GAME WATCH PREVIEW: VIRGINIA TECH
WHO: Notre Dame at Virginia Tech (Lane Field, cap. 66,233)
WHEN: Saturday, October 9, 5:30 p.m.
WHERE: Blake Street Tavern: 2301 Blake Street, Denver, CO; we will be outside in the beer garden!
TELEVISION: Note: the game will only be on the ACC Network, so if you don’t get that, your option is Blake Street.
PARKING: Parking may be spotty, so arrive early.
BRING: Money for the traditional raffle, a designated Domer to drive, and a burning desire to see us avenge the loss last week!
Virginia Tech (3-1, 0-1 ACC), coached by Justin Fuentes in his 6th year, is, of course, coming off a bye week. Virginia Tech is OK on offense and defense, and in years past, this is a game Notre Dame should win (as they did in dramatic fashion in 2019).
If you’re still looking for a place to park, you will miss Virginia Tech’s tradition, the long walk from their locker room to the field while the excitement builds and then Enter Sandman plays at top volume as they run onto the field. It’s pretty cool; here’s a video from the last time ND visited Lane Stadium, and demonstrates what ND is going to be facing in terms of atmosphere, pretty much the whole night, unless we find a way to quiet the crowd, which isn’t likely, given how we have been playing this year.
We know what to expect from Virginia Tech. Their offense has not been able to run the ball consistently, and they struggle to score points. Their QB, Braxton Burmeister, is OK, but is only completing one of every three passes he throws in the red zone, and is not very good against the blitz.
They do have a great wide receiver in Tre Turner; expect the Irish to bracket him and take him out of the game like they did David Bell for Purdue. This will open up opportunities for other “make-you-miss” receivers (e.g. Tayvion Robinson) and RB Raheem Blackshear, so tackling in the secondary will be key.
Defensively, Virginia Tech subscribes to the bend-but-don’t-break philosophy. They try to take away explosive plays, and do a good job at it. They’ve only allowed three receptions of 30+ yards or more and only 4 runs of 20+ yards. Notre Dame will have to be patient and take what the defense is giving them; look for Jonathan Doerer (our FG kicker) to perhaps have a career night.
That said, VT has some glaring weaknesses in their secondary. Cornerback Armani Chatman has been burned long this season, and his backup, Dorian Strong, is a true freshman, as is starting free safety Keonta Jenkins, who is pretty awful in coverage (Power Football Focus has him allowing a perfect 158.3 NFL passer rating when he is targeted). If Michael Mayer (groin) is healthy, look for this matchup as one ND can win most of the time, and he could have a big night.
As for Notre Dame, despite the loss last week, we have been getting better offensively each week; last week was sort of an anomaly because of the QB competition going on (something that perhaps should have been sorted before we play the highest ranked team on the schedule? Just sayin). Most experts expect Drew Pyne to start this week (and I do, too!), and that consistency should help (although sometimes someone who comes in off the bench does better than he does the following week when he has had an entire week to think about being the starter, so who knows?). Apparently prior to the Cincinnati game, all three QBs were taking snaps with the ones in practice and this is not a recipe for success from the quarterback position. Hopefully that settles down this week and Pyne is ready to play, with a package of select plays for Buchner.
I expect the defense to bracket WR Tre Turner and blitz a lot, limiting VT’s offensive drives and keeping the defense relatively fresh throughout the game (an issue last week in the 4th quarter).
Bill’s prediction: This is going to be a close one. I have set my DVR for an extra hour, expecting this may go into overtime. This said, Notre Dame ekes out a win. Notre Dame 26, VT 20. Exit Sandman.
Go Irish! Go to Blake Street! Saturday! 5:30 p.m.!
– Bill Webb, 88, 91JD