Exit Sandman: #6 Irish Silence #24 Hokies 45-23

BLACKSBURG, Va. — A strong second-half effort provided the key to silencing a rowdy Lane Stadium on Saturday, with No. 6 Notre Dame (6-0) passing the road test in a 45-23 victory over No. 24 Virginia Tech (4-2).

Notre Dame reached the season’s halfway point with an unblemished record, all the more meaningful on a day in which three other Associated Press top-10 teams went down.

The Irish scored 28 second-half points while limiting the Hokies to just a touchdown in the final two periods in what turned into a rout. 

The Hokies outgained the Irish 441-438, but managed just two touchdowns on the night. The Irish outrushed the Hokies by a net 167-132, bolstered by Dexter Williams’ 178 yards and three touchdowns. Ian Book was 25-for-35 with 231 yards and two touchdowns. Kicker Justin Yoon became Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorer, connecting on a field goal and five extra points to bring his career total to 321 and bypassing Allen Pinkett’s previous 320 mark set in 1985.

Te’von Coney and Asmar Bilal led the Irish with nine tackles each, while Khalid Kareem accounted for 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble that resulted in an Irish touchdown. Jalen Elliott recorded two pass break-ups, while Julian Love recorded an interception for the Irish.

How It Happened

The Irish began the game with their fifth opening-drive score in six games, marching 75 yards in 12 plays to go up 7-0. Book went 7-for-7 with 58 yards passing on the drive and kept the drive alive with a fourth-down conversion with inches to go from just outside the one-yard line. Williams capped the drive with a one-yard rush for his second touchdown of the season.

On the first play of Notre Dame’s second offensive drive, Book found wide receiver Chris Finke for 56 yards to the Hokie 17-yard line. The offense managed just three yards on the next set of downs, however, but Yoon connected on the 31-yard field goal attempt to give the Irish a 10-0 lead.

The Hokies answered on the next drive, with Brian Johnson connecting on a 39-yard field goal in the final minute of the first quarter. They forced the Irish to punt in the next series, but took over with favorable field position at the Irish 43-yard line after a muffed snap. The Irish defense held the Hokies to just 17 yards, however, again forcing a field goal and maintaining the lead at 10-6.

Virginia Tech threatened to take the lead with less than five minutes before halftime, registering the game’s first turnover on an interception of Book. Steven Peoples broke out for a 41-yard rush to the Irish 1, but the Notre Dame defense stuffed the Hokies on three plays — including for a four-yard loss on third down — and forced yet another field goal.

It was the Irish defense that next found the end zone after struggling on offense for much of the second quarter. Khalid Kareem forced a fumble of Tech quarterback Ryan Willis, while Love scooped the loose ball and returned it 42 yards to put the Irish up 17-9.

The Hokies pulled back within one point at halftime when Willis found Damon Hazelton for two yards to cap a 75-yard scoring drive just before the intermission.

The Irish forced a Hokie punt to open the second half, taking the ball on their own 5-yard line. After losing a couple of yards on first down, Dexter Williams busted up the middle and took it all the way downfield for a 97-yard touchdown and a 24-16 lead. It was the longest touchdown run in Lane Stadium history and the second-longest in Notre Dame history since Josh Adams recorded a 98-yard rushing touchdown against Wake Forest in 2015.

After a stalled Virginia Tech drive resulted in a missed field goal, the Irish extended the lead when Book found Miles Boykin on a 40-yard touchdown reception, evading the pass rush to find the receiver on the left side.
Boykin and Book connected again with nine minutes remaining to increase the lead to 38-16. The pair hooked up on a fade route on third-and-short to bring the Irish to the Hokie eight-yard-line, and again for five yards for the touchdown. Yoon’s kick lifted him over the all-time scoring threshold. 

After a Virginia Tech touchdown made it a two-score game, Notre Dame responded when Williams tallied his third touchdown of the game, scoring from 31 yards with 4:20 on the clock.

Love all but sealed the victory with his first interception of the season with 3:59 remaining.

Up Next

The Irish will return to Notre Dame Stadium next Saturday when they host Pittsburgh for a 2:30 p.m. ET kick on NBC.