SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Virginia Tech proved it can overcome a slow start and turnovers.
The Hokies fell behind by 17 points early and trailed by 10 to start the fourth quarter, but Jerod Evans guided them to a touchdown and a pair of field goals by Joey Slye in the quarter to beat Notre Dame 34-31 Saturday.
Evans threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another in intermittent snow and 20 mph winds. The Hokies (8-3) had been 0-3 when trailing at halftime this season and minus-9 in turnovers in its three losses. Evans threw an interception on a pass that bounced off the hands of Cam Phillips and fumbled when he was sacked, leading to 10 points by the Irish on the two turnovers.
Evans said the Hokies knew the game wasn’t over after falling behind 17-0.
“We know we’re more than capable of doing of what we do with the high-powered offense, so you don’t lose confidence easily when you’ve got that type of talent,” he said.
The Virginia Tech defense shut down the Irish offense in the second half. After giving up 299 yards in total offense, the Hokies held the Irish to 150 yards in the second half — with 67 yards of that came on a touchdown run by Josh Adams that extended Notre Dame’s lead to 31-21 and 57 coming on the final drive of the game.
“They hit us on a couple of plays early that they had not shown, but our kids hung in there,” Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “It was a tale of two halves. They did some unique things and we adjusted.”
DeShone Kizer, who was 13-of-18 passing for 199 yards with two touchdowns in the first half, was just 3 of 15 for 36 yards in the second half.
“We had some balls that were catchable that we didn’t catch. I just don’t think we executed quite as well offensively,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said.
Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said the Hokies simply played better after halftime.
“I don’t think there was any great revelation at halftime. It’s just, we’ve got to play better,” he said. “We were out there dropping the ball on the ground, giving up big plays. Just not playing Virginia Tech football. I think guys kind of settled down and got their feet underneath them and felt like if they’d just execute they’d have a chance to have success. That’s what they did.”
Virginia Tech: A solid performance after a slow start should give the Hokies confidence as they try to clinch the ACC Coastal Division.
Notre Dame: It was the same old story for the Irish, who squandered a double-digit lead in a loss for the third time this season. The loss clinched a losing season for the Irish, just the 14th time in 128 seasons of playing football and the first since going 3-9 in 2007.
POLL IMPLICATIONS: The win against the Irish could get the Hokies back in the poll.
The loss drops Kelly’s record to 59-30 in seven seasons at Notre Dame, tying him with Lou Holtz for most losses at the school. Holtz was 100-30-2 in 11 seasons. Kelly will finish with only his second losing season in 26 seasons as coach. Central Michigan finished 4-7 in his first year as head coach there in 2004.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies finish the regular season with their annual game against rival Virginia. The Hokies have beaten the Cavaliers 12 straight times.
Notre Dame: The Irish finish the season against rival USC. In their last trip to face the Trojans in 2014, the Irish were blown out 49-14. The Irish have won three of the last four in the series.