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.
And for his fifth offensive coordinator since the beginning of the 2016 season, it appears Nick Saban will stay in-house.
Exactly one week ago, Maryland announced that Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley had been named as the Terrapins’ next head football coach. While Locksley will remain with the Crimson Tide through the playoffs, Saban has apparently gone about the business of replacing him as FootballScoop.com is reporting that Dan Enos will be the team’s coordinator moving forward.
Enos spent the 2018 season, his first in Tuscaloosa, as the Tide’s quarterbacks coach. He also carries the title of associate head coach.
Enos, who was a candidate for the Kansas job that ultimately went to Les Miles, was the head coach at Central Michigan for five seasons (2010-14). After posting a 26-36 record with the Chippewas, which included a 7-6 mark in 2015, Enos abruptly left the MAC school to take the offensive coordinator job at Arkansas in January of 2015. With Bret Bielema fired shortly after the end of the 2017 season, the 50-year-old Enos took a job on Jim Harbaugh‘s coaching staff in early January of this year… only to leave less than three weeks later for Alabama.
The coordinator job at Arkansas was Enos’ first at the FBS level. And, as previously noted, Enos would be Saban’s fifth coordinator in less than three full seasons.
One week before the national championship game for the 2016 season, and after he was initially expected to remain in his job through the playoffs, it was announced that Lane Kiffin would be leaving Alabama for the head-coaching job at Florida Atlantic, effective immediately. Kiffin was replaced by Steve Sarkisian, who called plays in the title game but then left a month later for a job in the NFL. Brian Daboll replaced Sarkisian and lasted one season coordinating the Tide’s offense before he too left for the NFL. Daboll remained with the Tide through their playoff run last season.
Tim Brown has registered another entry on his record-setting résumé, albeit indirectly.
Last month, it was reported that Brown’s 1987 Heisman Trophy, which he sold to a private collector a year ago, would be going up for auction. After online bidding began on Nov. 19 and closed Dec. 5, Sports Collectors Daily has reported that the stiff-armed trophy won by the former Notre Dame wide receiver sold for $435,763 over the weekend.
It’s believed it’s the highest amount ever paid for a Heisman.
“We believe this is one of the most significant trophies to ever be offered at auction and collectors agreed as the bidding was fierce,” said Ken Goldin, founder of Goldin Auctions. “It’s rare when a Heisman becomes available and even more unusual for it to be from an NFL Hall of Famer who played at the most storied college football program.”
Earlier this year, the Heisman Trophy of the late Colorado running back Rashaan Salaam sold for nearly $400,000, a record number for such an award at the time.
The family of Yale running back Clint Frank sold his 1937 trophy in October of this year for $317,000. O.J. Simpson’s 1968 Trophy sold for $255,000 in 1999, while another former USC running back, Charles White, sold his Heisman for $184,000 in 2000.
Beginning in 1999, winners of the Heisman Trophy have been barred from selling their trophies by the trust that oversees the honor.
College Park is taking on a decidedly Tuscaloosa feel to it.
Earlier this month, Maryland confirmed that it had hired Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley as its next head football coach. Citing multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, 247Sports.com is now reporting that Butch Jones is leaving Nick Saban‘s program for a spot on Locksley’s Terrapins coaching staff.
Jones, who met with Locksley earlier this month before agreeing to take the job, is expected to serve as the Terps’ tight ends coach. He’ll also carry the title of associate head coach for the Big Ten program.
In March of this year, Saban added Jones to his Alabama football staff as an offensive analyst. Jones, of course, was the head coach at rival Tennessee for nearly five seasons before he was summarily dismissed in mid-November of last year.
Jones last served as a tight ends coach in 1998 at Central Michigan; he was last a position coach at West Virginia (2005-06).
Per the terms of his UT contract, Jones will be paid just north of $8 million in the form of a buyout, minus whatever he was to make at future jobs through February of 2021. He made $35,000 as an analyst at Alabama this year.
After originally ending his collegiate career prematurely, Justin Murphy has now seen it extended.
Murphy took to Twitter on Monday to announce that he has been granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA. “None of this could’ve been possible if it weren’t for the amazing job done by [UCLA’s compliance department],” the offensive lineman wrote.
In the middle of the 2016 season, Murphy, then at Texas Tech, announced that he was taking a medical retirement because of knee injuries. In April of 2018, however, Murphy revealed that he would be moving on from Tech to UCLA as a graduate transfer.
Murphy played in the first four games of his first season with the Bruins this year before going down with a knee injury. That issue kept the lineman sidelined for all but the final two games of the year.