Virginia looked poised to earn their first win over a top ten team since 2005, but Notre Dame backup quarterback DeShone Kizer led the Irish on a game-winning touchdown drive to break the Hoos' hearts as Notre Dame escaped Charlottesville with a 34-27 win.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
A devastating finish: This one will be hard for Virginia fans to recover from. The Cavaliers took a 27-26 lead with just 1:54 left to play. Reid provided the exclamation point for a 13-play, 80-yard drive for Virginia. The Cavaliers had all the momentum not just because they had the lead, but because Notre Dame had seen starting quarterback Malik Zaire helped off the field after suffering a broken ankle.
Yet, in came backup DeShone Kizer, a redshirt freshman. The Irish answered the Cavaliers with an 80-yard drive of their own capped off by a 39-yard pass to Will Fuller for the clinching touchdown. It took eight plays and left the Cavaliers with just 12 seconds on the clock.
Considering Notre Dame came into this game ranked No. 9 in the nation, UVa should feel proud of the way they played. Instead, they will feel devastated because of the way they lost, coming that close to the upset just to watch it slip away.
A star is born: Senior receiver Canaan Severin was absolutely phenomenal in this game. He is the one receiver for the Cavaliers that defenses really have to account for at all times and he still managed to get free for 11 catches and 153 yards, both of which were career highs.
Offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild has had his critics in the past, but he did a great job finding ways to get Severin open in this game by lining him up in different places before the snap. Notre Dame could not key on Severin before every snap allowing him to take advantage of favorable matchups and he made the Irish pay.
Going forward, defenses are going to start to blanket him in order to prevent getting burned. The rest of the team combined for only 15 receptions and 136 yards. Other receivers are going to have to step up for the Cavaliers or defenses are going to find a way to shutdown Matt Johns' go-to receiver.
Hope for the offense: Complaining about Fairchild and the offense has become a yearly tradition for Virginia fans, but you have to give him his due for the game he called against the Irish. The Cavaliers saw what happened when they tried to run their conservative offense against a physically dominant defense last week -- things didn't end well. This week, the Cavaliers tried sweeps to the outside and when that didn't work, they finally, finally took to the air.
Johns had what I believe to be the best game of his career completing 26 of 35 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns. He didn't pile up stats during garbage time, he took on the Irish defense and looked very good doing it. The success the Cavaliers had passing the ball then opened up the rushing game. The best runs of the day all came after Virginia had established the pass.
Fairchild even went into his bag of tricks late in the second quarter. Reid lined up behind the center in a wildcat formation with Johns at receiver. Reid took the snap and handed it off to Taquan Mizzell who ran right and tossed it to Johns who was running back to the left. Johns then passed it deep to Keeon Johnson for the 42-yard touchdown. The coverage had bit on the play fake leaving Johnson wide open.
The play gave Virginia a 14-12 lead at halftime and left many wondering where those types of plays were last season or even last week.
It if wasn't clear already, it should be now: Virginia is a better team with a balanced offense. The rush attack is not good enough to run between the tackles all game long. Now will Fairchild build on this performance or go back to his conservative ways when Virginia faces William & Mary next week?
Defensive improvement: Virginia did not fare well against Josh Rosen in the opener, but the defense looked tremendously improved this week against the Irish.
Only a week removed from torching Texas, Zaire completed only seven out of 18 pass attempts for 115 yards. He was nearly perfect against the Longhorns, but could not even manage to complete half of his passes. He did do a lot of damage on the ground, rushing for 87 yards on 10 carries, but the Irish really struggled offensively.
Here's the stat of the game: Notre Dame went 0 for 10 in third down conversions. That just speaks to how well the defense played against the Irish and also makes the game-winning touchdown drive from Kizer all the more baffling and heartbreaking.
Give Virginia credit: Those who didn't watch this game may be tempted to say that Virginia was able to keep it close because of the injury to Notre Dame's quarterback Zaire. That is not at all what happened.
True, the loss of Zaire felt like a turning point and swung the momentum in Virginia's favor, but it does not explain what happened in this game.
Virginia took a 14-12 lead into halftime before Zaire was injured. Notre Dame's offense was unable to convert on third down before Zaire went down. This game was a slug-fest before the Irish quarterback suffered the injury so to dismiss how close it was as simply a product of the injury is just plain wrong.
Give credit to Virginia. They battled. They had the Irish on the ropes and provided much more of a fight than Texas did. When's the last time you could say that?
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