The Virginia Tech Hokies moved to 8-3 on the season Saturday with an impressive 34-31 come-from-behind win at Notre Dame. It was the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
It certainly wasn’t easy as the Fighting Irish jumped out to a 17-0 lead on the Hokies and looked poised for a rout. But slowly, the Hokies kept creeping back into this one and had cut ND’s lead to 10 by halftime, when the Irish led 24-14.
The second half was a completely different ballgame.
The Hokies outscored Notre Dame 20-7 in the second half and defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s defense played much better in the final 30 minutes.
So, here are five takeaways from Virginia Tech’s win in South Bend.
Jerod Evans looked much better
All season long we’ve talked about Jerod Evans and some of his accuracy issues. For all of the things he does well, he’s struggled at times to hit receivers in stride. Last week, in the loss to Georgia Tech, Evans had his share of issues. But he wasn’t only the one. Part of his problem a week ago was his ankle, which he’d injured just nine days before in the win at Pittsburgh.
Against the Irish, Evans started slowly. He struggled holding onto the ball and appeared to be having issues adjust to the cold early in the game. However, he settled in and made some beautiful throws.
Perhaps his best throw of the game was a strike to Cam Phillips on a post route. Evans led Phillips perfectly, but the ball slipped right through his hands and right into the waiting arms of Notre Dame defensive back Drue Tranquill. It was a nice play by Tranquill.
Another Evans throw directed to Phillips was a would-be touchdown that he dropped over Phillips’ shoulder, but the receiver couldn’t hang on. Phillips would redeem himself on the following play.
On the day, Evans completed 22 of 29 passes for 262 yards and scores, while also leading Tech in rushing with 67 yards and another TD.
It was a terrific performance by the junior signal-caller.
How many Virginia Tech fans were cursing Foster and the secondary in the game’s first 15 minutes?
It was an awful start by what is usually one of the team’s strengths. Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer had his way with Tech’s secondary both short and long.
As the game progressed, though, Foster found a way to stop the Fighting Irish. Outside of one play, a 67-yard touchdown run by Josh Adams after the aforementioned Tranquill interception, the Hokies limited Notre Dame to just 36 total second-half yards. So, after allowing over 300 total yards in the first half, Tech allowed slightly over 100 in the second half.
While it didn’t always lead to sacks, the pass rush improved in the second half. Woody Baron continuously pushed the pocket, forcing Kizer off his spot and into throws he didn’t want to make.
And the secondary was a direct beneficiary of this. Adonis Alexander didn’t always have the tightest coverage, but the pressure forced Kizer to throw early and Alexander was often in the vicinity of some of those early throws.
Terrell Edmunds needs to be careful
In the win at Duke a few weeks back, much was made over Edmunds’ hit that resulted in a targeting call on the sophomore rover and led to his ejection. By the letter of the law, it was the correct call. It just wasn’t a dirty play. Duke’s running back lowered his head making it look much worse than it was. Subsequently, Edmunds was suspended for the first half of the following game, per NCAA rules.
Against the Fighting Irish, Edmunds had two different plays where he could’ve been called for targeting. And they were more egregious than the one at Duke.
It’s careless and unfair to call Edmunds a dirty player. He isn’t. Sometimes people do not realize how fast this game is, and when a player is sliding, as Kizer was on the last Edmunds’ hit, it makes it even tougher make a clean hit.
However, these plays are on tape now. You don’t think the officiating crews will have their eyes on Edmunds now? Sure they will. This stuff is taken seriously and if it’s close, they’re going to call it. Fair or not, Edmunds has earned a reputation for himself.
Virginia Tech cannot afford to play without Edmunds as we witnessed firsthand last weekend in the loss to Georgia Tech. Coaches must continue to stress this point with Edmunds during practice.
C.J. Carroll is a legitimate weapon
All year long, we’ve waited for the coaching staff to figure out a way to best employ the diminutive sophomore. Well, it seems like they finally figured it out.
Carroll caught only three balls against Notre Dame, but one play was a game-changer. Carroll caught a quick slant from Evans and raced across the middle of the field, zigging and zagging around defenders for a 62-yard gain to set up a VT touchdown.
It was a beautiful play that left everyone wondering: Where was this weeks ago?
In recent weeks, coaches have started getting the ball in Carroll’s hands more often, primarily on jet sweeps. The 62-yard catch-and-run showed Carroll’s ability in the open field and head coach Justin Fuente would be wise to employ Carroll in a similar manner moving forward.
Having a dynamic slot receiver can take an offense to another level and create matchup nightmares for the opposition. Carroll gives the Hokies something different than Isaiah Ford, Bucky Hodges and Phillips. Tech has waited all season long for another receiver to step up and it looks like they have finally found their guy.
Fuente goes full-blown Narduzzi
Ok, in all fairness to Fuente, he didn’t exactly behave like the sophomoric Pitt coach. But the usually stoic Fuente was beside himself when officials called a false start penalty on guard Wyatt Teller.
It was a horrendous call.
Fuente had every right to be angry and undoubtedly his team loved seeing him blow up on the officials. Players love that sort of thing.
For fans, it was a different Fuente than they’re used to seeing. If you listen to any Fuente interview or press conference, he’s always even-keeled and never raises his voice. He meant business. It was fun to see.
Did it fire up the team? Well, there’s really no way to quantify that sort of thing and players didn’t really say as much after the game.
Fuente almost seemed embarrassed after the game when he met with the press. Not because he showed emotion, but because he cost his team 15 yards after always telling them to play smart.