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Irish need solid run game, defense against Virginia

Notre Dame tamed the usual potent triple-option Navy offensive attack last week and rolled to a 34-6 win. Not allowing Navy to score a touchdown is a real credit to the defense and coordinator Marcus Freeman.

After a week of preparing for the run-crazy Navy, the Irish face a “pass happy” opponent in Virginia tonight in Charlottesville. Navy didn’t get a yard passing but that sure will be the opposite tonight against the Cavaliers. ND limited Navy to 184 total yards, the fourth fewest points scored by the Mids in the series and it marked the 39th in a row win for the Irish against unranked opponents.

The Irish racked up a total offense of 430 yards. Quarterback Jack Coan had his best game yet in a Notre Dame uniform, completing 23 passes in 29 attempts for 269 yards and one touchdown. Backup Tyler Buchner threw only one pass in the game, completing it for 11 yards.

The defense will be the key tonight and the Irish are still short-handed in the secondary. All-American free safety Kyle Hamilton is still out of the lineup and his return is in the hand of the team doctors. ND plays its final home game next week with George Tech coming to South Bend and then play the final regular season game at Stanford on Nov. 27.

There is no doubt that Virginia can score points, you’ll see that later when I review their record to date this season. If ND can establish a run game, that will keep the ball out of the hands of the Cavaliers left-handed throwing QB Brennan Armstrong. Armstrong’s availability for tonight’s game was in doubt earlier in the week due to an arm injury but he is expected to be ready tonight.

The Cavaliers come into tonight’s game at 6-3. The six wins have been over William & May, 43-0; Illinois, 42-14; Miami, 30-28; Louisville, 34-33; Duke, 48-0; and Georgia Tech, 48-40. The three losses have been to BYU, 66-49; Wake Forest, 37-17; and North Carolina, 59-39. As I said, the Cavs can score points.

ND leads the short series, 3-0.

The game will be televised nationally by ABC-TV with a 7:30 p.m. game time with kickoff about 7:40.


: Some Navy game stats: Kyren Williams got 95 yards on 17 carries and two TDs; Logan Diggs, 59 on eight and a score. Receiving, Williams had seven catches for 46 yards, Kevin Austin, 139 on six with a score and a 70-yarder that put the Irish in high gear for the win. Michael Mayer had 28 on four, Chris Tyree 15 on three and Avery Davis, two for 18. Jonathan Doerer was one for one in field goals with a 24 yarder. Defensively, nose guard Kurt Hinish had one of his best games in an Irish uniform with 10 tackles followed by JD Bertrand with nine. Hinish had two tackles for losses...Head coach Brian Kelly announced earlier this week that starting slot receiver Avery Davis would be out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. Davis, a graduate senior, was injured in a noncontact situation in the fourth quarter. That leaves Notre Dame with only five scholarship wide receivers available to play tonight. Four of five available tonight are seniors Kevin Austin Jr. and Braden Lenzy and freshmen Lorenzo Styles and Deion Colzie. The fifth, a freshman Jayden Thomas, has not yet played in a game this season...Virginia, which didn’t play last week, is the nation’s No. 1 team in total offense at 545.2 yards per game... Notre Dame offensive lineman Joe Alt has been named to the Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award Watch List Tuesday afternoon. The award recognizes the most outstanding freshman player in college football. Alt has played in all nine games this season, starting each of the last four games at left tackle. The Irish have had their most successful games on the ground over the last four games, with Alt in the starting lineup. They have rushed for over 150 yards as a team in each of the four games, and have tallied three rushing touchdowns each of the last three...Kyren Williams has been named to the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll following his performance in Notre Dame’s, 34-6, home win over Navy. It marks the third-straight week Williams has been named to the Honor Roll and fifth time this season...Now from the ND athletic department some other notes...Virginia is the sixth opponent the Irish have faced this season coming off their bye week. The Irish are 4-1 in those games this season...The Irish have won eight-straight road games after the 32-29 win over Virginia Tech...Notre Dame has won 10-straight ACC road games dating back to the 2017 season...Defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey is tied for seventh in the NCAA with 9.0 sacks on the season. It is the most sacks since Stephon Tuitt had 12.0 sacks during the 2012 season...The Irish have won 22-straight games against ACC opponents during the regular season, a streak that dates back to the 2016 season, 16 of those wins have come by 10 points or more...Virginia’s QB Armstrong leads the nation in total offense (425.3 per game), is second in passing yards per game (395.2) and total passing yards (3,557). He’s thrown for 27 touchdowns and carries a passing efficiency of 155.9...As good as Virginia is on offense, they are just as bad on defense. They allow almost as many points (30.8) and passing yards (247.1) and total yards (466.2) per game as the offense registers...Those who watch sports call this game a “trap” game for the Irish. All signs point to a Virginia upset. In my opinion the Irish have to be able to run the ball consistently tonight to keep the ball away from the potent Virginia offense. ND’s defense has to step up and put more pressure on Armstrong which they haven’t done so far this season on other QBs they have faced. This is the type of game head coach Brian Kelly usually loses. Maybe he can finally prove his critics wrong and win a big one on the road. In my preseason picks I have the Irish winning tonight. Today, I’m not so sure.