Returning rivalry results in Irish win over Navy, 34-6

Published 7:12 pm Sunday, November 7, 2021

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — As the F-18s flew over Notre Dame Stadium Saturday afternoon, the thundering jet engines not only woke up the fans, but also a legendary rivalry.

Having lost out on last year’s matchup due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly and the Fighting Irish charged in to face the unpredictable triple-option offense of the Navy Midshipmen.

While seemingly a textbook matchup on paper, as Notre Dame led the series 77-13-1 heading in, that unpredictable Navy offense has led to tough matchups in prior years. The question was whether Kelly’s defense could contain that option. The Irish answered that question definitively with a 34-6 victory.

“We played very well,” said Kelly. “We trusted the guy next to each other and got back to the foundational principles of playing really good defense. That is communication, assignment, tackling, and that was on display today.”

Tackling was a major factor for the Irish, with a total of 66 on the day and holding the Midshipmen at bay. This resulted in a safety for the defense and the first for the program since 2017.

The standout on the defensive front came from defensive lineman Kurt Hinish with 10 tackles and one sack, resulting in his best game this season and a game-ball-winning performance. J.D. Bertrand followed close behind with nine tackles of his own, leading to 71 total tackles this season.

Other standouts came from the Irish offense, albeit with a slow start, with a strong effort from the running game. Kyren Williams led with 95 rushing yards,36 passing and earned himself two of the four touchdowns in the game. Not to be outdone, fellow running back Logan Diggs also had a touchdown and added 59 rushing yards, his highest this season. Williams and Diggs combined for 154 yards on the day.

The Fighting Irish passing game also continues to grow with a strong performance from quarterback Jack Coan. He completed 23-of-29 passes on the day, resulting in 269 yards, including a momentum-building 70-yard touchdown pass to receiver Kevin Austin.

Emphasized even more than the action on the field was the event itself. In addition to being Military Appreciation Day at Notre Dame Stadium, Saturday was the revival of one of college football’s oldest standing rivalries. The yearly matchup was the most consistent in college football at 92 consecutive games before last year’s cancellation.

“Navy’s a difficult opponent to play,” Kelly said. “But it’s all worth it when you get a chance to go hand in hand with the Naval Academy as they sing their alma mater. Where else in sport does that happen? Where you play it on the field, and intense competition, and then our players arm in arm with their players as their alma mater was being sung. It’s pretty special.”

Kelly announced a 10-game extension with Navy, ensuring that these special moments and memories would continue.