by Mike Coffey
SeanFL reads-and-reacts to Notre Dame’s bipolar-ish victory over the Midshipmen of the University of Navy.
There may come a day Notre Dame doesn’t have to sweat out a Navy game ever again. That day cannot come soon enough. Notre Dame’s defense, which was largely absent most of the day, came up with one final stop in the closing minute to defeat Navy 38-34. This game was marred by two turnovers, a number of big penalties, poor defensive play and more than a few injuries.
Both offenses moved the ball without much resistance. Notre Dame used a dominating running game and efficient passing game to break 500 yards in total offense. However, two costly turnovers, one deep in Navy territory, kept the Irish from adding more points to the scoreboard.
For Navy’s offense, it was déjà vu all over again. The Midshipmen ran for 331 yards. Five players rushed for over 48 yards. Keenan Reynolds hurt the Irish with play action passes and was very efficient running the offense. Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco did not have a good game plan and the defense regressed mightily against the option attack. The Notre Dame defensive line depth was tested as players were limping off the field on what seemed like every drive in the 2nd half. Navy’s offense did not turn the ball over and did not commit one penalty. Actually, that is a lie. The Navy offense had about 15 false start penalties, multiple holding penalties and about 3 helmet-to-helmet hits. Unfortunately, this “officiating” crew conveniently seemed to miss them all. That is a whole other argument for another day.
Tommy Rees gave the Irish another solid, but inconsistent performance. While one can forgive his first interception due to TJ Jones slipping on the field, his second interception was a poor play on his part. He did look good on play action bootleg passes, and came up with a big 3rd down conversion late to Troy Niklas. TJ Jones, Niklas and Ben Koyack continue to be the players Rees relies on and each made huge plays for the Irish. A large kudos goes to the Notre Dame running backs and offensive line for a tremendous effort. The Irish lined up and ran right at Navy to the tune of 264 yards. While George Atkinson hit the homerun with a 41-yard scamper, and Cam McDaniel was solid, the star was Tarean Folston. Folston ran for 140 yards, 1 touchdown and was the workhorse down the stretch. He will only continue to get better as he becomes more comfortable in the offense. The offensive line played as if Joe Moore had been brought back to life. They opened gaping holes, dominated down the stretch and kept Tommy Rees off his back all game. It was a joy to watch.
Let’s answer the pregame questions:
Will Notre Dame have more rushing or passing attempts? Rushing, much to our surprise. 36 rushing attempts to 20 pass attempts. The final Notre Dame drive was circa 1992.
Can Kennan Reynolds channel his inner Ricky Dobbs? Yes. Reynolds ran this offense to perfection and still has two more years left at Navy.
Can the Notre Dame defensive line stop the fullback dive? No. Navy continually gained 5 yards or more on most fullback handoffs.
Who will commit the costly turnovers? Notre Dame had two turnovers, one of which came at the Navy 11 yard line.
Can Tommy Rees stay healthy? Yes. The offensive linemen kept Tommy’s jersey clean all game.
How long before the first F bomb is dropped in the Romper Room after kickoff? About 3 minutes after kickoff. I dropped the first one after George Atkinson’s touchdown run.
This Notre Dame team does not win pretty. They win ugly. Sometimes it is really ugly. The blame for this starts with the head coach and trickles all the way down the roster. However, they keep winning more than they lose. Maybe they are no better than the 25th best team in the country. Maybe they don’t deserve a BSC Bowl. Maybe Brian Kelly is just really lucky. Or maybe these kids deserve a ton of credit for being 7-2 after dealing with a lot of adversity since January 7th. Maybe this is the year we close the BCS era with a surprise win. And perhaps, while not Lou Holtz or Nick Saban, and even though he may frustrate the hell out of the fan base at times, Brian Kelly is a good coach who continues to get this team to believe they can win.
By the way, I love you Dad. You instilled the passion and love I have for the University of Notre Dame and the football team. I will forever be thankful to you for that gift. Go Irish!