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.