opened Miles Boykin on the run for a 40-yard touchdown that bust open the game at 31-16.
Then in the fourth quarter with time ever more precious, Book connected with Boykin again on a 3rd-and-2 pass that went 20 yards and led to another Notre Dame touchdown, putting away any doubt of the game at 38-16. But following a late Virginia Tech touchdown and failed onside kick, Williams sealed the remainders with 44 yards on two carries and the score.
And to think it may have been more brutal, as Book missed on four notable passes with wide opened receivers that all of which could have resulted in touchdowns. Certainly, the performance was not one of the better performances by Bud Foster’s defense.
2. Missed Opportunities
The Hokies had their opportunities to stay in the game and they just couldn’t execute. In the first half, they settled for three field goals after falling behind 10-0, despite reaching deep into Irish territory, including getting to the one-yard line off a 41-yard run by Steven Peoples. Peoples was gobbled up for no gain on back-to-back plays, and quarterback Ryan Willis was tracked down on third down, leaving the Hokies to settle for three.
The second half was more of the same. After a punt, the Hokies had two missed field goals and never truly threaten to score a touchdown until the game was already out of hand.
3. Ryan Willis Was Not Clean
Last week was Willis first start with Virginia Tech and he played a good, clean game against Duke. Saturday against Notre Dame he was far from it. His fumble lost on a sack led to a 42-yard fumble returned for a touchdown in the first half that extended Notre Dame’s lead to 17-9.
He misfired on a lot of passes, going 31-for-52 for 309 yards. He had two touchdown passes and an interception in the process. Having him attempt 52 passes wreaks of not playing clean football. It also takes away the element of managing a game. His two turnovers also laminate there’s going to be a learning curve.
4. Defense Still Suspect
For the second time in three games the Hokies defense was gouged for 400 plus yards. Old Dominion did it a couple of weeks ago and beat the Hokies scoring 49 points. Notre Dame did it and scored 45. It’s a defense that is filled with youth at linebacker and secondary.
Opposing offenses that attack with balance and throw the football vertically like Old Dominion and Notre Dame will give Virginia Tech fits. It’s growing pains, but that Justin Fuente can only hope is quickly dismissed.