The Notre Dame Fighting Irish look to continue the impressive momentum they built up in last week’s drubbing of Texas when they visit the Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville on Saturday afternoon. The hype Notre Dame felt coming into its season opener against Texas will only be magnified this weekend, after a week-long love-fest of pundits and analysts praising the Irish and projecting them to make the College Football Playoff after their impressive 38-3 trouncing of the Longhorns.
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At 3:30 PM EST on Saturday, they will face off with 0-1 Virginia, fresh off a 34-16 loss to UCLA. The Cavaliers hung around with the Bruins, facing just a 17-9 deficit at halftime. However, UCLA was able to pull away in the second half behind the impressive showing of true freshman QB Josh Rosen. He tore the Cavaliers defense apart on his way to a 351-yard, 3-touchdown day.
Now the Cavaliers look to right the ship for absolutely-on-the-hot-seat head coach Mike London, hoping to pull the massive upset at home against the heavily favored Irish. However, aside from a couple star players on the Wahoos, Notre Dame holds a massive talent advantage over Virginia and looks prepared to exploit the Cavaliers’ weaknesses.
Virginia QB Matt Johns played better than many expected against UCLA, going 21/35 for 238 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. However, he definitely struggled at times, especially in finishing touchdown drives against the Bruin defense. Notre Dame’s defense has recently been known as a bend-don’t-break kind of unit, but under VanGorder they’ve been a lot more aggressive and focused on stopping opponents earlier in drives. Look for VanGorder to try to send some heat at Johns early, especially considering the injuries Virginia sustained in their UCLA loss (a starting OT and a backup C will both be out for this game) and how successful DT Sheldon Day and his defensive line crew were against Texas.
September 5, 2015; Pasadena, CA, USA; Virginia Cavaliers running back Taquan Mizzell (4) runs the ball against the UCLA Bruins during the first half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The key to Virginia having any sort of success on offense will be getting the ball into the hands of Taquan “Smoke” Mizzell, a former blue-chip recruit who had 8 catches for 100 yards and a TD against UCLA, along with another 45 on the ground. The speedy junior is a dynamic playmaker, and Jaylon Smith and James Onwualu will likely have to earn their keep covering the shifty back on passing downs, something we know they are capable of doing.
The Virginia defense is led by former 5-star and absolute stud safety, sophomore Quin Blanding. Blanding is one of the lone bright spots on an otherwise pedestrian Cavalier defensive unit that got eviscerated by Rosen last weekend. Look for him and a fellow former 5-star, defensive tackle Andrew Brown, to make a few jaw-dropping plays, but the Virginia defense as a whole will likely have similar issues with Zaire’s efficient passing attack as they had with Rosen. Receiver Will Fuller should be able to have a field day against this defense, considering his penchant for making big plays.
UCLA was also able to run for 152 yards against this defense, so C.J. Prosise, Josh Adams, and Dexter Williams will all likely get opportunities to help top that number behind Notre Dame’s freakishly strong and athletic offensive line. LG Quenton Nelson should be able to pancake at least a few unsuspecting Virginia defenders throughout the game.
All in all, it’s hard to imagine Virginia staying very competitive in this game, considering their offense is only slightly more adept than the miserable Longhorn offense that ND shut down last week. Expect Virginia to put up a couple decent scoring drives, but for the extremely efficient and explosive Irish offense to completely overpower an inferior opponent again and put this one away by the end of the 3rd quarter.
|Editor Andrew Hall
|Notre Dame 34, Virginia 10
|Staff Writer Manny De Jesus
|Notre Dame 31, Virginia 10
|Staff Writer Chase Eyrich
|Notre Dame 42, Virginia 10
|Staff Writer Chris Clarke
|Notre Dame 40, Virginia 13
|Staff Writer Nick Combs
|Notre Dame 35, Virginia 13
|Staff Writer Walt Kosin
|Notre Dame 34, Virginia 14
|Staff Writer Pat Sullivan
|Notre Dame 35, Virginia 13