Ask anyone who has been to Blacksburg, Virginia for a game and they’ll tell you how goosebumps appear as soon as Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” starts blaring in Lane Stadium. The song as become the entrance music for the Virginia Tech Hokies, Notre Dame’s next opponent.
It will be the Irish’s second road game of the season.
After an inexplicable loss to Old Dominion, Virginia Tech responded with a win over 22nd rank Duke. Kansas transfer, Ryan Willis, went 17-27 for 332 yards and three touchdowns. “Preparation throughout the week helped. My coaches had me ready. Teammates backed me up. We were all on the same page,” Willis said. The win was Willis’ first as a starting quarterback. While at Kansas, he was 0-10 in games he started.
The win put the Hokies back into the AP Top 25.
The Irish will be making their first trip to Blacksburg in the school’s storied history. Two seasons ago, the Irish led Virginia Tech by as much as 17 points and couldn’t hold on. The home loss was indicative of the season as Notre Dame finished 4-8.
This season has been different. The Irish are undefeated and they are coming off their most impressive win of the year. Their dominant 38-17 victory over Stanford opened a lot of eyes to how dominant this team can be against a fellow top 10 program. “Stanford was a tough opponent and we were up to the task,” said Coach Brian Kelly
What Coach Kelly will have to guard against is the team reading the own press clippings. Traveling to Virginia Tech for a nationally televised night game isn’t the same as going to Wake Forest for a Noon ET start. The stadium will be electric and there’s no doubt that there will be times in the game where the team will struggle.
Quarterback, Ian Book, has lived the dream his first two weeks as a starter but he hasn’t faced a defense like the Hokies. The short timing routes will need to be on time and another strong rushing game will need to be present. The Irish benefit from having a stable of backs with different skill sets.
On defense, Jerry Tillery will need to keep up the momentum from Saturday. The Irish’s ability to get pressure with the front four played of a big role in shutting down Stanford in the second half. Defensive back Julian Love set a Notre Dame record with his 33rd career pass breakup.
The Irish will play three of their last seven games on the road. Whether Book or Brandon Wimbush, Notre Dame has, for the most part, stayed away from game crippling turnovers. That will be emphasis number one when the get to Blacksburg. Turnovers plus a hostile crowd has never been a good combination.
Exiting the Sandman with a win will be Notre Dame’s latest challenge as they continue on their path to the College Football Playoffs.