A win over Navy is seldom reason to cheer, though back to back wins over Navy by 40 points hasn’t been accomplished since Ara Parseghian. But Saturday’s win left Irish fans, hungry for the toughness Kelly promised, with at least the taste of old Irish fight. Unlike last year’s blowout which was accomplished largely through the air, the Irish ground the Midshipmen down on both sides of the line of scrimmage Saturday running for the most running yards of any Irish team since 2003.
This all means little unless the Irish can win in the trenches against Michigan State’s vaunted front line or contain Michigan’s Robinson, but for the first time in it’s hard to remember when, the Irish have shown a commitment to toughness.
As noted in You Can’t WIN Unless You Run I’ve felt that Kelly squandered BCS possibilities by putting too much burden on quarterbacks who simply couldn’t handle it. Saturday the Irish used a two and even three tight-end offense to devastating effect against an overwhelmed Navy defense.
The Irish defense held Navy to just 3.7 yards per carry, while the offense averaged 6.4 yards per rush. The Irish had 6 runs of over 10 yards and 17 runs over 7 yards or more.
A look at the blocking below shows just how dominant the Irish were. In the top frame, George Atkinson had just two defenders to beat with one blocker on the entire left side of the field.
In this frame, McDaniel makes one blitzer miss and has a wall of blockers down the left side of the field.
In my opinion, Kelly’s always been good at setting up big runs( “big chunk runs” as he calls them,) which makes this offense very attractive to game-breaking backs, but on Saturday, the Irish running game was also strong in the red zone.
You wouldn’t know it by this shot, but the line of scrimmage was the 11 yard line when this run started. Lead tight end blocker, Tyler Eifert, is a full six yards down the field (5 yard line) before he has to make his first block. Riddick, tucked in behind him, easily makes the endzone.
And on Riddick’s red zone touchdown, one quick move gave him maybe not a truck sized hole, but at least a Mini-Cooper sized entre into the endzone.
This is, of course, against undersized and out-manned Navy, but Irish are at least showcasing a power running game that relies heavily on a veteran offensive line that Kelly praised after the game.
“They communicate very well, they work well together. They work as a unit. And I’ve had offensive lines where we had singularly great players at certain positions. I think the thing that stands out with this group is that all five, including the tight ends as they attach themselves, really work well together. There’s not a lot of missed assignments and miscommunication. And I think that was the overriding theme in our film study today is that as a unit they work very well together.”
True Toughness will be shown over the next few weeks against the Michigans, but for the first time in years, Notre Dame is at least showing it can run for dough. Given Alabama’s recent success with such a two-tight end offense, it’s the hope here that Kelly and Martin don’t default back to the pass with a very green, if talented, quarterback in Golson.
Note to Swarbrick: Don’t change the uniforms (outside of the cleats), they’re perfect.