Irish Leap Past Cavaliers

Injured quarterback Brennan Armstrong watched from the sidelines in street clothes as the powerful Virginia offense spat and sputtered on Saturday night in a 28-3 Notre Dame victory. Jack Coan delivered three touchdown passes and several Irish ball carriers ran for a combined 250 yards to pace the visitors. The Irish defense smothered the Cavs with eight sacks of freshman Jay Woolfolk. Notre Dame moved to 9-1 on the season while Virginia dropped to 6-4.

The Notre Dame attack was far from explosive, but the Cavalier defense could not hold up to strong performances by the Irish pass receivers and steady pounding by Kyren Williams and friends. Michael Mayer, Braden Lenzy and Kevin Austin each caught a touchdown pass and made highlight reel plays during the contest.

Linebacker Bo Bauer led the way on defense with nine tackles and multiple havoc plays. He took most of the snaps as the coaching staff elected to rest Drew White and his ailing knee. Safeties Ramon Henderson and DJ Brown each had an interception for the Irish. Henderson had moved over from cornerback for this game. He showed excellent range, speed and instincts in this role.

The Irish took advantage of a slow start by the Cavalier offense to march for three first-half touchdowns. The opening drive went bust when Coan could not convert a fourth down quarterback sneak, but Virginia quickly went three and out. A shanked punt by the Cavs gave Notre Dame another chance in plus territory, and Coan capped the drive with a six yard scoring toss to Mayer for a 7-0 lead.

The Irish got the ball back and faced a third down play near midfield. Freshman Logan Diggs took the ball around left end, stiff-armed two defenders, and cleanly hurdled a third on the way to a 26-yard gain. Lenzy was undoubtedly inspired by Diggs’ leap as he took a short pass a few plays later and launched himself across the goal line.

Braden Lenzy vaults over the Cav defense and into the end zone

While Woolfolk and the Cavaliers continued to misfire, Notre Dame built its lead to 21-0 late in the second quarter. A 27-yard run on a reverse by Lorenzo Styles would have been a 52 yard touchdown if not for a holding call downfield. It only postponed the inevitable though. Two plays later, Williams took off on an improbable 22-yard scoring run as he wove his way around and through the Cavs. Henderson’s subsequent interception ended the scoreless first half for Virginia.

The Cavs showed some life on both sides of the ball after intermission. Woolfolk gained some confidence and fired some passes downfield with authority. A sack by Bauer killed a promising drive and Virginia was forced to try a 44-yard field goal. They missed.

Another long reverse by Lenzy set up the final touchdown by Notre Dame late in the third quarter. Coan hit Austin on a sideline route with a perfect pass from 15 yards out. The Irish now led by 28-0 and it was time to clear the bench.

Woolfolk engineered a fourth-quarter drive that resulted in a field goal to avoid the shutout. Tyler Buchner then came on to lead a long march for Notre Dame, but a fumbled RPO exchange with Diggs at the five yard line fell into the hands of Virginia’s Noah Taylor. Woolfolk and the Cavs had one more shot to find the end zone, but Brown picked off a tipped pass to end it.

The outcome was never in doubt once Armstrong and his painfully broken ribs could not answer the bell. Notre Dame played well enough, but who knows if 28 points would have been enough to beat the Cavaliers at full strength. The Irish need compelling performances to ascend into the playoff picture, but this performance did not do enough to move the needle. At the end of the day, there are still seven teams with better claims on the four spots.

Anything can happen during the last two weeks of the regular season and in the conference championship games but it would be better if Notre Dame could play and beat one of those teams.

Let’s review the answers to our pregame questions for further analysis.

Will Armstrong start and be able to make it through the entire evening? No to both, and Woolfolk took a vicious beating as well.

Which offense will be balanced and gain a time of possession advantage? The Irish ground game was dominant and they won the total yardage battle by 423-278. Time of possession was even, but again Notre Dame controlled the ball throughout the first half when it truly mattered.

Can the Irish defense succeed with a bend but don’t break game plan? Notre Dame was more aggressive against Woolfolk than they would have been if Armstrong had been healthy. The eight sacks speak for themselves.

Will Notre Dame be able to contain Thompson wherever he lines up? Thompson caught nine passes for over 100 yards, but he did not get near the end zone.

Which special teams will contribute impact plays? The only noteworthy special teams play was the shank by Virginia punter Jacob Finn. It set up the first Notre Dame touchdown.

Will the Irish secondary be able to cover five dangerous targets? They did a good job overall, even with a liberal substitution of young players throughout the evening.

Which offense will make the most of its red zone chances? The Irish flubbed two chances with a fumble and fourth down failure. Virginia was far more inept though.

Can Williams finally get some Heisman recognition? Williams had only 70 yards, but he did not have as many touches as he normally gets. Anyone who saw his touchdown run knows that only a very special player could have scored on that play.

Notre Dame returns home next week for Senior Day against ACC doormat Georgia Tech. The season finale on the road against a poor Stanford team looms after Thanksgiving, so it’s very likely this team will finish at 11-1. The rankings are more of a beauty contest than a numbers game, however, and this Irish squad has not looked very sexy in most of its wins this year. You can now add Virginia to that list.

26 thoughts on “Irish Leap Past Cavaliers

  1. Not explosive or sexy, Nevertheless, another W.
    I suspect this team, probably, 11-1, goes to a New years 6 game and wins. out @ 12-1.

    If by some chance ND makes playoffs, they will probably lose to GA, ALA or OSU. (However, I still hold out they
    get the shot)
    The still scary game is @ Stanford, BK is 1-4 against the trees and the trees took down the ducks, even though they otherwise are not a good team

  2. Timothy Miller says:

    Not sure I agree that there are seven teams with better claims. UM was beaten by MSU, who was beaten by Purdue, whom we defeated. Our loss (Cincinnati) is better than either loss of the two schools up north. Our hope is that the Dawgs defeat the Tide in the SEC championship, OSU defeats said two schools on the way to the B1G east title, and Oregon loses somewhere along the line. That trifecta should get us in. Wisconsin somehow beating OSU in B1G championship would be nice, and if that unlikely event happens, Oregon is no longer required to falter.

      • Michael Boscarino says:

        Really? This was a dominant performance that was over in the 2nd quarter. You’re just a miserable bastard, aren’t you?

      • I think your scenario is exactly right. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that we need “a lot of chaos” to get in, we’re better off if UGA, OSU, and Cinci all run the table, as predicted, which is the opposite of chaos.

        Then we just need Oregon to lose again which seems like a decent bet. The only complication would be if Bama pushes UGA to the limit.

        • I can’t remember an Irish season more likely to finish 11-1 in which I’ve been so negative about. In the last few weeks, I’ve been more positive and really see how good our stable of running backs are and when you add them to the receiving room led by Baby Gronk, Austin, Colzie and Styles, I’m beginning to think this team would be more dangerous in a playoff game then the past two teams. The O-Line isn’t as good but has shown steady improvement and could still get Fisher back. Buchner’s legs and overall change of pace could play well, if utilized correctly.

          There are multiple paths to the playoff but all involve Georgia winning out to eliminate Alabama. I’ve been on record as saying Irish fans will be watching that game with a playoff spot hanging in the balance.

          Cleanest scenario to envision Irish getting in:
          Most likeliest based on eye test:
          1. Georgia
          2. OSU
          3. OK ST
          4. ND

  3. I blew my prediction of a shootout which was based on Brennan Armstrong playing. It’s always great to win and while this is a good win and good things happened I don’t think winning 28-3 will make the pollsters sit up and take notice and rocket the Irish to #5.

  4. John – Excellent assessment overall. I do have to question one comment though where you said: “Notre Dame played well enough, but who knows if 28 points would have been enough to beat the Cavaliers at full strength.” I think that comment lacks perspective. It was obvious that the Irish could have scored more points if Rees and Kelly had not taken their foot off the gas pedal. The end of the first half most of the 4th quarter provide ample evidence of that. The pathetic and unimaginative call on the 4th and 1 in the 4th quarter is but one example. That follows a pattern that Kelly has established over the years of not wanting to run up the score on an opponent. Unfortunately, in this era, that approach, while laudable, does not impress the playoff committee.

    • Also getting the ball and run out the clock with 1:50 to go and 2 time outs before halftime. Cmon Kelly we do have a 2 minute drill dont we??

    • Without a conference championship to pad the resume, ND’s only real path to the top 4 is to be undefeated (there needs to be an 8 team playoff and a proper end to the pointless bowl era.) Running up the score is a jerk move by any team, any time. Our dominance on defense was the real story of this game, they played hard, and are now SEC worthy. I couldn’t be gladder to see the young players on the field making things happen.

  5. michael housley says:

    The really exciting news is how the freshmen are playing. Have we ever had this many contributing like this? And huge upsides! As the weekly results confirm, it is hard to win every week. Just last week on the radio I heard a couple of guys talking about Texas A&M and their path to the playoff! Enjoy another good win. (but yeah, shoud’ve been 42!

    • Irish in the South says:

      Agreed…Freshmen really contributing now and will be our stars next year and beyond. With our 2022 and 2023 recruiting classes getting very high marks, future looks very bright.

  6. I know that rematches are not favored by bowl planners, but would like to see the Irish in a rematch with Cincinnati. I don’t know if that is possible with the existing tie-ins.

    The Irish clearly dominated Virginia and are looking like a more complete team but with games remaining against Georgia Tech and Stanford I don’t think anything they do will impress.

  7. The Irish we’re dealing with the flu bug running rampant through the locker room. They came out and did what they had to do. I didn’t love the lack of aggressiveness before the half or the 4th quarter overall but if Buchner doesn’t botch the exchange they win 35-3. Everyone’s caught up in the rankings but we need a bunch of help namely Oregon going down and a chaotic Big Ten. At this point, I think we have a 30% chance to get in.

  8. Good win, but 35 to 3 would have looked better. The switch from cornerback to safety was a great move and he should remain as a safety. Overall, the pass defence was decent and eight sacks is impressive. Hard to see a road to the top four, but a win out of the last two games and a good bowl game win would finish off a nice season. With lots of freshman ans sophmores getting playing time, Notred Dame should much better next year. Still don’t like the lack of diversity in the play calling, especially in the “Red Zone”. Would eally ike to see an experienced offensive coordinator calling he plays, but that isn’t going to happen. You have to wonder how this game would have played out if Virginia had there top gunslinger playing. We needed a big win against a good opponent to move the neddle and this wasn’t it.

    However, never kick a win in the face. Go Irsh, finish strong. Oh, by the way, the tackling and pass defence looked much better this week.

    Rabid Fan

  9. Just think of the recruit who sees freshmen playing and in significant roles. Just maybe that helps recruiting as “If you are good enough to play, we will play you. Just look.” get said across the coffee tables.

    • Irish in the South says:

      Haven’t heard the usual criticism of BK’s coaching this year. Haven’t heard from those that want him fired as a mediocre coach…calling for his head along with his assistants and the AD. All must be seeing that BK is doing a great job working around many critical injuries, addressing and then correcting weaknesses, showing improvement with each game, winning in November, recruiting in an outstanding way, etc.

      • I think with quality coaching, it wouldn’t have taken the staff half a season to determine the most effective offense to use with Coan. I think with quality coaching we’d be undefeated.

        I think the recruiting uptick is attributable to Marcus Freeman’s influence, not anything Kelly is doing differently.

        Kelly could announce his retirement in the morning and I’d throw a party.

  10. Went to the ND/Virginia game this past weekend. It was great seeing ND again in person with those awesome uniforms and the shiny gold helmets under the lights!! Of course the best part was winning the game!!! I can’t believe ND is already down to their final home game of the season. Where does the time go? Anyway go Irish beat Yellow Jackets!!!!

  11. I am not a fan of the fake grass. Thank you BK. I am not a fan of no pep rallys. Thank you BK. I am not a fan of the football team not coming out of mass at the Basilica. Thank you BK. Not a fan of BK and under his watch ND had wins taken away and not a fan of BK not taking responsibility for that. Not a fan of how BK and others handled Declan Sullivan’s death. Not a fan of the 3 STOOGES Jenkins, Swarbrick, and Kelly, and their arrogance and Jack’s comment two years ago when the sell out streak came to an end against Navy. Jack said something like, “I would rather have a raucous crowd and a non sell out, than a sold out stadium that is quiet.” Well, be careful what you wish for. Boston College was not a sell out two years ago. The COVID year last year does not count. This year, the only game that was a sell out was CINCY and there were A LOT of CINCY fans there because some ND alum SOLD OUT to them. The watered down ACC agreement that we are in now to make us look good because we can get to 10 wins, but still not win the BIG games, or New Years 6 Bowls. No, I am not a fan of Kelly, Swarbrick and Jenkins. The outrageous prices for game tickets and catering to the ultra rich.

    I wonder what has happened to Drew Pyne. He was doing well and now there is no mention of him at all.

    Bring back tradition, natural grass, and a CHAMPIONSHIP.!!! Thank you!

    God, country, Notre Dame.

    God bless our military.

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