Sack-happy No. 10 Notre Dame beats No. 18 Virginia 35-20
Julian Okwara had three of Notre Dame's eight sacks and caused a fumble that was returned for a touchdown as the 10th-ranked Fighting Irish overcame a halftime deficit to beat No. 18 Virginia 35-20 on Saturday.
Notre Dame (3-1), coming off a 23-14 loss at No. 3 Georgia, trailed 17-14 at the break and then had the Cavaliers (4-1) complete a successful onside kick to open the second half. The Notre Dame defense held, setting the tone for the second half with five of its eight sacks in the third quarter.
"We were determined to play physical in the second half," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "We've got a big-play defense. If we can make more plays on offense, this could be a special group."
Jamir Jones started the Irish defensive onslaught in the third quarter when he sacked and stripped Virginia's Bryce Perkins of the football and defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa recovered it in midair before rumbling 48 yards to the Virginia 7.
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.
Later in the quarter, 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 Irish answered with the next two touchdowns, 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 midfield.
Thanks to the sacks, Notre Dame held Virginia to 4 yards rushing. Notre Dame, which outgained Virginia 343-228, got 165 yards on 17-of-25 passing by Ian Book.
Virginia: The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Perkins was spectacular in the first half, with help from Reed, who finished with eight of his career-high nine receptions in the first 30 minutes. Perkins completed 18 of 22 passes (82 percent) for 235 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. He was just 12 of 21 for 99 in the second half with two interceptions as the Irish defensive front dominated.
Notre Dame: Virginia came into the game ranking No. 1 with its 20 quarterback sacks and Notre Dame was 108th with four sacks total, none by their defensive ends. The Irish had eight sacks, 6 1/2 by its defensive ends. Khalid Kareem had 2 1/2 and Jones one.
Virginia: The Cavaliers, ranked No. 18 coming in, likely will drop after their first loss of the season.
Notre Dame: The Irish, who fell three spots to No. 10 following their loss at Georgia, should stay about there after a solid defensive effort.
Virginia: The Cavaliers return to ACC Coastal play Friday, Oct. 11 at Miami.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish entertain Bowling Green Saturday.