There was no doubting that the luck of the Irish was hard at work in Charlottesville, Virginia. With everything working against Notre Dame, they were still able to slip away with a win by the narrowest of margins against against the Virginia Cavaliers.
After putting up video game numbers against the Texas Longhorns, the Irish passing game struggled to get anything going. Junior Malik Zaire threw for over 300 yards in his second career start, the season opener, but struggled against a physical and experienced Cavaliers secondary.
Fighting Irish Survive Scare In Charlottesville
Notre Dame didn’t have a problem getting drives started early in the game, as they totaled 164 yards in their first three drives, but troubles finishing were apparent from the get-go.
Although they scored on the opening drive, they were stopped short of the goal line originally, and scored the first touchdown of the game on a fake field goal attempt.
Notre Dame opened up the game with drives ending in a touchdown, and then two field goals before the UVA defense held the Irish offense to just 51 yards over their next three drives.
Third downs were a nightmare for Brian Kelly’s Irish offense, and in what was maybe the defining stat of how most of the night went, Notre Dame did not convert any of their ten chances.
Junior quarterback Matt Johns had a game of a lifetime, showing poise in the pocket that allowed him to step up and make throws down the field even with defenders in his face. When all was said and done, Johns – who beat out Greyson Lambert in the spring for the starting job – completed 26-of-38 for 282 yards and then two touchdowns.
He looked to Canaan Severin early, and often, and Notre Dame had no answer for the senior receiver. With 11 catches and 153 yards, Severin almost led the Cavaliers to the early season upset, which would have been the first time Virginia upset a top ten opponent since 1995.
The biggest blow of the night was the lost of Zaire, who had his ankle rolled over on a run. Zaire suffered a broken ankle on the play and will miss the entire season.
UVA used the injury to take the lead on an Albert Reid one-yard touchdown run that was set up by a perfect pass that Johns dropped in perfectly to Ryan Santoro – who was running down the sideline and in between the corner and the safety – for 34 yards.
But backup DeShone Kizer, who entered the game with one career pass attempt, saved the day for the Irish, as he and Will Fuller connected for a 39 yard touchdown pass with just 12 seconds left on the clock.
Some believed that this Notre Dame team had the potential to land themselves in the College Football Playoffs, but a lot of that had to do with having Zaire and starting running back Tarean Folston in the lineup – both of which are now lost for the entire season.
C.J. Prosise showed last week – and once again on Saturday – that he was ready to answer the bell as the team’s top back. Now it is time to see if Kizer is up to the same task.