Navy gives Notre Dame that sinking feelingPublished 10:09am Monday, November 9, 2009
By SCOTT NOVAK
Niles Daily Star
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – When a team throws for more than 400 yards and doesn’t have to punt a single time, one would expect that team to win.
But that wasn’t the case Saturday afternoon at Notre Dame Stadium as visiting Navy handed the Fighting Irish a 23-21 setback, more than likely ending any hopes of a BCS Bowl bid for Notre Dame.
The Midshipmen have now defeated the Fighting Irish two of the last three seasons, including back-to-back games at Notre Dame Stadium after going 43 consecutive years without a victory in the series.
Turnovers (3) and missed field goals (2) did in Notre Dame, which nearly pulled out another fourth quarter victory.
Trailing 21-7, the Fighting Irish scored twice in the final five minutes of the game, but could not come away with another miracle as it played in its seventh game of the season decided by seven or fewer points.
A Navy safety by Craig Schaefer with a minute to play sealed the victory for the Midshipmen, who improve to 7-3 on the year and are now bowl eligible for the seventh straight season.
Notre Dame would drive down the field one more time after recovering the on-side kick following the safety, but Golden Tate’s 31-yard touchdown from Jimmy Clausen with 24 ticks left on the clock cut the lead to two points was not enough.
The next on-side kick went out of bounds and the Midshipmen needed to just kneel down once to end the contest.
While the final score was close, the game really wasn’t.
The Midshipmen ran through the Notre Dame defense for 348 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
The deciding touchdown, however, was a 52-yard touchdown pass from Ricky Dobbs to Greg Jones in the third quarter that extended the lead to 21-7.
Clausen had another big day throwing the football, hitting 37-of-51 attempts for a career-high 452 yards and an interception.
That one interception stopped one of four drives inside the red zone for the Fighting Irish, who turned the ball over three times inside the Navy 5-yard line, including once on downs.
Notre Dame outgained Navy by more than 100 yards (512-404), but a pair of Nick Tausch missed field goals ended up being a key difference in the contest.
The Fighting Irish’s inability to stop the fullback in the Navy offense was another.
Vince Murray ran for 158 yards on 14 carries, while Dobbs called his own number on the triple option 31 times for another 114 yards.
Notre Dame on the other hand, despite the fact that the Fighting Irish outweighed the Midshipmen’s defensive line by some 50 points, could only manage 60 yards rushing.
Michael Floyd made his return to the Notre Dame line up after missing a month and a half with a broken collar bone, caught 10 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. Tate finished with 132 yards on nine receptions.
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said that his team used last year’s loss to the Fighting Irish as a blue print for his offense this season.
“I think the one thing that helped us, and I really hope this doesn’t come across wrong, but I think the thing that helped us this year was last year because we knew that they’d line up the same way,” he explained. “We didn’t execute very well last year, and coming into this year they did a great job against us last year defensively, so we had a pretty good clue that they were going to come back and do the same things as they did last year, and we had a few things. We were expecting that same defense that we saw last year.”
Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, who when informed what Niumatalolo said, pointed out his team’s defensive deficiencies.
“Well, I think the first thing you have to do is stop the fullback” he said. “That’s where the whole defense starts, with stopping the fullback. He had too many yards, some of them easy yards, and he had a couple of big runs. But one of the plays that stood out for me is we pin them back, we’re pinning them back deep into their own end, and I’m over there talking to Clausen who had just fumbled the ball on the 1-yard line, next thing I know I see the fullback running for 40 yards and changing field position.
“I think when you’re playing against Navy, who plays so fundamentally sound offensively, everyone has to do their jobs, and think that it starts inside out. And inside out means the first thing you’d better do is take care of that fullback and not let him get some easy yards, and I thought he had a nice day for them.”
So with the talk of a BCS Bowl bid gone by the wayside, Notre Dame must now focus on preparing for a strong Pittsburgh team next week before returning home to take on Connecticut on Nov. 21 and finishing the season on the road against a strong Stanford team, which upset No. 8 Oregon on Saturday night.
Navy 7 7 7 2 – 23
Notre Dame 0 0 7 14 – 21
N – Dobbs, Ricky 1 run (Buckley, Joe kick)
N – Murray, Vince 25 run (Buckley kick)
ND – Hughes, Robert 1 run (Tausch, Nick kick)
N – Jones, Greg 52 pass from Dobbs (Buckley kick)
ND – Floyd, Michael 12 pass from Clausen, Jimmy (Tausch kick)
N – Schaefer, Craig safety
ND – Tate, Golden 31 pass from Clausen (Tausch kick)