by John Vannie
Brady Quinn passed for three touchdowns and ran for another as Notre Dame defeated Navy 38-14 on Saturday. Quinn hit 18 of 25 passes for 295 yards, and once again demonstrated that the rush by ABC and ESPN to award the Heisman trophy to Ohio State’s Troy Smith is not only premature, but also misguided.
The Irish jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead in the first quarter after a 40 yard field goal by Carl Gioia and Quinn’s 36 yard scoring pass to David Grimes. Navy moved the ball well on its first possession, but a third down sack by Victor Abiamiri and a missed field goal by Matt Harmon killed the drive.
Navy came back in the second quarter to score twice, but the Irish matched each score with one of their own to take a 24-14 lead at the half. Paul Johnson’s option attack shredded Rick Minter’s defense throughout the period by ripping off huge chunks of yardage, and Irish fans began to question the team’s preparation. Notre Dame answered with a 33 yard pass to Rhema McKnight and a 16 yard scoring burst by Travis Thomas. The touchdown by Thomas came on his only carry of the afternoon.
Prior to halftime, the Irish could not match the quickness and deception of quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada and wingback Reggie Campbell. The Middies were consistently able to get to the outside against Notre Dame and keep the heavily favored Irish on their heels. The first three Navy possessions resulted in two scores and over 200 yards of offense, but the tables turned dramatically after intermission.
Navy took the second half kickoff and quickly went three and out, setting the stage for Quinn’s 19 yard scramble to paydirt and a 31-14 lead. The Middies tried to answer by moving into Irish territory, but solid hits by Terrail Lambert and Maurice Crum followed by a fourth down sack ended what turned out to be Navy’s last threat of the game.
As the game moved into the fourth quarter, Quinn completed his stellar day by hitting McKnight on a six yard rollout pass to stretch the lead to 38-14. Notre Dame’s second team defense was stout the rest of the way and Coach Charlie Wes substituted freely on both sides of the ball. Punter Geoff Price may have been the only Notre Dame player not to see action, only because his services were not needed.
The Midshipmen, who had been averaging three fumbles per game, handled the ball flawlessly until late in the game. A botched double reverse left the ball on the ground deep in Navy territory, but the Middies recovered and punted it away. Navy’s final possession ended after a sack by Notre Dame jarred the ball loose from backup quarterback Jason Bryant and the Irish recovered.
Anthony Vernaglia was the only Notre Dame player to suffer an injury (knee) on the day, but its severity is not known at this time. The game closely followed the predicted script, and the Irish should be in good position to defend similar attacks by future opponents Air Force and Army.
In the meantime, Weis continues his search for a running game to balance the offense. Darius Walker gained 103 yards on the day, but the offensive line faltered when it had golden opportunities to run the ball in for scores. Fortunately for Notre Dame, Quinn was there to make sure it didn’t matter.
John’s Top 20
1. Ohio State
3. West Virginia
5. Notre Dame
14. Boston College
15. Virginia Tech
16. Texas A&M;
19. Georgia Tech
20. (tie) Rutgers, Boise State, Wake Forest, Missouri
John’s Bottom Ten
2. (tie) Miami (Fla.) and Florida State
3. Michigan State
5. Anyone from the MAC
8. North Carolina
9. San Diego State
Dishonorable mention: Northwestern, Minnesota and the State of Mississippi