Second Half Explosion Keys Irish Win

Dexter Williams burst off left tackle for a 97-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter to break open a tight game and propel Notre Dame to a 45-23 victory over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. The Irish offense was stymied for most of the first half, but a scoop and score by Julian Love after a Khalid Kareem sack allowed them to hold a precarious 17-16 lead at intermission. After Williams’ score made it 24-16, Ian Book started to find top target Miles Boykin and the visitors won the second half by 28-7. Boykin caught two touchdown passes and Williams capped the scoring with a 31-yard run after Notre Dame recoved an onside kick late in the game. The victory moves the Irish to 6-0 and should get them into the top five in the upcoming polls.

Book started fast by engineering a 75-yard drive to get the evening started. He then connected with Chris Finke on a 56-yard strike, but the Irish settled for a field goal and a 10-0 lead just eight minutes in. The Hokies tightened up on defense and began to chip away at the lead with a trio of three pointers by Brian Johnson. They were driving again near midfield late in the second quarter when Kareem chased down quarterback Ryan Willis and knocked the ball to the ground. Love streaked by and ran it 42 yards to paydirt and a 17-9 lead with a minute remaining in the half. Virginia Tech refused to fold, however, as Willis brought his team right back down the field by picking apart Notre Dame’s prevent defense. A short scoring pass to Damon Hazelton with 12 seconds left tightened the gap to 17-16.

The Hokies were forced to punt on their initial third quarter possession, and downed it at the Notre Dame five yard line. The Irish, who had minus three yards rushing in the first half, lost two more on the first play before Williams blew past the defense for the momentum changing touchdown. After Johnson missed a long field goal on the next series, Book scrambled on a third down play and hit a wide open Boykin for a 40-yard score and a 31-16 advantage.

This scenario repeated itself moments later as a long Johnson field goal attempt went wide and Book responded by hitting Boykin again from five yards early in the fourth period. The teams traded meaningless touchdowns later to account for the final 45-23 margin, and Love picked off a pass by Willis to turn out the lights.

Let’s review the answers to the pregame questions:

Can the Irish continue to turn red zone opportunities into touchdowns? Notre Dame had two touchdowns and one field goal in three red zone tries. The other scores were long plays over land, through the air, and by the defense.

Will Notre Dame’s defensive line have enough energy for another dominating performance? The Irish were gashed a few times in the first half, but Kareem’s strip sack and a solid second half performance won the day. All of this was without injured end Daelin Hayes and Julian Okwara, who was ejected for targeting before halftime.

Which receivers will have the most success downfield? It was nearly a draw, but Notre Dame had more productive pass plays. Hazelton riddled the Irish for 131 yards on 12 receptions, while Boykin led the Irish with 117 yards on eight catches.

Will the Irish lose their poise in the face of the frenzied Virginia Tech crowd? The Hokie scoring drive before halftime was disconcerting, but the Irish regrouped and dominated after intermission.

Which team will be able to run the ball and achieve offensive balance? Virginia Tech won this battle in the first half, but Williams took over in the second.

Can either special teams dominate or deliver a scoring play? The Hokies were clearly better, and Notre Dame hurt itself with a bad snap on a punt that essentially was a turnover. This led to a first half field goal by Johnson.

Which quarterback will avoid turnovers and execute best on third down? Both quarterbacks suffered one interception. Willis hit some clutch passes in the course of his 31 of 52 performance, but Book to Boykin was a magical third down formula for the Irish when it mattered most.

Will Brian Kelly finally become a Road Warrior? Certainly a step in the right direction, but he still scares the hell out of me.

The Irish will return home to face a historically problematic opponent in Pittsburgh next Saturday before getting a much needed bye. The injuries are mounting, although nothing serious was reported after this contest. Still, Tony Jones, Jr. was unable to run with authority and the defensive starters played a lot of snaps. The silver lining is this offense has put up 44 points per game with Book at the helm, and that is going to be enough on most nights.

10 thoughts on “Second Half Explosion Keys Irish Win

  1. I’m enjoying seeing the offense wearing teams down relentlessly in the second half since Book took the healm at QB. Dexter Williams is a wonderful compliment to an already solid passing game. I’m also pleased to see that Bars’ injury wasn’t felt as much as I thought it’d be. Beat Pitt next week, and go into that much earned bye before the tricky games start (I’m still eyeing that trip to Evanston as the season’s trap game) and the fact that we’ll have 3 road games in November. Go Irish!

  2. Terry MCMANUS says:

    This is a good team – they didn’t play their best IMO but they played well enough and showed enough character to beat another good team on the road.

    As good as they are, and getting better every week – I don’t believe they are good enough to match up with any of the top 4 – Alabama, Georgia, Clemson or Ohio State, meaning that I don’t think they are good enough for the playoffs.

  3. Defense saved the day by holding VT to field goals during a lackluster Irish first half. A sub par Book outing but even at that he was good enough to beat a somewhat depleted VT team. A good team effort with all facets holding together to overcome adversity, but VT still was not really a first class opponent. Not time to punch a ticket to the playoffs yet.

  4. I’m now completely sold on the poise of Ian Book. His performance in a hostile setting, after the pick, and during the whole second half, tells me he’s the coolest Book you’ll ever read.

    On the other hand, the offensive line should have everyone worried. There were blown assignments and failures to sustain blocks throughout the entire game.

  5. To win by 22 in tough road environment to a top 25 opponent is impressive. ND was outgained by 3 yards for the game,and it felt a lot closer than the final score indicates. But how can you complain about a 22 point win on the road against a ranked team? I feel this is the most balanced team (very good offense, very good defense) since the Holtz years. I think we can play with anyone in the country, except maybe Bama.

  6. I wrote that ND would win by 3 TDs and they won by 22. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and again…

    Agree c Terry above-not their best football but good enough to put a whoopin’ on them Hokies. Big difference is PUTTING TEAMS AWAY AND KEEPING THEM AWAY. Where the heck has that been, lo these Kelly years? Made some mistakes in a hostile environment but rebounded, and I love that.

    Now, Pitt has historically given ND fits and even beat them at home in recent memory. The Panthers had a great OT win against Syracuse at home yesterday. These Irish lads are banged up mentally and physically and will really need to summon their best selves to protect their house. But I see them doing just that, going into the bye week undefeated, and being in the top 4 playoff contenders when those rankings come out. Enjoy! GO IRISH BEAT PANTHERS!

  7. Similar to the Stanford game, ND was running out of steam towards the end of the second qtr and let the opposition drive almost the entire length of the field in one minute. The momentum was clearly with Stanford and Va Tech heading into the locker room, but ND has figured out how to make half time adjustments and dominate the second half.

    Frank Beamer was beaming in the first half but not so much in the second. Maybe the 9th year is a charm for Kelly.

  8. Holding V. Tech out of the endzone when they were at the one is a highlight for the year
    with many.
    Both sides of the ball can get it done. This will be the force multiplier down the stretch.
    Ian Book came back down to earth with the interception and some overthrows. Will
    he build off the negatives?
    Weird stuff is guaranteed in the coming weeks…that’s why I watch college football.
    Go Irish!

  9. I have been a very vocAl critic of Kelly over past few years for laying eggs on road games and not adjusting game plans.
    I will give him credit for job well done in a hostile environment. Good job coach

  10. Great win and great team! Do I agree with Terry that this team isn’t good enough for the playoffs? No, I believe they are. Take care of Pitt and then get some needed rest and recoop.