The halftime strategy session inside Notre Dame’s defensive locker room had to be pretty simple: stop Bryce Perkins. Virginia’s quarterback carried the visitors to a 17-14 halftime lead, completing 18-of-22 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns while the Cavaliers mustered all of minus-2 yards on the ground.
The message sunk in. No. 10 Notre Dame’s defense harassed Perkins to the tune of five second-half sacks, two interceptions and two fumbles, turning a 3-point deficit into a 35-20 win over No. 18 Virginia.
The first of those three second-half turnovers came at the 9:50 mark of the third quarter, when Jamir Jones sacked Perkins and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa (Tua’s cousin) raced the ball 48 yards to the Virginia 7-yard line, setting up Tony Jones, Jr.’s 2-yard go-ahead touchdown, his second of the day.
Then, with 1:41 left in the third quarter, Julian Okwara sacked and stripped Perkins, which Adetokunbo Ogundeji scooped and scored from 23 yards out, giving the Irish a commanding 28-17 lead.
Finally, Alohi Gilman intercepted Perkins at Notre Dame’s 29 with 12:32 left in the third quarter, setting up Notre Dame’s offense to put the game away for good with a 5-play, 71-yard touchdown drive, punctuated by a 30-yard Jones rush. Jones finished the game with 131 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries.
Perkins opened the game by orchestrating a 7-play, 69-yard touchdown drive that scored on a 6-yard toss to Joe Reed on third-and-goal. Notre Dame (3-1) then surged ahead 14-7 with touchdown drives on its first two opportunities, scoring on runs by Jones and C’Bo Flemister.
Virginia (4-1) then scored 10 straight, taking the lead on a 16-yard Perkins toss to Hasise Dubois with 43 seconds left in the first half. Bronco Mendenhall then capitalized on his team’s momentum by opening the second half with an onside kick, which the Wahoos recovered. That possession ended in a punt from Notre Dame’s 40, and another possession, which began after Notre Dame fumbled a punt return at its own 41 and the Cavs trailing 21-17, ended in a turnover on downs.
With Virginia trailing 35-20 with just under four minutes to play, Perkins erased any hopes of a comeback when he fired his second interception of the day to Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton. Perkins finished the game 30-of-43 for 334 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions and three fumbles while being sacked eight times.