No. 10 Notre Dame’s slim College Football Playoff hopes are still alive thanks to the dominance of Julian Okwara. The defensive end recorded three sacks and forced Virginia QB Bryce Perkins to fumble twice in the Irish’s 35-20 win over the No. 18 Cavaliers on Saturday.
Okwara’s third sack ended up as a touchdown for Adetokunbo Ogundeji as the defensive lineman picked the ball up off the turf and ran 23 yards for the score to give Notre Dame a 28-17 lead.
The Irish trailed 17-14 at halftime and Virginia surprised Notre Dame with an onside kick to start the second half. However, Virginia’s drive went nowhere and the teams traded punts until a sack played a pivotal role.
This time, the sack came from Jamir Jones, who hit Perkins as he was about to throw. The ball popped into the air and was caught by Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, who returned the ball 48 yards to the Virginia 7. Two plays later, running back Tony Jones gave Notre Dame a 21-17 lead.
Notre Dame finished the game with eight sacks.
Perkins had five turnovers
Virginia was undone by its inability to keep the ball and take it away from Notre Dame. Thanks to those two fumbles, Notre Dame scored 14 points in the third quarter despite neither team recording a first down in the period.
Virginia was still in the game after Ogundeji’s touchdown but things got out of hand after Perkins’ fourth turnover of the day. He threw a third-down interception near midfield early in the fourth quarter and Jones scored his third rushing touchdown of the day five plays later.
Perkins spent much of the second half avoiding Notre Dame defenders who were seemingly in his face on every play. The dominance of the Irish’s defensive front manifested it in Virginia’s rushing statistics. The Cavaliers ended up with 29 carries for 4 yards. Remember, sacks count as rushing attempts in college football.
Jones was Notre Dame’s offensive star
Notre Dame QB Ian Book wasn’t spectacular — but he wasn’t bad either. Book was a pedestrian 17-of-25 passing for 165 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. Tight end Cole Kmet finished with four catches for 65 yards one week after his impressive performance at Georgia.
The Irish’s best offensive player was Jones. In addition to those three touchdowns, he averaged over seven yards a carry and tallied 131 yards on 18 rushing attempts. It was a big bounceback for Jones, who had 15 carries for 38 yards in the Irish’s previous two games after rushing for 110 yards against Louisville in the season-opener.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports
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