Irish escape Navy upset big

Published 8:40 am Monday, November 4, 2013


Notre Dame's George Atkinson III heads to the end zone against Navy Saturday. (Leader photo/KELLY SWEENEY)

Notre Dame’s George Atkinson III heads to the end zone against Navy Saturday. (Leader photo/KELLY SWEENEY)

NOTRE DAME – Notre Dame needed a ton of offense, a timely stop by freshman outside linebacker Jaylon Smith, and a little luck to overcome the valiant effort put forth by the Naval Academy in 38-34 win Saturday afternoon in Notre Dame Stadium.

Navy’s triple option offense gave Notre Dame’s defense everything it could handle and then some as the Midshipmen 331 rushing yards and accounted for four of Navy’s five touchdowns on the day.

It took Smith’s huge late-game stop of Navy back Shawn Lynch on a fourth-and-four end around play deep in Irish territory to seal the game for the home team.

Irish coach Brian Kelly said his team was “thrilled” to just come away with a win; and that the Irish defense shouldn’t receive a shellacking in the press or from fans for giving up the most rushing yards they’ve allowed all season.

“They (Navy) executed their offense flawlessly today,” Kelly said. “Their offense is hard enough to defend against as it is, so when they don’t take any penalties or turn the ball over they’re going to be extremely tough to beat, which they were.

“From a defensive standpoint, you just throw this game out. These guys haven’t seen an offense like that all year and they probably won’t see another one like it again. So to say that they didn’t play well today would be unfair. Those kids on the other side executed their offense extremely well, but when our guys needed to make a play with the game on the line they did. There’s no asterisk beside this win.”

Offensively, the Irish received a huge boost from freshman tailback Tarean Folston who gained more yards against Navy (140) than he did throughout the course of the season (116) to that point. Folston also scored the game winning touchdown (the first of his career) with just under four minutes remaining in the game.

Irish quarterback Tommy Rees turned in another solid performance as he hooked up with Ben Koyack and T.J. Jones for touchdowns and threw for 242 yards on 12-of-20 passing. He made two questionable throws that turned into Navy interceptions, but luckily for him the Midshipmen only got six points out of the pair of them.

“Folston was the hot hand and we were happy to go with him down the stretch. A game like that could work wonders for a freshman’s confidence. We’ll take a lot of positives from this game and hopefully build on them moving forward,” Kelly said.

Cam McDaniel and George Atkinson III each added rushing touchdowns of their own to the winning Irish effort.

Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds scored three rushing touchdowns and threw for another one as he paced the Midshipmen offense on the day. He finished with 53 yards on the ground and 88 yards through the air.

Chris Swain (85) and Quinton Singleton (77) led Navy’s rushing attack with Swain also adding an 11 yard touchdown run.

The Irish (7-2) will now travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers next week.