After coming out victorious in a thrilling 43–41 six-overtime OT nail-biter against North Carolina, Virginia Tech got a much deserved bye week. However, the Hokies will need to get locked in again this Saturday as they face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on the road.
What Notre Dame brings to the table:
Notre Dame is coming into this game sporting a 5–2 record on the season. Led by quarterback Ian Book, the Fighting Irish have put together a solid season so far. Book has played very well, tossing 15 touchdowns to go along with only two interceptions.
Notre Dame’s defense has been a large part of its success this year. It showcased its defensive proficiency in Week 5 against Virginia, where the Fighting Irish racked up eight sacks and two interceptions while leading the team to victory.
Virginia Tech’s quarterback situation:
Over the past few weeks, Virginia Tech has enjoyed the emergence of Hendon Hooker as the starting quarterback. Unfortunately, Hooker suffered a knee injury in the second quarter against North Carolina and was sidelined for the rest of the game. His injury is not expected to be a long-term concern, but his status for this upcoming week is uncertain.
The best-case scenario for the Hokies is that Hooker will be healthy and ready to play Saturday. In the three games since he achieved the starting job, Hooker has been brilliant for the Hokies, throwing seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Hooker has statistically been the best quarterback for Virginia Tech this season and having him healthy will provide the best chance for a win on Saturday. Hooker is currently performing at a 175.1 quarterback rating, while Willis has been at a 143.4 through the season.
If Hooker remains sidelined, expect to see Quincy Patterson starting under center on Saturday. After Hooker exited, Patterson played the majority of the North Carolina game and led the Hokies to victory in overtime. In that game, Patterson showcased his dual-threat playstyle, throwing for 54 yards and rushing for 122 more. If Patterson starts on Saturday, his running ability will definitely be on display again.
Keys to victory for the Hokies:
If the Hokies are going to make this game competitive, they need to be able to slow down Notre Dame’s offense, especially their rushing game. In both of Notre Dame’s losses this year, running back Tony Jones Jr. has been held to under 25 yards. In its victories however, Jones Jr. averages 107.2 yards per game, making him a key part of its offensive success.
Offensively, Virginia Tech needs to be firing on all cylinders in order to battle this Notre Dame defense. The rushing game has been inconsistent for the Hokies this year and while improvements have been made, it’s still not quite where it needs to be. If Deshawn McClease and Keshawn King are able to put up strong performances, it will be a big step in breaking down this Notre Dame defense.
This will definitely be a difficult game for the Hokies, and Hendon Hooker’s potential absence won’t make the task any easier. The game will kickoff this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Notre Dame Stadium in Indiana.