On the road in Charlottesville, Notre Dame continued to show marked improvement and moved to 9-1 with a 28-3 drubbing of the Cavaliers.
The Irish rushed for 249 yards behind strong performances from Kyren Williams and Logan Diggs, while Jack Coan added 132 yards and three passing touchdowns. Defensively, Notre Dame didn’t allow a score until the fourth quarter, when a field goal gave Virginia its only points of the game.
Head coach Brian Kelly was pleased with the all-around effort after the game, pointing out the added difficulty of a primetime road game against an opponent coming off an idle week.
“They did some really good things tonight, so I’m really proud of them,” Kelly said. “To get a victory on the road this late in the season and to have some individuals step up and play their best football was even more impressive.”
The Irish rushed down the field on the opening drive but stalled in Virginia territory, ultimately turning the ball over on downs after failing to convert on fourth and one.
But after the Notre Dame defense forced a Cavaliers punt, the Irish offense took over in Virginia territory. A 14-yard completion to Michael Mayer and a series of Kyren Williams runs set up first-and-goal. From there, Coan found Mayer again for the early touchdown.
The rest of the half followed suit. Another Virginia punt was followed by a second Irish touchdown, this one a four-yard pass from Coan to wide receiver Braden Lenzy to make the lead 14-0.
Kelly praised Lenzy after the game. “Those are gritty catches and I use that word in the sense that you can easily give up on those plays,” he said, “but he got himself dirty tonight and that goes a long way to winning football games, and he was a heavy contributor for us.”
A turnover on downs for the Cavaliers led to yet another Irish score, increasing the lead to 21-0 on a 22-yard run by Williams.
A strong defensive half was capped by an interception by Ramon Henderson with less than two minutes left in the second quarter. After the game, Henderson credited safety DJ Brown with assisting on the read that put Henderson in position to make the play.
In the second half, Brown added an interception of his own — one of many defensive highlights throughout the night.
Meanwhile, Rylie Mills filled in for Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, who was sidelined with an illness. The sophomore finished the game with two sacks to earn the game ball from Kelly. The award came with an added bonus that made for some light-hearted fun on Twitter.
“A deal is a deal!!” defensive line coach Mike Elston said on Twitter, adding that Mills’ game-ball performance earned him Elston’s first-class seat on the plane.
Notre Dame’s final score of the game came on a Kevin Austin Jr. touchdown late in the third quarter, bringing the score to 28-0. A Virginia field goal on its next possession made it 28-3. The Fighting Irish earned their fifth win of the season and held their opponent without a touchdown for the second consecutive game.