What can you say? Virginia did everything they could do short of winning the game. This is extremely hard to write as all the keys I set forth at the beginning of the week were essentially achieved. Nevertheless, here is how the game played out in context of those keys.
1) Establish a running game - This one was pretty neutral. On the day, the Hoos backs ran for only 127, but averaged 4.2 yards per carry, which is better than past production. After all was said and done, in somewhat of a defensive struggle, it was good enough to keep the Irish defense honest and that is all you can ask for.
2) Let the secondary be the strength of the defense - After the clinic that Malik Zaire put on last week against Texas, the fact that the Hoos held him to only 7-18 for 115 yards has to be looked at as a win. Unfortunately, he did hook up with Will Fuller for a 59 yard bomb that gave the Irish a 19-14 lead mid way through the third quarter. Then at the end, Fuller got behind Maurice Canady as Deshone Kizer hit him in stride for the game winner. Outside of those two plays, the pass rush was solid and the secondary did what it had to do keep the game within reach.
3) Keep Matt Johns upright - This was the ultimate key to the game. Matt Johns played as good a game as he could have going 26 for 38 and two touchdowns highlighted by a 42 yard flea flicker to Keeon Johnson. As good as the Notre Dame pass rush was last week against Texas, the UVA line held together allowing only one sack, and enabled Johns to make plays which give the Hoos a chance to win the game.
To say this loss was frustrating would be an understatement. However, I can't point to a single player, coach, or fan in the upper deck as the reason why the game was lost. For this team to hang with the #9 team in the country and have a chance to win in the end was huge. It's the type of effort that a season can be built on, and the type of effort that a fan base should rally behind. The result notwithstanding, the Hoos are legit, and I can't wait to see what the next couple weeks will bring.