Logan Diggs (22) attempting to avoid Virginia defenders. (Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire)

Halftime Prognostication ND 21 Virginia 0 Sure, it would be a different game with Brennan Armstrong on the field, but ND’s offense is doing what they would have need to do if Armsrong was playing. Good to see Michael Mayer in the mix, and Diggs with the hurdle, OMG I thought only SEC guys did that kind of stuff. I liked the look of Ramon Henderson at safety: good length and he showed some instincts and athleticism on that interception. My guess for the second half: ND will RUN the football and the clock, because they can. The Virginia offense may get a little something going as the freshman Woolfolk gets more comfortable, but despite some great pass catching weapons, I don’t see any explosion. Postgame review of the Halftime prognostication. I am a genius.

Two plays to Remember Last January many will recall when Najee Harris hurdled over Nick McCloud in the Rose Bowl game against Alabama on his way to a 53 yard game breaking TD run. I wrote about it in an article from last January entitled Has Notre Dame Narrowed the Talent Gap? Well when I saw Logan Diggs do the same kind of a move yesterday, I immediately thought of that play in the Rose Bowl and said to myself, “the gap just got a bit narrower”.

Digg’s play was one to remember, the other was Michael Mayer’s catch up field around the body of and off the back of the defender in the 4th quarter. Strength and skill! Mayer who has earned repeated accolades this season for his improved blocking skills, overall had a top notch receiving game with 7 catches for 84 yards and a TD, and made a play to remember.

Sack Attack It should come as no surprise that Marcus Freeman dialed up pressure on the young QB, Jay Woolfolk. Despite being down with the flu key front seven players Drew White and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, the Irish pass rush had their best statistical day of the year. They had 7 total sacks on the day, including 2 by Rylie Mills and 1.5 by Bo Bauer, those two picked up most of the snaps vacated by the ailing White and Amosa. Previously the season high had been 5 against Florida State and also against Toledo. The Irish now have 32 sacks on the year. Last year they had 31 in a 12 game season.

Coan Watch. Jack Coan continued his highly efficient passing run of the last month which can pretty much be traced back to the comeback he led in the last 4 minutes of the Virginia Tech game. Against Virginia he was an efficient 15-20 for 132 yards and 3 TDs. He did throw 1 interception (more on that in the “quick hits” section). Through the Cincinnati game Coan was hitting 61% of his passes, since then he has hit 73%. Stabilization of the offensive line has been a huge help, after all through the Cincinnati game Coan had been sacked 20 times. Since Cincinnati he has gone down just 6 times. The big improvement in the sack numbers are not just attributable to the offensive line improvement however, putting Coan into shotgun more and running tempo has suited Coan’s skillset. Credit the coaching staff with an assist for Coan’s improvement.

Quick Hits ND scored on the first possession in weeks 1 and 2, since then they have been shut out. Here are the opponents and drive one results: Purdue-punt, Wisconsin-Punt, Cincy-interception, Virginia Tech-punt, USC-missed FG, NC-punt, Navy-Punt. Today the Irish drew another zero after a 12 play drive that got stuffed on 4th and 1…. Michael Mayer with his first TD since the Toledo game…..The broadcast guys were all over Coan for the interception he threw early in the 3rd quarter-yes it was under thrown but I liked that he was willing to air it out and give Kevin Austin a chance to make a play-at least the mistake was 40 yards down field, kind of like a quick kick…..Ramon Henderson actually kind of, somewhat reminds me of Kyle Hamilton. Post game Henderson said that he had just been informed that he would be playing safety on Monday, I’d say he is a quick learner….Post game Brian Kelly revealed that 13 players had been impacted by the flu in the past week (he also specified that it definitely was NOT COVID) Drew White, who did not play, on Friday apparently was running a 103 degree temperature…..249 yards rushing, that’s how you play winning football in November…..53-9 now in the last 5 years, the historic era of winning continues.

Kelly Makes the Case What does Brian Kelly think of his football team right now? He shared this post game: “This football team is getting better each and every week. We’ve played young players that are now much more mature, playing better. And we’re ascending as a football team. So, anytime you’re trying to put a resume together, it’s about how you play later in the year. And so, the eye test is this football team is playing better defensively, offensively, and we’re sitting here 9-1.” I do believe Kelly was directly addressing the college football playoff committee with those words, don’t you?

What It all Means Oklahoma goes down so the Irish are a near lock to move to at least 8th in the CFP. Can they crack the top 4? First of all either Michigan or Ohio State will have two losses after their match up in a couple of weeks, and if Georgia defeats Alabama in the SEC championship game, Bama will have two losses. That arguably gets an 11-1 Notre Dame to at least 6th. Michigan State will be an underdog next week at Ohio State, and a loss by the Spartans would get the Irish to 5th. The last teams in the way then would be Georgia, Ohio State (or possibly Michigan), Oregon and Cincinnati, with the Irish just one other slip up among those four away from the playoff. The near impossible, has become plausible.

But it all means nothing if the Irish don’t win out. Time to start focusing on 3-7 Georgia Tech. Tech is a team that owns a win over North Carolina and is capable of scoring points. This past weekend they fell victim to Boston College and former Domer Phil Jurkovec (who accounted for 5 touchdowns) 40-31. The Irish will be favored by a bunch, but that just means that Tech will be focused to play their best game of the year.

See you all in South Bend next week.

And THAT’S a wrap.

By Phil Houk

For 25 years, bringing you the glory of Notre Dame football.

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