Notre Dame’s season long woes continued against Virginia Tech, as the Fighting Irish twice squandered seventeen point leads in their 34-31 loss to the Hokies.
As has been the case throughout much of this 2016 campaign, the game against the Hokies was really a tale of two halves, as the Irish stormed out to an early 17 point lead, in large part due to DeShone Kizer’s aggressive running and on-target passing in the first half, but were able to do very little to stave off the loss, not only giving up a 17 point lead, twice, but giving up a 10 point lead heading into the fourth quarter, as well. It was the second Senior Day letdown for the Irish in past three seasons, and a disappointing final game at Notre Dame Stadium for Onwualu, Jones, and the rest of the senior class.
But, as infuriating as the end result of the game was, what was truly maddening was the absolute breakdown in officiating in this game from the Irish standpoint. It’s bad enough when one targeting call is missed, but to have two targeting offenses not only not called on the field, but not reviewed by replay officials, is beyond the pale and yet another indication that the NCAA in general, and ACC officials in particular, have no idea what actually constitutes a targeting penalty, and are only paying lip service to player safety. Bad officiating aside, though, the Irish have no one to blame but themselves for squandering double-digit leads (for the third time this season), and clinching their first losing season since they went 3-9 in 2007 in the process.
Key Fighting Irish Plays
1st Quarter – Josh Adams 1 yard TD run. The Irish have had little trouble scoring on their opening drives this season, and Adams’ 1 yard TD run capped off a 7 play 78 yard drive that took just over three minutes, and the Irish took the early 7-0 lead.
1st Quarter – James Onwualu sack of Jarod Evans, forced fumble recovered by Jarron Jones. Onwualu’s sack and forced fumble, and Jones’ fumble recovery, set the Irish up with great field position at midfield.
1st Quarter – DeShone Kizer fumbles the snap for a loss of 7 yards. The Irish had a 1st and Goal from the 2 yard line, but two successive runs by Adams were stuffed at the goal line, and the 3rd and Goal snap went right between Kizer’s legs. Kizer was fortunate to recover, but it forced the Irish to settle for a field goal, and a 10-0 lead.
2nd Quarter – DeShone Kizer 31 yard TD pass to Chris Finke. Finke’s first career touchdown was a laser throw from Kizer that hit Finke in stride for the touchdown, and the 17-0 lead.
2nd Quarter – DeShone Kizer 18 yard TD pass to Miles Boykin. Finke wasn’t the only Irish receiver to record their first ever touchdown pass, as Boykin got in on the action to rebuild the Irish lead to 17 at 24-7.
3rd Quarter – DeShone Kizer rush for 10 yards. This is, without any doubt in my mind, the worst targeting offense I’ve seen that not only wasn’t called on the field, but wasn’t even reviewed by the replay officials. There’s absolutely no doubt that Kizer’s head was targeted, as he was sliding for the first down, and there’s absolutely no doubt that the ACC officiating crew that missed such an obvious targeting penalty should never have any player’s safety in their hands again.
3rd Quarter – Jerod Evans pass intercepted by Drue Tranquill. Following the no-call on the Kizer targeting, the Irish punted after three plays and the Hokies were set up at their own 39 yards, but Tranquill would haul in the interception on a tipped pass, and the Irish would be back in business.
3rd Quarter – Josh Adams 67 yard TD run. Four plays after Tranquill’s interception, Adams breaks off a huge touchdown run to give the Irish a 31-24 lead with just over three minutes to play in the 3rd Quarter.
4th Quarter – Jerod Evans pass incomplete to Isaiah Ford; Pass Interference called on Cole Luke. Ford’s not only jumping on Luke’s back, but he has his hand on the top of Luke’s helmet, and somehow Luke’s the one that gets called for pass interference. This game. These refs. This penalty sets the Hokies up at Notre Dame’s 7 yard line, and two plays later the Hokies find the end zone to cut the Irish lead to tie the game at 31-31.
4th Quarter – DeShone Kizer rush for 7 yards. An insignificant play with respect to the final outcome, but significant in that it was the second missed targeting call of the game, and Kizer would be forced to leave the game.
Final Score: Notre Dame 31 – Virginia Tech 34
Fighting Irish Top Performers
This may be a season to forget for Adams, but he’s hit some big runs that have put the Irish in a position to win games in the latter part of the season. His 41 yard TD run against Miami helped seal the game for the Irish, and it looked like his 67 yard TD run against Virginia Tech to give the Irish a 10 point lead going into the fourth quarter would do the same. Adams would finish the game with exactly 100 yards rushing, for just his third 100 yard rushing game of the season, and 2 rushing TDs.
For the second week in a row, Onwualu recorded double-digit tackles, with 10, and he came up with another huge play for the Irish, this time a sack and forced fumble in the first quarter, which the Irish recovered. Onwualu’s 10 tackles in the game tied him for the lead in tackles, along with Tranquill, Coney, and Jones. Onwualu finished the game with 10 tackles (6 solo, 4 assisted), 1 TFL of 12 yards, 1 FF, and 1 sack, his best production of the season.
Next Up: The Fighting Irish travel to Southern California to take on the USC Trojans at 3:30 pm EST (12:30 PST)