BY: Jeff Schneberk
Notre Dame had a game yesterday that most of us hate watching because when Notre Dame plays a team capable of upsetting Notre Dame, they usually do upset them.
Then all the fans get upset. Then they start to swear a lot (if they haven’t already).
The Navy offense took us for a ride yesterday, they have become known for that. I would rather 17 games against USC or Boston College each year as opposed to one game with any of the service academies (Navy, Army).
In yesterday’s case, Navy’s triple-option offense had Notre Dame guessing for most of the game. Their final drive of the day nearly worked; if it did work, Navy probably would have won.
Instead, the Irish took the game, 38-34 and nailed their 4th win in a row.
Notre Dame needed one more stop with 1:08 left in the game and freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith helped make it happen.
Smith and Eilar Hardy combined to snuff out an end-around by Navy’s Shawn Lynch on fourth-and-4 in Irish territory, and Notre Dame held on 38-34 Saturday.
The Midshipmen ran for 331 yards, 207 in the first half. On Navy’s final drive, it ran the ball four straight plays for 18 yards and had it second-and-5 from the Notre Dame 32.
The Notre Dame defense had its worst performance since the 2010 Navy debacle in the Meadowlands. There is no other way to say and no point in sugar coating. The defense was just atrocious yesterday, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some positives to take from it. One positive was the play of Ben Councell before his injury and Eliar Hardy – two players many Notre Dame fans had written off at this point.
That is almost always the case when it comes to the Navy games. The Navy always has potential to beat Notre Dame. For about half of yesterday afternoon’s game from South Bend, I thought it just might happen too.
It did not, of course, but a closer glance at that final score of 38-34, which is way too many points to allow the service academy, it is a wonder how Notre Dame winds up winning so many games that could have easily gone the other way.
The ND defense was carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey as the Midshipmen racked up over 300 yards just by running the ball.
Trying to argue that the Irish should have blasted them doesn’t make any sense either, and trying to suggest that Notre Dame is a better team than this Navy result, is even more pointless.
The Irish have three more tests before the end of the season. Right now, they are back in BCS contention. They are back to within the BCS AP Top 10. However a loss in either one of their remaining three games will pretty much eliminate them from a BCS bowl game this winter.
So, what did we learn from the Week 10 game?
Coach Brian Kelly said he was “ecstatic” to escape this contest with a win, that his guys would enjoy all 24 hours of their allotted celebration time.
But after so much talk this week about the confidence built up from three straight wins over Arizona State, USC and Air Force, he recognized the outlier that Navy was, how liberating the sigh of relief that washed over the building was once Smith stopped Shawn Lynch on Navy’s final play, a fourth-and-4 end-around from the Irish 31.
“This is one, just throw it away,” Kelly said. “It’s such a different game. It’s defending the quarterback, lead play, and it’s just you’re ready for one game and the Naval Academy and what they do and how they do it, and then the next week it’s a totally different situation. That’s why it’s such a difficult game to play.
“Nobody runs this option as effectively, and when they are on and they’re not turning the football over — and that’s what they did today — it’s a one-shot deal with them. Find a way to beat them and move on.”
And it is no surprise that the Midshipmen were able to run for 331 yards.
TJ Jones scored a touchdown for the 6th straight game yesterday and racked up over 100 yards receiving in the first half alone before Notre Dame realized it could just run on every down and not be stopped by the Navy defense. Jones’s big game gave him a career high in receiving yards in a single season with 742 while being just two receptions short of tying his single season personal best as well. Jones has become an all around receiver for the Irish and has the chance to top 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns this year at his current pace. Jones has scored a touchdown in all but the Temple and Purdue games – the two games in which Davaris Daniels has scored his only touchdowns of the season.
Stat of the game… The Fighting Irish came out on top despite turning the ball over twice and losing the time-of-possession battle by more than 15 minutes.
Next up is a game against the 4-4 Pittsburgh Panthers. The game will be played at Heinz Field where the Pittsburgh Steelers play. The Panthers are part of the ACC and it will be another night game for Notre Dame.