It’s Hokies Week!
With the Hokies traveling to South Bend for the first time, for the first ever meeting between these two teams, many Irish seniors are set to play their final game in Notre Dame Stadium on Senior Day. Though some in the 2013 Notre Dame recruiting class have already moved on to the NFL, like Jaylon Smith and Will Fuller, the Irish will introduce 28 seniors before the game in what is always an emotional South Bend farewell to many of our favorite student athletes. And while it looks like there are quite a few seniors that have not exhausted their eligibility, and may return next season, this will be the final game at Notre Dame Stadium for Team Captains James Onwualu and Isaac Rochell, as well as Jarron Jones and Cole Luke. This group of seniors have a 17-6 record at Notre Dame over their four seasons with the Irish, and are hoping for win number 18 at home when all is said and done.
Coming of their dominant 44-6 win over Army to bring their record to 4-6, Notre Dame is looking for their first back to back wins this season. Virginia Tech is tied for 1st place in the ACC Coastal Division, with a 7-3 overall record, 5-2 in conference, but they’re coming off a disappointing 30-20 loss to Georgia Tech last week that dropped them out of the AP Top 25.
This will be the first meeting between these two teams.
Players To Watch
Kizer’s coming off another solid performance against Army, this time leading the Irish to an impressive 44-6 win over the Black Knights, and earning himself a well-deserved fourth quarter rest. Despite a losing record, Kizer is actually on pace to surpass his 2015 numbers for passing yards, and has already thrown for more touchdowns this season. Against a tough Hokies defense, Kizer will be looking to add to his 2,470 passing yards and 22 TDs, but, more importantly, he’ll be looking to keep Notre Dame’s slim bowl game eligibility hopes alive.
For a while there, it looked like Notre Dame was in danger of losing their TE U moniker, but Smythe has emerged as a genuine scoring threat over the last two games. After not reaching the end zone since Week 3 against Michigan St., Smythe now has 3 TDs over the last two games.
He’s reached double-digit tackles in four game this season, including an 11 tackle game against Navy two weeks ago. He’s been a team leader on defense throughout the season, coming up with big plays when the Irish have needed them, and he’s as sure a tackler as there is on the Irish defense. He’s the team leader in tackles, with 83 (45 solo, 38 assisted), and sacks, with 4, and has 6 TFL, as well.
Players To Watch
Isaiah Ford (WR)
He’ll need to have a couple of monster games to match his 2015 totals, but the junior is still having a great season, and is the team leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. The Hokies will likely look to take numerous shots downfield, so Ford should have plenty of opportunities to add to his 795 receiving yards and 7 TDs on the season.
Tremaine Edmunds (LB)
After spending most of his time his freshman season on special teams, Edmunds was named a starter this season, and he’s making the most of his opportunity. In ten starts this season, Edmunds has 79 total tackles (41 solo, 38 assisted), making him the second leading tackler for the Hokies. Edmunds also has 4.5 sacks, tied for 1st in that category, and has an impressive 15 TFL, good for second on the defense in that category.
Fighting Irish Keys To Victory
Build On Last Week’s Success
The Irish haven’t won back to back games all season. That’s a pretty hard pill to swallow, but the Irish simply haven’t been able to build on their successes from one week to the next, and haven’t been able to get all three phases of the game running in synch. For the most part, Notre Dame was in synch against Army, but how much of that was improvement by the Irish versus the fact that they were playing Army remains to be seen. Winning breeds confidence, and after last week’s dominating win, the Irish should regain some sorely missed confidence heading into the game with the Hokies, the importance of which simply can’t be underestimated.
Watching last week’s game it was hard not to wonder where that Irish team had been all season, and, whether we’d see it again in the final two games of the regular season. It’s a tough call, but their performance against Army was strong enough to rekindle a little bit of my Irish optimism, at least against the Hokies. Both teams have something more to play for than just the win, but I have to believe that the Irish are just a little hungrier, not just to send their seniors out with a final win at home, but, more importantly, to set themselves up on a positive path leading into the final regular season game against the hated USC Trojans.
Final Score: Notre Dame 34 – Virginia Tech 30