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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, October 06, 2018 1:00 am

Irish crank up noise to quiet Hokies fans

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Notre Dame at Virginia Tech

Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia

When: 8 p.m. today

Records: Notre Dame (5-0), Virginia Tech (3-1)

TV: ABC

Radio: 1190 AM, 92.3 FM

No. 6 Notre Dame at No. 24 Virginia Tech

3 Storylines

Tech missing pieces: Hokies quarterback Josh Jackson broke his leg in the team's loss to Old Dominion, and the team turned to backup Ryan Willis, who delivered against Duke. Willis, who transferred from Kansas and sat out last season, threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns against the Blue Devils. Virginia Tech is also missing defensive end Trevon Hill, who was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules. Hill had 3.5 sacks in three games this season.

Quality Opponent: Virginia Tech is the third Top 25 opponent Notre Dame has faced this season. The Irish have beaten the first two, who each rank in the Top 15 as of Week 6. The teams ranked in the Top 15 have five total losses and two of them have come to Notre Dame. The Irish don't have any other Top 25 opponents on their schedule after this week.

Scoring leader: Kicker Justin Yoon ranks second on the all-time scoring list at Notre Dame with 313 career points. He needs just eight points to pass running back Allen Pinkett for the school's all-time lead, a record that has stood since 1985. Pinkett was a two-time All-American and later played six seasons in the NFL.

Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Virginia Tech 24

- Dylan Sinn, The Journal Gazette

dsinn@jg.net

“Miami” has become a dirty word around Notre Dame since the Irish got routed there last season, ending their chances at a College Football Playoff berth.

Brian Kelly has been talking about his team's 41-8 loss to the Hurricanes since spring practice, determined that such a performance won't be repeated this season. Tonight, the No. 6 Irish get a chance to show how much they've grown when they travel to Blacksburg, Virginia, and take on No. 24 Virginia Tech in one of the most hostile environments in college football.

To get prepared for that raucous crowd, Notre Dame pumped up to 115 decibels of noise, the equivalent of a full-scale rock concert, into their practices all week. After dealing with that, plus dozens of renditions of Metallica's “Enter Sandman,” the Irish expressed confidence they'll be able to handle the crowd. That's exactly the mindset Kelly wants.

“I'd rather have a confident football team, as long as it's not a cocky and overconfident football team,” the coach said. “They know that if they prepare the right way and eliminate distractions, they're a good football team. ... They know who they are.”

While the loss to the Hurricanes stands out as a sore spot from Notre Dame's 2017 season, that performance is not the only road experience Notre Dame can draw from as it prepares to face Virginia Tech. Tackle Liam Eichenberg said he's hoping the Irish can duplicate their 2017 victory over Michigan State, when Notre Dame went to East Lansing and crushed the Spartans, 38-18.

“It kind of feels like you defeated the whole stadium,” the redshirt sophomore said of a big road win. “You've got fans leaving at halftime. In the end, that's the ideal end goal for any team going into that situation.

“The key for us is getting on them early so we silence that crowd.”

The game and the crowd will be a fresh test for quarterback Ian Book, who will be making his third straight start after backing up Brandon Wimbush for the first three games.

The Hokies haven't been particularly strong on defense this year, giving up 5.5 yards per play, 78th in the country, but defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who is in his 32nd year coaching at Virginia Tech, will likely dream up some wrinkles that could rattle a still relatively inexperienced quarterback.

Kelly was pleased with the way Book practiced this week and thinks it's likely the Hokies will load the box to stop the run and force the quarterback to beat them.

“(Book) saw a lot of different pressures, different looks (in practice),” Kelly said. “We're prepared for it, but they're really good at what they do. They pressure the line of scrimmage, there's seven, eight, nine guys on the line of scrimmage, that's why they don't give up a lot of rushing yards.

“But to do that, you give up other things.”

The Hokies have already beaten a pair of teams that were ranked in the Top 25 in Florida State and Duke, though neither is ranked anymore. Virginia Tech's only loss was a baffling 49-35 defeat against FCS foe Old Dominion, in which the Monarchs scored 28 points in the fourth quarter. That game was on the road and Virginia Tech has not lost at Lane Stadium since Sept. 30, 2017.

dsinn@jg.net