Notre Dame Football: Defensive Grades vs. Virginia

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Sep 12, 2015; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Romeo Okwara (45) recovers a fumble by Virginia Cavaliers quarterback Matt Johns (15) in the fourth quarter at Scott Stadium. The Fighting Irish won 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Overall: C-

The Notre Dame defense displayed some of the same flaws that have been frustrating Irish fans for years, especially in terms of a consistent pass rush and the secondary knowing how to play the ball in the air. Defensive Coordinator Brian VanGorder’s blitzes were largely ineffective (aside from the Russell sack-fumble turnover, which was admittedly one of the biggest plays of the game). If it weren’t for DeShone Kizer’s poise and heroics, the Notre Dame defense would have been the goats of the game, unable to stop a Virginia offense that wasn’t supposed to perform as well as they did against ND’s experienced and talented defensive unit.

Now, Notre Dame must regroup and prepare for Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson’s triple option offense that tallied 439 rushing yards and 65 points against Tulane on Saturday. The defense has been fairly strong in stopping the run so far, and that bodes well for this match-up. However, as we all know, the triple option is a completely different beast that necessitates strict discipline and crisp execution by the defense in order to shut it down.

It should be very interesting to see how VanGorder’s squad bounces back against a much better offensive team next week at home. That game will tell us a lot about how Notre Dame will do the rest of the year, considering the offense is now without its entire starting backfield and needs the defense to do its part.