Dexter Williams ran for three touchdowns as Notre Dame raced out to a 27-0 halftime lead, and the Irish survived a sloppy second half to defeat Navy by 44-22 before a sellout crowd in San Diego, California. Ian Book completed 27 of 33 passes for 330 yards in another solid performance, and the junior accounted for 50 of the team’s 254 rushing yards. Williams finished with 142 yards and Miles Boykin had two touchdown receptions in the second half. Notre Dame moves to 8-0 on the season and will hold onto the number three position when the college football playoff rankings are released this week.
The Irish stumbled out of the gate as Boykin fumbled the ball away after catching a pass on the game’s first play. Notre Dame’s defense asserted itself quickly by stopping Navy on a fourth down play and holding them to just two first downs in the half. Meanwhile, Notre Dame found traction on the ground and met little resistance as it built an insurmountable lead.
The Midshipmen came out firing in the third quarter, as Malcolm Perry repeatedly broke containment on the outside pitch play. His 58-yard romp set up Navy’s first touchdown, and the Irish defenders appeared to forget how to tackle. Although the outcome was never really in danger, the Midshipmen embarrassed Notre Dame on several occasions with long runs, a couple of passes and 22 second half points. Meanwhile, Book and Boykin combined to pad the the Irish point total and maintain a safe advantage.
One bit of drama occurred early in the fourth quarter with the Irish ahead by 37-14. Book threw an errant pass that was picked off by Jacob Springer and returned to the Notre Dame 25. The Midshipmen scored two plays later to pull within 37-22, but the Irish answered with a 75-yard scoring march to ice the game. The defense recovered down the stretch to force two Navy turnovers while the offense ran out the clock.
Besides a lackluster second half where the team appeared to lose focus, an ankle injury that knocked linebacker Drue Tranquill out of the game and into a walking boot was the only negative takeaway from this contest. Fortunately, Tranquill’s injury is not as severe as it first appeared to be on the field, although his status for next week is uncertain.
Let’s review the answers to the pregame questions.
Can the Irish defense hold containment on the edges to stop the pitch play? Yes and no. They did a wonderful job of stuffing the option in the first half, but were repeatedly gashed by Perry and others in the second.
Will Notre Dame’s patchwork offensive line get the running game back on track? Definitely, although most of us in the stands were wondering why Brian Kelly elected to throw the ball 33 times against an obviously outmanned Navy defense.
Can the Irish get off to a fast start and play the game with the lead? Yes, so the extra week of rest was just the tonic the Irish needed.
Will Navy have any trick plays in its arsenal to surprise the Irish? A double reverse went nowhere, but Garret Lewis did connect on a 34-yard pass to Mychal Cooper, who beat Notre Dame’s Julian Love on the play.
Can Notre Dame’s special teams finally dominate in this phase of the game? No, there were lots of fair catches and no excitement. Kicker Justin Yoon sat out the game with a groin strain, and Jonathan Doerer handled the job quite well after a shaky start.
Will the Irish defenders stay healthy while battling Navy’s aggressive blocking schemes? The loss of Tranquill for any stretch of time would be a tough blow to this defense as we move into November.
Will Notre Dame decide to move its campus to San Diego after a weekend in paradise? It was a glorious day, but the reason the NFL’s Chargers moved out of San Diego would also apply to the Irish. No team and its fans would want to play its games in that ancient, decrepit stadium. What a dump.