Notre Dame only led for 29 seconds in the second half last Saturday against Virginia Tech. That was all the Fighting Irish needed though to stave off the Hokies’ upset bid.
It was certainly an emotional gut punch for Virginia Tech to have the game within its reach, having entered it as 17.5-point underdogs, only to let it slip away in the final seconds. Now the team must regroup, and the Hokies cannot “let this game affect the next one” as defensive coordinator Bud Foster spoke about postgame.
“It’s definitely hard, but that’s what Sunday was for,” ACC Linebacker of the Week Rayshard Ashby said during Tuesday’s media availability. “Sunday you come in and go over what you did wrong, things like that, and what you could have done better, and then you get ready for the next team. Sunday is the day where we move on to the next chapter… We turned the page right now and we’re just focused on Wake.”
When it’s all said and done, the loss didn’t affect Virginia Tech dramatically. The team still needs to win two of the final four games to keep the bowl streak alive, and it was a non-conference loss, so everything is still up for grabs in the Coastal division.
“It’s heartbreaking, for sure,” defensive line coach Charley Wiles said. “Regardless, win or lose that ball game, the message was going to be the same. It was going to be ‘we have got to put that to bed’ either way and get ready for a really good Wake Forest game where the conference and everything is on the line.”
Enter Wake Forest into the picture. When the Demon Deacons take the field on Saturday, Lane Stadium denizens will see the best offense and arguably the best quarterback that the Hokies will face this year.
Jamie Newman has catapulted the Wake Forest offense since he took over midseason last year. In 2019, Newman has passed for 2,059 yards with 20 touchdowns and five interceptions, while adding 305 yards rushing and five touchdowns, all of this despite missing a game to injury.
“The quarterback is dynamic,” Foster said. “The Newman kid is playing extremely well. He’s big, he’s athletic, he’s got a live arm, he’s very accurate.”
Newman is aided by one of the most productive receiving corps in America. Sage Surratt leads the ACC with 948 yards and nine touchdowns. Scotty Washington and Kendall Hinton have also added 607 and 497 yards receiving, respectively.
“Their receiving core might be the best in the league,” Foster said. “Surratt is playing extremely well. The Washington kid, those are two big targets who have great ball skills and good speed and great body presence. No. 2 [Hinton], he took (Greg) Dortch’s spot. I’ve been really impressed by his speed and quickness and explosion.”
The Demon Deacons’ potent passing attack will be a threat all day long, and Virginia Tech will be without starting cornerback Jermaine Waller for the first half, who was ejected for targeting in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame.
It opens the door for Armani Chatman to step into a bigger role, like he did against North Carolina when he replaced an injured Caleb Farley.
“I see a guy who is improving each and every day, each and every week,” Foster said of Chatman. “We’re going to need him to step up this week obviously with Jermaine down the first half. He’s going to have to step up and just not participate, but we expect him to perform and perform extremely well.”
Chatman filled in at Notre Dame as well and intercepted a pass on the first play after he replaced Waller, only for it to be called back because of a questionable roughing the passer penalty. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound cornerback noted that he knew the Irish were going to attack him right away, and he was ready to make a play.
“North Carolina did the same thing,” Chatman said. “I figured they were going to throw the ball this way. I got in the right spot to make the play.
“I was definitely prepared. I feel like I worked hard all week in practice. Coach Mitchell told me to stay ready. I feel like my performance was pretty good to come off the bench ready to play.”
Chatman finished the game with four tackles in limited time, and finished with one of the highest grades. So what’s the next step moving forward in the redshirt freshman’s development?
“He’s been a guy who’s had to understand the competitive nature at this level,” Foster said. “To do it all the time, and do it play in and play out. That he’s always on the spot. That he can always be challenged every play. That’s where I see his development improving and getting better – his overall consistency and body of work. He’s got a lot of tools, but that’s the case with a lot of young players.”
Notes and Loose Ends
- Offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen offered another update on quarterback Hendon Hooker. “Hendon tried to push through it and he never really came close to being able to go full speed and be himself and make plays throughout the week,” Cornelsen said. “Sometimes later in the week with a little more rest and you get out there on game day you feel better. It became apparent to us that this was going to be Quincy’s game… He’s getting better every day. If he continues to progress and he’s full go, then he’ll be the starter.”
- Chamarri Conner started the game, but it was largely Khalil Ladler on the field for the rest of the game from the whip/nickel spot. Foster noted he’s dealing with a hamstring issue and just couldn’t pull it loose last Saturday. “Hopefully Chamarri can be back and help us,” Foster said. “He did some things today.”
- Keshawn King did not travel with the team to South Bend. Fuente seemed optimistic when addressing his status for Saturday. “I think he’ll be good to go this week,” Fuente said.