The Hokies’ depth at quarterback was tested slightly during Saturday’s game as Braxton Burmeister was sidelined with a shoulder injury for a good portion of the second half. Backup Connor Blumrick, usually utilized strictly in the running game, briefly took over for Burmeister and went 2/4 for only 3 yards while rushing five times for 29 yards.
While Burmeister was able to play, he went 15/30 for 184 yards while rushing for an additional 49 yards. The highlight of his game came on Burmeister’s first drive back in the fourth quarter when he broke off a 19-yard run for a touchdown that put the Hokies up 29–21.
Running Backs: C+
None of the Hokies’ running backs made a large impact on the game. Collectively, they rushed for 46 yards, with 35 of them belonging to Raheem Blackshear. They never found their footing in the passing game either, as Blackshear was the only one present in that category with two catches for 22 yards. One of the only highlights from this group also belonged to Blackshear as he ran in the first touchdown of the game.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B+
The receiving core for the Hokies did a good job with the opportunities they were given. Tré Turner and Tayvion Robinson combined for 11 catches and 133 yards while serving as sturdy options for Burmeister and Blumrick throughout the game. Kaleb Smith and Nick Gallo also got involved as they each caught two passes of their own.
Offensive Line: B-
The offensive line did a decent job of maintaining the Fighting Irish’s pass rush, but there were some areas of concern. For instance, there were a lot of plays where Burmeister was forced to escape the pocket as the pressure was collapsing in on him. Additionally, the Fighting Irish managed to pick up seven QB hurries, seven tackles-for-loss and one sack. The lack of production in the run game could also be traced back to the inability of the line to generate proper lanes.
Defensive Line: C-
On the first drive of the game, Amaré Barno sacked Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan on third down for a loss of eight. Lane Stadium was rocking. Two Notre Dame drives later, Josh Fuga and Jaylen Griffin met Coan in the pocket for another sack, also on third down. The Hokies failed to record a sack for the rest of the game.
Four Notre Dame ball carriers averaged at least four yards per carry, led by running back Kyren Williams, who rushed for 81 yards and had two total touchdowns. Despite the hot start, Notre Dame’s offensive line neutralized the Virginia Tech front four for a majority of the last three quarters.
Starting linebackers Dax Hollifield and Alan Tisdale turned in solid days at the office on Saturday, combining for 14 total tackles and one quarterback hit by Tisdale. A crucial missed tackle by Hollifield came on Williams’ 10-yard go-ahead touchdown run late in the third quarter.
With Virginia Tech up by eight points late in the fourth, Hollifield’s targeting penalty and subsequent ejection proved costly: Two plays later, backup linebacker Dean Ferguson was beat in coverage over the middle by Avery Davis for 23 yards, setting up the Fighting Irish for the game-tying score. Minus some costly errors late in the game, the Hokies’ linebackers limited big plays and swarmed to the football on Saturday night.
Defensive Backs: B+
The Virginia Tech secondary was all over the field against Notre Dame. Redshirt sophomore Nasir Peoples had his breakout performance of the season by leading the Hokies in tackles with 12 and recording his first career interception. Jermaine Waller continued his dominant season in coverage, sniffing out a throw by Tyler Buchner and returning it 26 yards for the score in the second half. The interception was Waller’s fourth in five games.
There were notable big plays allowed by Waller and Chamarri Conner early in the game, and a missed opportunity came early in the third quarter with a dropped interception by Armani Chatman. Despite the miscues, most of the Fighting Irish offensive attack came through the run game and passing over the middle, so the defensive backs deserve the least blame for the blown lead.