South Bend, Ind-Notre Dame defensive lineman Julian Okwara had eight sacks in a 35-20 victory over No. 18 Virginia on Saturday in South Bend, Indiana.
“We’re excited about the win, but we still have work to do,” said the defensive end, who had three of Notre Dame’s eight sacks and caused a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. “I think we just had to hone in on what coach told us to do and just do our job.”
This game against Virginia had spectators thinking it could have been a “trap” game for the Golden Domers especially after a very physical and tough game against Georgia. However, Notre has a thing for theatrics, they know how to pull the strings when they must.
The Irish (3-1), coming off a 23-17 loss at No. 3 Georgia, trailed 17-14 at halftime and after had Virginia (4-1) complete a successful onside kick to open the second half. Notre Dame’s defense buckled down, setting the tone for the second half with five of its eight sacks in the third quarter. The game ball had to the defense, which stepped up and took over the game
The Irish defense put together eight total sacks and five turnovers on the day, which also led to 28 of the 35 points for the Domers. The front four gave the Virginia offensive problems all day unfit to match their speed and agility.
Jamir Jones stepped up big when called to come in after an early injury to Daelin Hayes fresh in the first quarter. He made his presence known for what was only his second appearance of the season.
Jones made the play of the game when it seemed like the Cavaliers had some momentum building early in the 3rd quarter, coming off the left edge like a rocket forcing a fumble that Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa caught out of mid-air and returned inside the 5-yard line which the Irish offense took in and reclaimed the lead back.
After that, the game was all Notre Dame and they weren’t in doubt. I’d definitely say that was Jamir Jones’ best game of his career. He brought a lot of fire to the team throughout the day and was very consistent on getting good push and power off the edge.
Jamir Jones, who had been considering a redshirt season, stepped in for Hayes and produced a game-changing strip sack of Bryce Perkins in the third quarter.
Kelly didn’t officially communicate it, but all signs had pointed to Jamir Jones trying to redshirt this season so he would be the main guy next year off the edge as the leader of the group. But with an unexpected injury to Hayes, he just had to play and was forced to use his second of four games for the “redshirt rule”.
“They were exactly what I wanted them to be — they were determined, they were persistent,” Kelly said. “We were determined to play physical in the second half. We got a big-play defense. If we can make more plays on offense, this could be a special group.”
Tony Jones, who had three touchdowns and a season-high 131 yards on 18 carries, scored two plays later from the 2 to give the Irish a 21-17. They never trailed again.
Okwara, who finished with two forced fumbles and fumble recovery, stripped the ball from Perkins and defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji recovered and ran 23 yards to put the Irish up 28-17.
“When you can pressure the quarterback with four and still play coverage, there is relatively no risk and that’s what they were able to do,” Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said.
Virginia scored first as Perkins, who completed 30 of 43 passes for 334 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions, threw a 6-yard TD pass to Joe Reed. But the ND answered with the next two scores, a 5-yard run by Jones and an 11-yard run by C’Bo Flemister. The second TD came after Okwara stripped and recovered the football after a sack of Perkins near the 50-yard line.
The Irish held Virginia to 4 yards rushing. Notre Dame, which outgained Virginia 343 yards to 338, got 165 yards on 17-of-25 passing by Ian Book.