However, despite the incredible amount of energy in the building, the Hokies looked anything but strong to open the game. Notre Dame received the opening kick and immediately drove down the field 75 yards for a touchdown on a 12-play drive, capped off by a one yard score by Dexter Williams.
After a prompt three-and-out by the Hokies’ offense, Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book hit Chris Finke on a deep post, who was matched up with backup free safety Tyree Rodgers. Rodgers was forced into action in this game due to an injury to Divine Deablo, and looked shaky in coverage. The Hokies forced the Irish to settle for three points, and found themselves down 10-0 early in the first quarter.
If the first quarter of the game was defined by a slow start, the second quarter was defined by miscues and missed opportunities. The Hokies drove the ball to the Irish 25-yard line, but two penalties on the OL forced a FG attempt. Then Notre Dame mishandled a punt and the Hokies got the ball in plus territory, but only settled for three again. On the ensuing drive, the Hokies got the ball off an impressive Reggie Floyd interception and drove it down to the 1-yard line, only to be forced to settle for three again.
Still, the Hokies had most of the momentum until a potentially game-losing mistake was made by Ryan Willis. Willis scrambled behind the line of scrimmage to get out of pressure, but was hit from his blind side and lost the football. The Irish scooped up the fumble and took it all the way for six points with just over a minute left in the half. However, Willis was absolutely masterful in running the two-minute drill, leading Tech on an 8 play, 75 yard drive in 1:06.
If the Hokies can stop settling for field goals and not put themselves behind the chains, they have a chance to come back from this 17-9 deficit. From the second quarter on, they have been the better team.
Hazleton led the Hokies in the first half with 8 catches for 92 yards, and seemed to be Willis’ safety blanket. On the last drive before the halftime break, Hazleton had three receptions to move the Hokies into scoring territory, then ultimately had the reception to finish the drive with a touchdown.
Willis played well overall, but obviously had the costly mistake. He finished the half with 139 yards on 15/23 passing with a touchdown and one turnover.
17-16 is essentially a tie game. Hokies ball to start the second half.