SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Jerod Evans threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another in intermittent snow and 20 mph winds, Joey Slye kicked a 20-yard field goal with 4:16 left and Virginia Tech rallied back from a 17-point deficit to beat Notre Dame 34-31 Saturday.
Evans threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Bucky Hodges to tie the score at 31-31 early in the fourth quarter and then led the Hokies (8-3) on a 51-yard drive for the game-winning field goal. The Hokies, who fell behind 17-0 to start the game, came back after falling behind 31-21 to lead on a 67-yard touchdown run by Josh Adams.
Evans said the Hokies, who had lost all three games this season when trailing at halftime, didn’t panic when they fell behind.
“We didn’t flinch. When it was 17 to zero, our defense didn’t flinch. They knew they were going to get it clicking,” he said.
Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said the Hokies 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.”
It marked the third time this season the Irish (4-7) squandered a double-digit lead in a loss.
Virginia Tech shut down Notre Dame’s passing attack in the second half. DeShone Kizer was 13 of 18 passing for 199 yards in the first half and just 3 of 13 for 36 yards in the second half. Kizer was injured in the closing seconds.
“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.
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. They also failed to win back-to-back games for the first time since 1960.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies bounced back from a disappointing loss to Georgia Tech. The Hokies, who have struggled with turnovers in their three losses this season, overcame an interception and a fumble and three more fumbles that didn’t lead to turnovers.
Notre Dame: The Irish couldn’t build on their success from a week earlier when they beat Army 44-6 in their best all-around game this season. They struggled as they have frequently this season with opponents scoring in bunches.
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 with the ACC Coastal Division on the line unless North Carolina loses to North Carolina State on Friday, giving Virginia Tech the title. 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.
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