NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Behind a dominant defensive line that helped the Fighting Irish racked up eight sacks and five turnovers, No. 10 Notre Dame defeated No. 18 Virginia 35-20 Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.
For the first time this season, Notre Dame trailed at the half but the Irish responded by outscoring Virginia 21-3 the rest of the way.
Defensive end Julian Okwara led the defense with 3.0 sacks, two quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles, both of which led to Irish touchdowns. Linemate Khalid Kareem added 2.5 sacks, while Adetekunbo Ogundeji recovered a fumble and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown. TaRiq Bracy and Drew White led the Irish with seven tackles apiece, while Alohi Gilman and Kyle Hamilton recorded interceptions.
Running back Tony Jones recorded a career-high 131 yards and three touchdowns, marking Notre Dame’s season-best rushing performance. C’Bo Flemister added 27 yards and a touchdown on the ground and the Irish finished with 178 total rushing yards.
Quarterback Ian Book went 17-of-25 for 165 yards.
How It Happened
Virginia received the kickoff and scored on the game’s opening drive on a six-yard Joe Reed touchdown catch. The Fighting Irish answered right back when Jones capped a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive with a five-yard rush.
Okwara forced a fumble and made the recovery on Virginia’s next drive, leading to Flemister’s 11-yard rushing TD, which handed the Irish a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Book started his day 8-for-8 on Notre Dame’s first two drives, which resulted in Notre Dame touchdowns.
Virginia took a 17-14 lead to the locker room, keyed by a Hasise Dubois touchdown catch with 43 seconds left in the first half. The Cavaliers looked to capitalize on that momentum with a successful onside kick to open the second, but the Irish defense held to force the punt.
The Irish came up even bigger on the next Virginia drive, when on third-and-10 from the Irish 38, Jamir Jones hit Bryce Perkins for a six-yard sack before causing a fumble. The resulting ball flipped into the air and into the hands of Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, who rambled 48 yards to the Virginia 7-yard line. Two plays later, Jones was in the end zone again to give the Irish a 21-17 lead with 9:50 remaining in the third quarter.
The defense added to the lead before the quarter was out. With three minutes remaining, Okwara again reached Perkins for his third sack of the day while also popping loose his second forced fumble. Adetokunbo Ogundeji scooped up the recovery, returning it 23 yards for his first career touchdown.
Less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, the Irish had taken the ball away again when Jamir Jones rushed Perkins, whose ensuing pass was intercepted by senior safety Alohi Gilman for his first interception of the season. Three minutes later, Tony Jones Jr. was in the end zone again on a 30-yard rush to extend the lead to 35-17.
Virginia made it 35-20 on a 27-yard field goal on the next drive, but freshman safety Kyle Hamilton recorded his second career interception on the next Cavalier possession to effectively seal the game for the Irish.
- Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott represented the Irish as captains for the opening coin toss. Notre Dame won the toss and deferred to the second half. Virginia elected to receive the opening kickoff.
- In the first half, Notre Dame held Virginia to -2 rushing yards. In their previous four games, the Cavaliers have rushed for an average of 55.75 yards in the first half.
- The Irish forced the Cavaliers into a total of 4 rushing yards on the day, the lowest total by a Notre Dame opponent since 1996.
- Notre Dame has held opponents to 30 points or less in 18 consecutive games, matching Washington for the FBS lead in that category.
- The Notre Dame defense recorded eight sacks, the most for an Irish team since also recording eight against Hawaii in the 2008 Hawaii Bowl.
- In forcing five turnovers, it was the first time a Notre Dame defense recorded at least five takeaways since recording six at Michigan in 2012.
- WR Michael Young, who did not play the first three games due to injury, recorded his first catch of the season, a seven-yard reception for a first down, on Notre Dame’s initial scoring drive (RB Tony Jones Jr. six-yard rush).
- QB Ian Book’s first four completions of the game found four different receivers (Kmet, Young, Chris Finke and Chase Claypool).
- DL Julian Okwara recorded a two strip sacks, recovering one with two minutes remaining in the first quarter, giving Notre Dame possession at its own 46-yard line. The other came in the final minutes of the third quarter and was returned by DL Ade Ogundeji for a TD. Okwara totaled three sacks on the day, tying for sixth-most in single game program history with 10 other players. (Program record is four, held by three different players and occurring four separate times)
- DL Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa recovered a QB Bryce Perkins fumble from a DL Jamir Jones strip-sack, returning it 48 yards to the Virginia seven-yard line and setting up a two-yard Jones Jr. rushing TD.
- S Alohi Gilman notched an interception four minutes into the fourth quarter, his first of the season.