Notre Dame avoids shocking upset, beats Virginia Tech with final-minute TD

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaaf/players/271127/" data-ylk="slk:Ian Book">Ian Book</a> and Notre Dame barely escaped a huge upset to Virginia Tech. (Getty Images)
Ian Book and Notre Dame barely escaped a huge upset to Virginia Tech. (Getty Images)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Down six points and in need of a drive, Notre Dame’s maligned offense delivered when it needed to, staving off what would have been a massive upset.

Note Dame QB Ian Book — after a shaky game — saved the day with a 7-yard TD run with 29 seconds remaining as the Irish won, 21-20. It was a crushing loss for Virginia Tech, which entered the game as 17.5-point underdogs.

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The Hokies led 20-14 in the final minutes after completely stealing momentum just before halftime with a fumble-return TD of 98 yards.

But Book and the Irish got the ball back at their own 13-yard line and started the game-winning drive. Chase Claypool made a great sideline catch with 1:10 remaining, and Book then hit Claypool for a 26-yard catch on fourth-and-10 to keep their hopes alive. Book took off to scramble, and Notre Dame was out of timeouts, but he found his way into the end zone to save the day.

Notre Dame is now 7-2. Tech fell to 5-3.

Book was picked twice and almost had a third pick that was negated by a shaky roughing-the-passer call while down 20-14 early in the fourth quarter. He finished the game 29-of-53 passing for 353 yards and two TD passes, along with the TD run.

Hokies safety Divine Deablo stunned the Irish and Notre Dame fans when he picked up a fumble forced by Notre Dame’s Jafar Armstrong (forced by the Hokies’ Rayshard Ashby) and ran it back 98 yards for a touchdown with seconds remaining before halftime. Instead of going up by two scores, the Irish went into the locker room tied 14-14 despite dominating the game statistically to that point.

Virginia Tech took the lead, 17-14, on the opening drive of the second half. The Irish moved deep into Hokies territory, but QB Ian Book floated an interception to Deablo right near the goal line. It was Deablo’s first pick since Sept. 23, 2017 against Old Dominion.

This was a stunning show of strength for a Hokies defense that ranked 66th in yards per game allowed coming in and which had allowed no fewer than 31 points to four Power Five opponents this season. Deablo and Ashby were the stars, but it also was a brilliantly called game by Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, one of the great minds in the game who has said he plans to retire at season’s end.

But the Hokies also got some rhythm going behind first-time starting quarterback Quincy Patterson II, who came into the 4-of-11 passing for 63 yards and a touchdown in five career games entering Saturday. Patterson started this game missing his first seven pass attempts but converted a fourth-and-goal pass for a four-yard touchdown to tie the game in the first quarter.

Patterson finished the game 9-of-27 passing for 139 yards and a touchdown, with no turnovers. He led two field-goal drives in the second half and finished the game with 77 rush yards on 19 carries.

Book overthrew Cole Kmet for a would-be touchdown on Notre Dame’s second drive and was intercepted two plays later on a throw that went right to the Hokies’ Dax Hollifield. The Irish would take the lead 7-0 on a Book-Kmet TD pass and later would go up 14-7 in the first half with Book hitting his other tight end, Tommy Tremble, for a four-yard score.

Notre Dame was gifted some highly questionable calls from the officials throughout the game — and were hurt by a few suspect ones, too — but it couldn’t take the lead despite reaching the Virginia Tech 3-yard line. A 15-yard penalty moved the Irish back, and Irish kicker Jonathan Doerer pushed a 35-yard field-goal try wide right.

Patterson and the Hokies ran down some clock on their ensuing drive, but he took a sack near midfield and they were forced to punt. That’s when Book and the Irish came through with their upset-saving drive.

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