Notre Dame’s Cierre Wood Gets hauled down by the face mask by a Navy defender Saturday afternoon. The Irish defeated the Midshipment 56-14. (Daily News Photo/BRYAN WILD)

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Notre Dame manhandles Navy 56-14

Published 6:29pm Sunday, October 30, 2011

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team, who had lost the last two games against the United States Naval Academy, didn’t have any problems on Saturday as they easily dismantled the Midshipmen by the count of 56-14.

The Irish capitalized on all seven of their red zone opportunities on the day with seven rushing touchdowns, three of them by senior tailback Jonas Gray.

Navy took the opening kickoff and drove 44 yards to the Notre Dame 30-yard line and took nearly eight minutes off the clock. After converting on several third down plays along the way, it was at the 30 where the drive was stuffed by the Irish defense and the Midshipmen had to settle for a 47-yard field goal attempt that went wide left.

The Irish took possession of the football on their own 30 and didn’t waste any time moving it down field. A first down completion from Tommy Rees to standout receiver Michael Floyd for a gain of 25 yards put the Irish in Navy territory. After a 9-yard carry by Gray, another pass in Floyd’s direction ended with a defensive pass interference penalty and the Irish had first and 10 at the Navy 21-yard line. Gray would get three consecutive carries, the last being a 4-yard plunge into the end zone giving the Irish the early 7-0 lead.

Navy then went three and out to put the Irish back in business offensively.

The Irish only needed six plays to increase their lead to 14-0, this time on a 1-yard dive from junior running back Cierre Wood. The drive consisted of three pass plays and three runs covering 63 yards, the biggest of those being a 37-yard completion from Rees to Theo Riddick.

The Irish defense, led by linebacker Manti Te’o, once again held the Midshipmen in check forcing another three and out. But this time the Irish offense sputtered as a lateral intended for Riddick fell to the ground and was recovered by the Naval Academy.

With the ball at the Irish 27-yard line, the Midshipmen used six plays to cut the Irish lead to 14-7 as quarterback Trey Miller found split back Gee Gee Greene wide open from nine yards out for the easy touchdown. However, the Irish offense recovered quickly from their miscue as Rees found Floyd for 56 yards on the first play from scrimmage and Floyd would do the rest avoiding a couple of defenders on his way into the end zone for the 21-7 lead.

Notre Dame freshman kicker Kyle Brindza, who normally kicks the ball deep in the end zone, kicked off shorter than normal and that caused problems for the Midshipmen as Marcus Thomas could not corral the kick and the Irish recovered the muffed kicked at the Navy 22-yard line.

Four plays later and Gray was in the end zone for his second touchdown and suddenly the close 14-7 game was turning into a blowout at 28-7 with the Irish scoring twice in a matter of two minutes.

After another three and out possession by Navy, the Irish put together an 11-play drive that lasted just over four minutes and ended with Wood once again diving in from 1-yard out for his second touchdown of the game and a 35-7 Irish lead heading to the intermission.

The Irish offense sputtered early in the second half as they went three and out and was forced to punt for the first and only time in the game. The defense bent a little once again allowing the Midshipmen to drive the ball 69 yards before finally stopping them on a fourth down play and getting the ball back for their offense.

This time the Irish offense moved 86 yards in a matter of nine plays, with Wood gaining 42 of those yards on the ground. The Irish capped the drive with a 10-yard run by Floyd bringing the score to 42-7.

Navy once again turned the ball over on downs, this time in their own end of the field and once again the Irish capitalized with Gray scoring his third touchdown of the game giving the Irish six rushing touchdowns on the day, and Gray’s three were the most by an Irish running back since 2007 when Travis Thomas scored three against Navy.

With the Irish leading 49-7 with 10 minutes left in the game, the Irish offense committed another turnover, this time Rees threw an interception. The Midshipmen once again capitalized on the Irish miscue, this time taking just two plays to score as Jarvis Cummings rushed in from 12 yards out bringing the score to 49-14.

A 10-play drive led by backup quarterback Dayne Crist, capped off by a 1-yard plunge by George Atkinson III, gave the Irish the 56-14 lead finishing the scoring for the day.

Rees led the way for the Irish finishing 16 for 22 for 237 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while his main target Michael Floyd finished with six receptions for 121 yards and two touchdowns (one rushing). But the bigger story for the Irish was the seven-for-seven in red zone attempts with seven rushing touchdowns marking the first time the Irish has had seven rushing touchdowns in a game since 1992 when they had seven against Purdue.

The Irish improve to 5-3 on the season and will travel to Wake Forest to face the (5-3) Demon Deacons who lost to North Carolina Saturday 49-24.

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