Lane Stadium was rocking and the home team was dreaming of pulling off another late night upset in Blacksburg. No. 6 Notre Dame shook off a bit of rust and responded by saying thanks, but no thanks.
The Irish used a big third quarter featuring a few key plays on both sides of the ball to secure a 45-23 win over the 24th-ranked Hokies on Saturday night and look more and more like a team that is making plans to find a spot in the College Football Playoff this season.
That’s not to say it wasn’t an easy, breezy trip below the Mason-Dixon line for Brian Kelly’s team. Quarterback Ian Book threw his first interception of the season right to an undercutting linebacker but found his rhythm as the game went on and finished with a respectable 271 yards and two touchdowns. His relatively quiet night won’t cause any fans to call for backup Brandon Wimbush by any measure but it did allow others to take the offensive spotlight as a result.
Once again it was running back Dexter Williams who provided the spark the team needed, breaking off a 97-yard run on the seventh play of the second half on his way to 178 yard, three score effort. Book also hooked up several times with Miles Boykin, who had a big night with 117 yards through the air and two touchdowns down the stretch that essentially sealed the result on the scoreboard.
Kicker Justin Yoon also set a school record for career scoring with an extra point in the fourth quarter and Julian Love recorded a scoop-and-score touchdown just before halftime as part of a strong defensive effort from Notre Dame.
Virginia Tech did have their chances early in the game but never could quite capitalize on short fields and miscues. Signal-caller Ryan Willis was under siege most of the night with a hand in his face but threw for 309 yards, two scores and two picks — doing well to only get sacked twice. Steven Peoples led the way on the ground with 64 yards but the Hokies had to take the air most of the second half as they fell further and further behind.
The victory makes the Irish bowl eligible as they move to 6-0 but, perhaps more significantly, gives the team their first road win against a ranked team since 2015. The trip to Blacksburg was viewed by many as a tricky one but the group passed the test with flying colors and put together yet another impressive second half to pull away against a solid team.
It will also lead to even more speculation that this is going to be a special season in South Bend with the Playoff looking not just like a possibility, but a real likelihood given the upcoming schedule. Notre Dame will return home to play Pitt on NBC next weekend and do not have a top 25 caliber team left on the docket. A rivalry game against Navy in San Diego and against USC in L.A. to end the year could be tricky but there certainly a path to 12-0 if the team keeps playing like they have been on this remarkable run in 2018.
In the NFL, you’ll often see teams sign a player who was just cut off another team the week or two before they wind up playing that opponent. We could sort of have a college football version of that scenario in the case of wide receiver Dillon Spalding.
The former West Virginia redshirt freshman announced on Twitter that he had committed to James Madison and would be transferring to join the team in 2019. The team’s opponent in Week 1? None other than the Mountaineers in Morgantown.
Of course any knowledge Spalding might bring with him is limited given that both JMU and WVU have new coaching staffs in place this year. The former three-star recruit is moving a little closer to his Lorton, Va. hometown and will have all four years of eligibility remaining between redshirting last season due to an injury and the drop down to the FCS level.
The Dukes have added a solid amount of FBS talent recently for new coach Curt Cignetti. In addition to Spalding, former Penn State wide receiver Brandon Polk joined the program this offseason and both will catch passes from ex-Pitt QB Ben DiNucci.
Arizona posted a disappointing 5-7 campaign in Kevin Sumlin’s first season in Tucson but Arizona fans still came out and enjoyed themselves thanks, in part, to the school allowing beer and alcohol sales for the first time.
As the Arizona Daily Star reports, attendance for the Wildcats home football games actually ticked up last year an average of 2,804 people while incidents of ejections at the stadium did the same — though were below historic averages.
“We’ve been very pleased with the rollout across the board in Arizona Stadium and McKale,” athletic director Dave Heeke said. “This was really focused around a number of things that we’ve done in the area of fan amenities and food service, and beverage selection was a key component.”
Some 43 people were kicked out of seven home games at UA, which is double the 21 from 2017 but well below the numbers the school reported for seasons when they played in-state rival Arizona State. It seems that Territorial Cup contest was the biggest indicator of above-average ejections in a year though game-by-game data was not given.
“I really haven’t noticed an increase in any type of criminal behavior due to beer and wine sales,” UAPD spokesman Sgt. Sean Shields told the paper. “Obviously from year to year the ejections and different numbers change and they fluctuate, but it’s very hard to pinpoint the reason why those happen.”
The amount of revenue generated by beer and alcohol sales wasn’t detailed by the school but Heeke noted it covered the additional costs on game days and the profit overall wasn’t hugely significant. Still, it seems the atmosphere at Arizona Stadium was still enough to lure fans into their seats despite plenty of late starts and a football team that was largely up-and-down in 2018.
Not many people can say they worked for the very different styles of head coaches Lane Kiffin and Les Miles back-to-back but Tony Pecoraro certainly can.
The recently let go Florida Atlantic defensive coordinator has apparently landed a new gig in Lawrence as a senior defensive analyst, primarily serving under Jayhawks DC D.J. Eliott.
Pecoraro took over the Owls defense in 2018 after spending the previous two seasons running things on that side of the ball for Southern Miss. Things didn’t quite work out in Boca however as FAU couldn’t get off the field like they did in Kiffin’s first year and allowed 31.8 points per game.
The veteran coordinator, who has Power Five assistant experience from a stint at Florida State, was replaced at FAU by longtime Oklahoma State DC Glenn Spencer back in December.
Wisconsin fans are known to hold more than their own when it comes to enjoying an adult beverage or two before, during and after Badgers football games but they apparently will have to keep waiting for the opportunity to buy a cold one at Camp Randall on game days.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, a decision on whether or not to allow beer/alcohol sales in the general seating sections of the stadium rests with school chancellor Rebecca Blank and that she is not inclined to change the status quo on such prohibition anytime soon.
“The university believes that there is already an atmosphere of energy and excitement around Badger game days,” a school statement to the paper read. “The addition of alcohol to general seating areas isn’t needed to improve that experience and could detract from it for our students and fans.”
Just in the last two months, Indiana, Rutgers and Illinois have turned on the taps for football games in 2019. That will result in fully half of Big Ten schools allowing such sales in general seating areas as a result this season and it’s turned into yet another lucrative revenue stream for those that have too.
Wisconsin appears resistant to the idea however, doing so in the face of declining attendance for games too. While it is certainly too early to remark ‘never say never’ when it comes to the Badgers, it’s pretty clear this trend isn’t making its way to Madison anytime soon.