Notre Dame Football: Defensive Grades vs. Virginia

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Sep 12, 2015; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Virginia Cavaliers wide receiver Ryan Santoro (88) runs with the ball as Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker James Onwualu (17) chases in the fourth quarter at Scott Stadium. The Fighting Irish won 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame’s Secondary Struggled Mightily On Saturday Against Virginia

After a surprisingly dominant performance in Notre Dame’s week 1 rout of Texas, the Irish defense arrived in Charlottesville with raised expectations and everyone asking if they were indeed that good or if Texas’ offense was indeed just incredibly inept. Now, after a near-loss to Virginia in a wild, inconsistent, down-to-the-wire contest, it looks more likely that the Longhorns really were that bad more than anything else.

The same Virginia offense that only managed 16 points in a week 1 loss to UCLA caught fire in the second quarter against Notre Dame and managed to score 27 points while racking up over 400 yards of offense throughout the duration of the game. Time and again, the Irish defense failed to get good pressure on Virginia QB Matt Johns, allowing him to sit in the pocket and fling lollipop passes to wide open receivers who had found gaps in the ND pass defense.

The key failure of the Notre Dame defense came on a 3rd-and-15 that the Cavaliers had in Irish territory with just a few minutes to play (and Notre Dame leading 26-21). The Irish allowed Virginia TE Ryan Santoro to get wide open, and he made them pay with a 34-yard reception that led to an Albert Reid (Virginia RB) go-ahead rushing touchdown on the very next play, leaving a DeShone Kizer-led offense less than two minutes to save the game.

The Notre Dame defense came crashing back to Earth this week after a stellar start against Texas, so let’s delve deeper into the specific position groups and grade their performances.

Next: Grade: Defensive Line