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Notre Dame Football

Dominant Domers: Notre Dame smothers Virginia, 28-3

November 14, 2021

Notre Dame battled illness, injury and faced adversity in a road venue in a prime-time Saturday night game.

All the Fighting Irish did was overcome those obstacles, hold the nation's top-ranked offense without a touchdown for the first time this season and maintain its College Football Playoff aspirations.

Buoyed by quarterback Jack Coan's three touchdowns and a piecemeal defense that nonetheless has not allowed a touchdown now in its last 127 minutes of game time, No. 9 Notre Dame smothered host Virginia, 28-3, in front of a crowd of 48,584 inside Scott Stadium.

“I do,” Brian Kelly said when asked if he believed his Irish were worth of Playoff consideration. “We're better than we were in September and October. This football team is getting better each and every week

“We're playing younger players who now are much better and mature. We're ascending as a football team. The eye test is this football team is playing better defensively and offensively. We're sitting here 9-1 and turned over virtually an entire roster (since last year's playoff team) and playing better football.”

Notre Dame played without defensive stalwarts Kyle Hamilton, Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Drew White; the latter two missed the game due to flu-like symptoms and fevers north of 100.

“Not until game-time” were Tagovailoa-Amosa and White ruled out, Kelly said. “They tried. We gave out 10 flu tests, which prompted COVID tests as well. Nobody had COVID. When you do a flu test, you have to do COVID testing. There were some guys in there not feeling 100% that played tonight as well.

“Drew had 103 temperature (Friday). We got it down. Myron was 101 in pregame. We were just not gonna put him in that kind of situation. Nana (Osafo-Mensah) was sick most of the week and answered the bell. Ramon (Henderson) was sick. He answered the bell. During the week we had upwards of 13 players in and out of practice. They hung together, kept fighting.”

Offensively, in its first game without captain Avery Davis, Notre Dame saw Coan throw three scores to three different receivers and got yet another rushing touchdown from Kyren Williams, one that covered 22 yards and lifted the dynamic third-year back to his 10th rushing score of the season.

Ramon Henderson and DJ Brown corralled interceptions for the Irish, who sacked Cavaliers backup quarterback Jay Woolfolk seven times and finished with eight tackles for losses.

Rylie Mills had two of the Irish's sacks and closed with four tackles in his most extensive action this season.

Likewise, Mills worked at defensive end and proved problematic for Virginia (6-4) throughout the contest.

“Rylie Mills was on every kickoff; we ad him on every kickoff,” Kelly said. “He caused a penalty, a personal foul because they couldn't block him.

“We had the smart idea to move him to defensive end and he had three (officially two) sacks today. He had three sacks, not sure if that's good for us or not good for us [for not moving him sooner]. I think he's earned his right to stay there.”

Virginia entered the game with the nation’s No. 1 offense in yards per game and averaged 39 ppg, 11th-best in the nation.

Without Brennan Armstrong and against Notre Dame’s surging stop-unit, the Cavaliers were harried into by far their worst offensive output of the season with just 278 yards and two turnovers.

Though he was picked once, Coan had a workmanlike 15-for-20, 132-yard passing performance in a game in which possessions weren't as frequent.

Yet it also was a game in which the Irish offensive line did not allow a sack for the first time all season, and the unit churned out 249 rushing yards.

Williams had 70 yards to go with his score while freshman Logan Diggs added 64 yards on just nine carries – one of which included Diggs hurdling directly over a Cavs defender.

“A lot of his plays, they look effortless,” senior wideout Braden Lenzy said of Williams, “and what he's doing is very difficult.”

Kevin Austin and Michael Mayer joined Lenzy with touchdown receptions; Mayer paced the team with seven receptions for 84 yards.

“He's a freak,” Kelly said of Mayer.

Notre Dame led 21-0 at the half, scored with less than two minutes to play in the third and then worked to depart Virginia without an additional bumps or bruises.

“They've won 9 out of 10 games and are playing better football,” Kelly said on TV.

“They've won 19 out of 20 regular-season games (dating to the start of the 2020 season). They keep playing hard. They're young. We played seven true freshmen on offense. They keep playing. I'm proud of them. It will be a nice trip back to South Bend.”

Up next for the Irish is their final home game of the 2021 campaign next Saturday against Georgia Tech, a 41-30 loser to Boston College and just 3-7 on the season under embattled third-year coach Geoff Collins.

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