Game Notes: Irish Blow Up on Hokies’ Mistake-Prone Defense

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Virginia Tech football
The Hokies bottled up Notre Dame and Dexter Williams for a while, but the Irish exploded for 28 second half points in their 45-23 win. (Photo by Jon Fleming)

BLACKSBURG — No. 24 Virginia Tech set out to stop No. 6 Notre Dame’s surging rushing attack in their Saturday night prime time matchup at Lane Stadium, a plan that worked splendidly for two quarters.

— click here for Cory Van Dyke’s game recap —

The Irish actually lost three yards on the ground in the first half, a surprising total for a team that had averaged 252 yards on the ground in its previous three games. Notre Dame was only temporarily grounded, however. 

One explosive run, and a handful of other chunk yardage plays, unlocked the Irish offense as the golden-domed visitors rolled to a 45-23 victory over Virginia Tech.

“It kind of got out of hand in the second half. We just shot ourselves in the foot,” Hokies rover Reggie Floyd said.

Irish senior running back Dexter Williams broke off a 97-yard touchdown run in the third quarter — the longest run in Lane Stadium history — to push the Irish lead to 24-16. It was one of four plays of 30 or more yards on the night for Notre Dame and the first of three backbreaking explosive gains in the second half.

Irish wide receiver Mikes Boykin caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ian Book in the third quarter, and Williams added a 31-yard touchdown run for insurance in the fourth quarter. 

“When the lights are on, we have to be better in those situations,” Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “We played solid football early, but in the second half, we didn’t execute like we needed to do, and they did. That was the difference in the football game.”

Those three big plays, along with a 20-yard Boykin catch in the fourth quarter and a 56-yard completion from Book to receiver Chris Finke in the first quarter, continue a concerning trend for Virginia Tech’s defense. The Hokies have yielded 29 plays of 20 or more yards this season, including 14 plays of 30-plus yards and eight plays of 40 or more. 

Williams finished with 178 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries. Boykin caught eight passes for 117 yards and two scores. Book passed for 271 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Virginia Tech’s defense kept the game close in the first half, while the team’s offense committed costly mistakes to stifle prime scoring opportunities. The Hokies settled for three Brian Johnson field goals before quarterback Ryan Willis led a one-minute drill to get Tech into the end zone right before halftime.

That score cut the Irish lead to 17-16, giving the Hokies false hope. Reality set in early in the third quarter. 

On second-and-12 from the Notre Dame 3, Williams took a handoff and ran to his left. Tech defenders pursued, but Williams made a quick cut to his right to avoid a diving Floyd near the 5-yard line. He ran through a giant hole and had a clear path to the end zone.

Hokies linebacker Khalil Ladler tried to chase down Williams. He attempted a diving tackle at the 25-yard line, catching only a piece of Williams’ foot as he ran the rest of the way to the end zone.

“That was certainly a big play. They were trying to get the edge and Dexter Williams turned back inside and hit air,” Tech head coach Justin Fuente said. “Williams can scoot. That was one of several plays. That was certainly a big one in the game.”

The Hokies were without starting safety Divine Deablo, who suffered a hamstring injury in practice Wednesday according to Foster. Deablo dressed for the game but was not medically cleared to play. Sophomore safety Tyree Rodgers made his first career start in Deablo’s place and was targeted early in the game by Book.

That wasn’t the only injury for Tech’s defense. Cornerback Caleb Farley battled through an ankle injury he suffered during the game. 

He was out of place on Notre Dame’s second big touchdown of the third quarter. 

Book was flushed to his left by Tech’s pass rush. Farley hesitated, presumably to cut off a possible quarterback run, and Book tossed a pass to Boykin, who had slipped behind Farley. Boykin caught the pass at the 27 and rumbled the rest of the way for a 40-yard touchdown and a 31-16 lead with 4:59 left in the third. 

“Those things make you pull your hair out,” Foster said.

The floodgates opened. Boykin caught a 5-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter, and Williams tacked on a 31-yard touchdown run in the waning minutes.

“After [Williams’ run], we kind of self-destructed a little bit,” Foster said. 


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12 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Why do you folks on staff @ TSL not address the failings on offense?? Failed to score from the one @ FSU; Failed to score from the one Saturday night with 4 downs!! Ineligible lineman downfield on the great TD call in Q2 Saturday night. Three straight penalities on a drive where VT took over on downs @ ND 40 due to the botched snap to the ND punter. Some of the play calling in general!! Coach Fuente should take a hard look @ his OC and staff- the shortcomings @ FSU did not not hurt because of a great defensive game plan and FSU’s ineptitude on offense. But, if the TD is not called back and Vt scores 7 vs 3 at the goal line, that 11 points would have meant a lead at halftime, even with RW’s fumble return for a TD, which is on the offense. Our defense is young and decimated!!

    1. How would you like us to “address the failings”? You covered them pretty well in your comment, recounting all the missed opportunities and blown plays. That’s not good or insightful writing to simply recap all the things gone awry like some sort of heartbreak checklist, so in my Monday Thoughts today, which is about to post, I’ll try to bring something different to the table.

      I rarely criticize playcalling, because I think it’s like criticizing missed free throws in basketball: it’s low-hanging fruit. By definition, any play that works is a great call, and any play that doesn’t work is a terrible call, so I rarely go there.

  2. Not getting any pressure from the middle of the field. Walker is my man but he’s not consistently getting pressure…Hewitt isn’t either. Pass pressure is a huge issue and until they can find some they’ll be susceptible to big plays down the field.

    How bad past stars were as young players. Tyrod would tuck and run all the time (ie, he panicked all the time). James Anderson was bad early on. Chris dealt with this in a recent post by reposting at least three times the same comment.
    We are dealing with a bunch of Freshmen and Sophs. They are using these games to learn. We will be great, but not this year.
    BTW, I do really hate seeing Notre Dame have success.

  4. With our youth, especially on defense and mainly with the
    LB’s and Secondary, Bud might want to rethink his defensive scheme somewhat! Presently we are extremely weak in the Secondary, especially when Diablo is not in there!
    Time will tell if these youngsters are the Real Deal or not!
    I thought I saw Hunter on the sideline not dressed for the game?
    Also, Willis needs to improve as does our O line. You can really see that we don’t have a Big Time running back that we really Need!

  5. Foster’s reputation is in part based upon his willingness to sell out to stop the run game. For the most part it works but against better competition we’ve historically paid a big price. Last night was an example of that. Hope one day we get to a point where our front seven can stop the run without robbing the secondary.

  6. I was kind of thinking ND kept the game close after watching the 97yd streak. they missed several wide open receivers. we look inconsistent and young – its who we are, doesnt mean we cant be second place in the coastal.

    1. Why not take 1st place in the coastal! Let’s get 6 wins first to get bowl eligible and then take care of business and finish the season on the rise!

  7. I was at the game. I’m sick of blaming this game on the defense. If Diablo were healthy, all those huge chunk plays would have been limited and if your offense can’t stick it in and 3-outs it’s unfair to ask your defense to keep stopping them. Players played hard, offensive play calling was mediocre at best.

    1. but as Nick Saban states, “ if guys are turned loose in the secondary then there was a breakdown.” we turned some guys loose, makes for a tough day

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