Tenth-ranked Notre Dame would have to like its chances Saturday against a Virginia football program that has never beaten a top-10 opponent on the road.

The Cavaliers, who are 0-24 in their history against teams of that description, visit Notre Dame Stadium for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.

It will be the third different venue in as many games for the Cavs and the Irish, whose first meeting was in the 1989 Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Notre Dame won that game handily, 36-13, in a matchup of future College Football Hall of Fame coaches, Lou Holtz for the Irish and the late George Welsh for the Cavaliers.

In their first meeting as ACC members (Notre Dame is independent for football and plays only a handful of ACC opponents each season), the Irish scored on a go-ahead touchdown pass with 12 seconds remaining that lifted them to a 34-27 victory at UVa in 2015.

The Irish head coach that day, Brian Kelly, is still at Notre Dame, where he is in his 10th year.

Current fifth-year UVa players would have been in uniform but none is listed on the participation chart for that game. Then-head coach Mike London was replaced at the end of that season by Bronco Mendenhall, who kept London aide Marques Hagans on the staff but brought most of his staff from Brigham Young.

Mendenhall is no stranger to Notre Dame, having brought his BYU team to Notre Dame in 2005, when Charlie Weis was the Irish head coach, and for a two-game series in 2012-13, after Kelly had taken over.

All of those games were played at Notre Dame’s home in South Bend, Indiana, where the Irish have had 269 consecutive sellouts. The cheapest ticket on TickPick at midday Friday was $80, and the most expensive was $452.

Mendenhall knows a little about dealing with the crowds from his previous visits to Notre Dame.

“You do the best you can,” he said. “So [with] most programs, including ours, you practice with crowd noise. I orchestrate and create crises during the week in as many different ways that I can, and that helps to some extent.

“Emotion is something and chaos is something we work to create in practice.”

As for the talent level, few teams can compete with Notre Dame, which, according to the rivals.com website, signed 57 players between 2015-2019 who were rated five- or four-star players by rivals.com on a five-star scale.

Virginia signed five players of that description over the same period.

A turnaround for Virginia, which had six losing seasons between 2012 and 2017, could be traced to the arrival of such two-stars (there are no one-stars) as cornerback Bryce Hall and linebackers Jordan Mack and Charles Snowden.

And, of course, there was the arrival of quarterback Bryce Perkins, a junior-college transfer, prior to the 2018 season.

Perkins has completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 843 yards and six touchdowns in UVa’s first four games and is the Cavaliers’ leading rusher with 193 yards.

“It all runs through Perkins … in terms of his ability to make plays,” Kelly said at his weekly news conference. “He’s extremely dangerous with the ball in his hands. He can throw the football at a pretty high percentage [and] gets the ball out quickly.”

On the flip side is Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book, who has completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 828 yards and eight touchdowns.

That’s in one fewer game than Virginia has played, and the Irish (2-1) faced No. 3-ranked Georgia in their most recent outing. As the visitor in that game, Notre Dame led 10-7 at the half before succumbing 23-17.

Virginia (4-0) trailed by 17 points at one point against visiting Old Dominion before rallying for a 28-17 victory. One week earlier, the Cavaliers had trailed visiting Florida State with under seven minutes remaining before pulling away for a 31-24 victory.

It goes without saying that Perkins is a newcomer to the Notre Dame scene.

“I heard that it’s a great place to play,” he said. “They’ve got such a great history and I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be fun. I love the games that are anticipated highly. This brings out the best in everybody.”

Recommended for you

Load comments