Irish Stumble Past Navy

Just when you begin to believe in the 2022 Fighting Irish, the team finds another way of reminding us how fragile they are. Drew Pyne’s career best passing performance staked Notre Dame to a 35-13 halftime lead but the Irish elected to sleepwalk through the final two quarters before holding on to survive a determined comeback by the Midshipmen for a 35-32 win. Notre Dame finished with 66 yards rushing against a significantly undersized opponent.

Navy’s run blitzes were relentless and mostly effective all day, but Pyne countered early with two quick scoring passes to Audric Estime and Braden Lenzy. After Lenzy literally stole the ball away from Midshipmen cornerback Mbiti Williams at the goal line, Notre Dame had a 14-0 lead with just over ten minutes gone in the contest.

Drew Pyne and Braden Lenzy finally teamed up for a touchdown pass.

Navy responded quickly and sent a message to the Irish that they were not going to roll over. Quarterback Xavier Arline hit Mark Walker with a 34 yard pass on third down, and fullback Daba Fofana rumbled for a 36-yard touchdown on the next play. A missed extra point left the score at 14-6 late in the first quarter.

Pyne’s passes found wide open receivers down the field as the Midshipmen continued to gamble by overloading the line of scrimmage. Receptions by Jaden Thomas and Michael Mayer moved the visitors into scoring territory before Pyne found Chris Tyree alone in the left flat for a score. Notre Dame now led by 21-6 with 12:27 remaining in the half.

The Navy battle plan was obviously to stop the Irish ground game at all costs and force Pyne to beat them with his arm. It seemed like a fool’s errand at that point but the Midshipmen remained stubborn. Meanwhile, Arline and Fofana pumped life into the Navy offense. Consecutive long runs by each of them set up a short scoring plunge by Arline after an Irish interception was negated by a holding penalty. The Irish appeared to miss safety Brandon Joseph and linebacker J.D. Bertrand, who were given the day off to heal their bruised bodies after two months of assault and battery.

Now trailing 21-13 midway through the second period, Navy tried its first onside kick of the day. Prince Kollie recovered at midfield for Notre Dame. Pyne could not take advantage of the short field, however, as Blake Grupe missed yet another field goal. The Midshipmen returned the favor by getting too cute on the next play. A reverse pass from Kai Puailoa-Ramos to Arline was well diagnosed and intercepted by Clarence Lewis at the Navy 41.

Estime broke numerous tackles on his way to the ten yard line, and Pyne scrambled into the end zone on the next play. Notre Dame now led by 28-13 with just over two minutes left before intermission. The Irish defense held on the ensuing series as Coach Marcus Freeman used his timeouts to preserve time on the clock.

I would say that what happened next was a surprise but a punt block by Notre Dame is no longer front page news. Jack Kiser got a hand on this one and Notre Dame was in business at the Midshipmen 37. Pyne wasted no time finding Thomas on a perfectly thrown deep ball over the middle to stake the Irish to a 35-13 advantage. Navy had no time to answer and the half ended with smiles on the faces of the Notre Dame players and coaches.

One would expect most teams to be shattered by the devastating finish to the first half. Navy proved it is an exception to that rule by fighting back. Their first possession of the second half turned into points when Irish safety D.J. Brown was caught holding on a fourth down pass. It was the second such foul on Brown at a very inopportune time. The Midshipmen managed only a short field goal to reduce its deficit to 35-16 but they held the ball for nearly ten minutes.

Notre Dame’s offense visibly lacked any spark when it finally got its hands on the ball. The Irish ran only five plays in the third quarter but the first play of the final period was disastrous. A Pyne pass on third and long was batted up in the air by Navy and intercepted by John Marshall deep in Notre Dame territory.

Arline hit Walker on the next play from 23 yards out for a quick score, and the slippery quarterback snuck over the goal line to complete a two point conversion. Just a few seconds had elapsed and suddenly Notre Dame led by only 35-24.

The fired up Navy defense turned up the pressure on Pyne. Three sacks on the next possession forced an Irish punt as the pass protection could not pick up blitzes from all angles. Notre Dame squandered good field position on its next two chances by failing to generate a first down. The Midshipmen added two more sacks for a total of five in the second half.

With time becoming a factor and Arline nursing a sore ankle, Navy Coach Ken Nuimatalolo brought in Maasai Maynor at quarterback to crank up the passing game. The Midshipmen got the ball back at their own 12-yard line with under five minutes remaining. Maynor got them rolling with a scramble for a first down and a pass to Vincent Terrell to move the chains. When the Irish defense backed off a bit to play more of a pass coverage scheme, Maynor handed the ball to fullback Anton Hall. Hall responded with runs for three more first downs to advance the ball to the red zone.

After spiking the ball at the 1:28 mark, Maynor fired a 20-yard strike into the end zone to Maquel Haywood, who beat Lewis on the play. Now trailing by 35-30, the Midshipmen called for another two point conversion attempt. Terrell took a pitch wide and dove across the pylon to make it a 35-32.

The game had now come down to another onside kick with 1:21 on the clock. Coach Brian Mason’s gang saved the day for Notre Dame as Matt Salerno cleanly fielded the attempt. The Irish knelt down in victory formation but also in a state of great relief.

Each half could not have been more different. Notre Dame had fewer than ten net yards of offense in the second half, including negative rushing yardage. The offensive line failed in pass protection and the staff could not figure out how to find the holes as the Midshipmen defenders gambled on virtually every snap. Defensively, the Irish defaulted back to arm tackling and coverage lapses that nearly cost them the win. Truthfully, Notre Dame’s players trudged off the field as if they were on the losing end.

Let’s look at the answers to the pregame questions.

  • Can the Irish defense cover their assigned gaps without costly breakdowns? They covered the wide plays fairly well but Navy hurt them with the fullback dive and several scrambles by Arline. The absence of Bertrand should not have been a major factor in this game but it sure turned out that way. The other Irish linebackers looked lost.
  • Will Pyne and his wide receivers manage to get more closely acquainted? The first half was very uplifting in that regard. Thomas and Lenzy looked great and Pyne was more accurate than we have seen lately.
  • Can Notre Dame match its Clemson game output with 263 rushing yards? Only if we’re talking about the defense giving up 255 yards on the ground to Navy. As for the Irish, they came up about 200 yards short.
  • Which team will win the turnover battle? The teams traded second half interceptions, so no advantage there.
  • Can Notre Dame’s special teams provide another highlight reel play? Another game, another blocked punt. The offense could not capitalize but the Irish special teams also pitched in by recovering two onside kicks.
  • Will the Irish defenders tackle with the same enthusiasm we saw last week? No, it was back to impersonating a group of matadors.
  • Can Freeman and his staff find playing time for the entire traveling squad? A lot of guys played on defense but I have a feeling it was because Freeman was desperately looking for someone who could make a stop.
  • Will the Navy secondary survive its collisions with Estime? Audric was a battering ram in the first half and the Midshipmen ran away from him on his early touchdown reception. Unfortunately Estime and the rest of the offense could not find any room to run after halftime.

The roller coaster ride continues with this team with no end in sight. Boston College is next and they appear to be about as dangerous as Stanford or Marshall. In other words, make sure your heart and blood pressure prescriptions are refilled before next Saturday.

59 thoughts on “Irish Stumble Past Navy

  1. Scott M. Friery says:

    Defense made adjustments to stop the FB dive. Offense, however, made no adjustment to the constant blitzing. This was the difference. Plain and simple. If something isn’t working, DO SOMETHING ELSE until you find the weakness!! Al Golden did it, but Rees failed miserably. The defense was gassed by the middle of the 4th qtr. Can you blame them?

    Pyne missed his WIDE OPEN safety valve on numerous occasions trying to play the hero swinging for the fence. I don’t understand it. go through your progression! He didn’t even look that way once when it would have helped his team.

    A W is a W, no matter how ugly. Don’t let down next week!

    • Pyne and Rees are in over their heads. Pyne has no ability to run, and is a below average passer who locks in on one reciever.

      • Completely accurate, hopefully changes are made next year at the Offensive Coordinator and Quarterback positions next year.

  2. It is very common for a team to have a letdown after a big win like we had last last week. What bothered me most was how good Pyne was in the 1st half; the TD pass to Thomas was right on the money. Then the 2nd half….back to reality. The TV commentator said he was holding the ball too long when receivers were open. The kid gives it his all, but is his height a problem??

  3. JVAN,

    Another embarrassing 2nd half performance by the Irish…

    Did they really think Navy was going to lay down at halftime and call it a game?!

    If the Irish don’t want to play four quarters against the Mids, then schedule them every five years and forget about the history… This is a Navy team that lost to Delaware!!

    On to BC..

  4. Who says you can’t run out the clock with 15:00 left in the 3rd quarter???

    The Irish better be looking for a QB in the transfer portal for next year now!

  5. Nice analysis John! I’m just THANKFUL ND won the game!! I can’t imagine how I would be right now had ND lost this game!! John, do you think it was more ND going thru the motions or Navy making the adjustments that caused this game to be too close for comfort? GO IRISH BEAT BC!!!!!!!!!

    • Joe,

      When a team gambles with blitzes as much as Navy did, they leave holes where there are plays to be made by the offense. Notre Dame did this in the first half but could not adjust to a few wrinkles that Navy put in after halftime. Pyne is partly to blame for not reading things correctly but the offensive line and backs did not block well to give him much time. It was an inexcusable meltdown in that the Irish coaches could not stop the bleeding and find answers by the fourth quarter. ND had good field position in the fourth and just needed one score to end the drama but shat themselves on every possession.

      • Power 5 teams are built for power and don’t fair well against quick, agile opponents. Throw in an offense that you see once a year is why most Power 5 teams never play Navy. Additionally there is no upside to thrashing an academy team. I get and support this game, but it’s definitely a win and move on situation.

      • ♥️#50☘️ says:

        HIT the NAIL on the HEAD Vannie! We shouldn’t be having these growing pains considering all of the coach staff is back except for two! Sounds like two things are missing from this team ……. COACHING and DISCIPLINE!!!!!!!

  6. Time for Rees to go somewhere like a Community College and sorry, Pyne too – Only if Freeman had a set to make it happen. Portal ( Hopefully, here we come) 16 yds 2nd half – Really ?

  7. Kevin McNamara says:

    Team is sorely lacking the ability to change the play at the line of scrimmage or make in-game adjustments. Pyne, offensive staff and defense all seemed to be lost in second half. The success of Navy blitzes was stunning: a credit to Navy and an embarrassment to ND. 16 second half yards? Figure it out now…SC must be licking their chops.

  8. Irish in the South says:

    A very disappointing second half. We were lucky to squeak by. The midshipmen never quit. We should know that by now.

  9. I hope Marcus, Tom and AL enjoyed the beer and hotdogs they obviously ran out at halftime to enjoy instead of planning out the second half. As I watched the second half I kept thinking about the 74 game against USC. Thankfully it didn’t get that bad!

    • Don’t think about the ’74 USC game unless you were a player or a coach or staff. Only members of the team should be allowed to because it was a situation where you had to be there in person to know why the second half happened as it did.
      Today was a win. That’s always the preference.

      • Irish in the South says:

        From reading much on that ’74 USC game, I understand it was a key factor leading to Ara’s resignation as HC. It was as if the teams traded uniforms at halftime. The USC game always seems to have important ramifications for our team and our coaching staff. And it will this year.

      • Why? I saw USC score 35 points in the third quarter. Did someone put something in the water at halftime? Did the white horse scare them? The Irish looked pretty good in the first half of that game.

  10. A good coach is a good coach. The special teams coach turned things around in less than a year. Clark Lea, Elko et al each had the defense doing well in their first year. Rees has had enough time to work things out and he is responsible for the poor QB recruiting, QB play, and offensive ineptness.

    The 3rd string QB from Navy was more impressive than Pyne but why the true frosh for ND must ride the pine is a mortal sin. I can’t imagine he is worse than Pyne but then again with Rees at the helm maybe development is abysmal.

  11. Notre Dame need to learn how the Pros manage a game. Defense with 8 down linemen, Pass. Six or less down linemen, run the ball. Reese called a brilliant first half and then forgot what an offensive coordinator is supposed to know, pass against A STACKED LINE. These mistakes are so obvious, it makes you wonder how we win any games. Pathetic, 16 yards in the whole second half!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. . And I predict we can beat Southern Cal, Boy am I dreaming or what?

  12. This game did not surprise me at all. I expected a dog fight to the very end and that’s what happened. Navy has played tough defense all season, particularly against the run. They shot the gaps and jammed up the Irish running attack. By doing this they were saying to Tommy Rees and Drew Pyne – “now that we’ve stuffed your ground game…how are you going to beat us?” Neither Rees nor Pyne had any answers. That does not bode well for the rest of the season. My question for you Vannie, is how do you think Rees will counter the cover zero defenses he will surely see from BC and USC? Navy has provided them the blueprint they need to shut down the Irish offense.

    • Rees was ready for Navy’s run blitzes and called some nice downfield passes in the first half. Later, Navy came after Pyne with blitzes which could have been defeated with screens or quick passes to guys out wide. Pyne proved he is incapable of reading those defenses and getting the ball out quickly. He held it long enough to get sacked while still waiting for guys to come open downfield. It’s also on the coaches for not adjusting at all to this in the second half.

      Practice this week needs to address this issue and have some plays ready to counter blitzes from the corners of the defense. Big gains can be realized if Pyne is alert and can execute. Otherwise, opposing defenses will use this strategy until the cows come home. There are also running plays that can be employed when defenders blitz. Notre Dame did not run any counters and their slow develoing runs were ineffective.

      • I just watched the tape of Freeman’s post game presser. He indicated that it was his decision to force the run against the Navy cover zero defense instead of taking what they were giving (as ND did in the first half). With the game in hand, he wanted to prove to the team that they could run against an all out run blitz. I think this decision, while interesting, took ND out of its rhythm and resulted in the chaotic performance that followed. It’s just another lesson in the education of a rookie Head Coach. He also indicated that ND will definitely see that defensive look again and needs to be prepared for it. The other interesting bit to come out of the presser was his second thoughts about putting ND’s defense into a “prevent” approach, which proved to play into the hands of an option team. He’s learning under fire. I would like to be a fly on the wall for his weekly chit chat with Jim Tressel.

        • As I noted, there are different ways to run the ball. ND’s playbook in this area is limited and unimaginative. Freeman sounds as stubborn this week as Clemson’s defensive coordinator was last week. Both kept doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.

  13. This was completely unacceptable. Pathetic. A win is not good enough. We dominated a really bad team in the first half. A really bad three win team destroyed us in the second half. Rees has to be fired at seasons end. Pyne has not future in D 1 football

  14. Scott:

    I’ll take the chance of being once again being labeled a Cowardly Negative Nancy (CNN) by you, but this I must say: They really sucked in the 2nd half – it was EMBARRASSING and Navy came real close to beating them.

    I must have set a personal record of “WTF?”s as the 2nd half unfolded.

    • Awful, embarrassing 2nd half. ND was not outplayed, they were dominated by Navy. Inexcusable.

      Marcus, Al and Tommy had zero answers for Navy’s halftime adjustments. Pyne is a gutsy QB, but just cant get the ball out quickly, which, is the best way to counter a non stop blitzing scheme.

      As Vannie said, make sure your blood pressure scripts are filled for BC and Southern Cal. Always call them Southern Cal, they hate that moniker.

    • 1 Historian:

      Oh, there is no doubt they laid the proverbial egg in the second half. Personally, I think the 10-minute drive followed by a 3 and out killed the defense. They held them to 3 points on the 10-minute effort, so the D did its job despite the long drive by keeping Arline and Navy out of the end zone. However, to follow that up with a three and out? That was the killer to the D. No rest, no legs and they just got weaker from then on.

      I am right there with you on the “WTF” record. They played about as beautifully as they could in the first half… they carried the momentum over from the Clemson game – Dr. Jeckyl. Pyne had a hell of a first half, too! But, then came the second half – Mr. Hyde. Navy’s D coordinator made some nice adjustments while Rees made ZERO adjustments. So, I agree with you. He is in over his head when it comes to adjusting his scheme. When you write up a scheme, you have to massage in wrinkles and contingencies. He is good with the wrinkles, but terrible on contingencies.

      Now, to be fair, I called you only the Negative Nancy crowd. As such, I am the Negative Negative Nancy and will wear that with pride all week for calling you NN. So, I reckon we’re even, sir. 🙂

      I sincerely hope BC is the recipient of the punishment for this week.

  15. IMO we cannot blame the coaches for what happened in the 2nd half – it’s on the PLAYERS, and they should be embarrassed by what happened out there.

  16. Ventura Pop Pop says:

    You must be kidding. Pyne cannot block and pass at the same time. He seemed to be holding onto the ball a little too long on some plays, but overall he is doing a good job managing the games. Have we lost a game because of his errors? I do not think so. His limitations? He is gutsy and the offense plays for him. We are lucky to have him in the situation we are in. He reminds me of a gutsy and loyal backup named Rees.

    • Pyne cost ND the Stanford game, more for what he didn’t or couldn’t do than what he actually did. The team needs to upgrade the position if it hopes to become a legitimate contender.

  17. MF and Rees should hang their heads in shame after that embarrassment. Defense wasn’t much better either.
    This reminds me again of Jerry Faust. Occasonally, ND would wind a big game, look great and make you think they were over the hump. Then, they would play like crap as they did today.

    This pattern repeated itself for 5 years til Faust left for Akron.

    Unfortunately, I have seen this movie before. Not fun.

    • Freeman is no Faust. Faust was a high school coach tragically thrust into the college spotlight. He loved ND but didn’t have a clue about running a big time college program. Freeman was an all Big 10 linebacker at Ohio State and has 12 years of college coaching experience. Freeman’s win over Clemson proved to me that he is not a Faust or a Kuharich or a Hunk Anderson or a Davie or a Willingham or a Weis. The question is whether he is a Brennan, a Layden, or a Kelly. Or going to the next level is he a Rockne, a Leahy, an Ara, a Devine, or a Holtz. I truly think he can reach the highest level and put ND in a position to legitimately compete for national championships. He is only 36. He seems to sincerely value ND and its traditions. He seems to be dedicated to implementing a physical style of offense and defense that best fits ND. He is a tireless and very effective recruiter. I have high hopes but he is still in a learning stage. AD Swarbrick was playing the long game in appointing him. If you’ve worked in management and have had to hire people you are often put in the situation of going with an experienced person with proven limitations or an inexperienced person with unproven limitations. Time will tell. I remain optimistic. Navy was one more lesson for Freeman to master.

    • Faust always had the players because they came for Notre Dame, not him. It’s why there was the occasional big win, the talent uncorked despite the pathetic head coach. When they upset LSU, ever the fatuous oaf he made the victory about himself.


    I am not sure I have ever followed a more inconsistent team. All teams have ups and downs throughout a season, but this Irish team has a knack of going from really good to really bad from week to week and from half to half. Arline leaving the game was probably a key turning point. No injury and a few more minutes of game clock, and the Irish may have well lost.

    Oh well, this was not a great Navy team – in fact their record speaks other wise. This was the Irish being the Irish. ND will need to get much more consistent if they take on a tough team in a bowl in December. Oh, it’s been a roller coaster.

  19. John – once again a lesson in lack of experience comes through loud and clear. I was at the ND/Navy game in 2008 when the Irish gave up a big lead and almost lost it late in the game. Ditto yesterday. Complete lack of direction from the Staff. The play calling was awful – the secondary coverage was poor. Once again there was a look of panic on the sideline and in the booth. Things to clean up ? A shame this keeps happenning. Boston College will be ready, the Irish need to regroup quickly.

  20. Second half play calling was terrible .Navy put anywhere from 9-11 players in the box and we called dive plays . RPO, quick out routs or running wide with or without pitch would have worked.I think Tommy gets in his own at times.

  21. Ugly and unimpressive win against a poor Navy team. This team continues to have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality. Pyne struggles on many occasions as a drop back passer and can’t see enough of the field to make plays. No rollouts, short passes or screens like we saw last wee0 from Rees.

    I hope ND doesn’t lose to BC next week then go out to LA and upset USC. They need to win both games.

    • It’s about damn time Lenzy play up to his potential. And, yes, that was one hell of a catch! Probably the best any of us will see this season.

  22. I am continually dumbfounded why Angeli gets no meaningful playing time. Pyne, as noted by you,previously and by the commentators yesterday, continues to hang onto the ball too long and misses open receivers for big plays. Secondly, every other college team seems to have no problem inserting another qb when the starter is struggling, but not ND. Why? No confidence in the backup? After all these starts over the last couple seasons, Pyne’s habits and limited physical abilityaren’t going to change. Frustrating.

  23. How does a team allow a successful blitz on every play but can’t blitz a team like Navy to save their butt??????

    • Irish in the South says:

      In the last quarter, we only had 3 defenders on the line, dropping back more players to stop big gains. Navy adjusted and was able to run for good gains, earning first downs, spiking the ball to stop the clock with little time left. We were playing not to lose instead of playing to win. Navy just ran out of time or we might have been looking at another L.

      • Funny how Navy’s offensive staff could make quick adjustments to take advantage of the defensive scheme but Notre Dame could not.

        • They did make the adjustments on D. The dive was no longer hitting like it was in the 1st qtr. They also picked up an INT which helped to put the score at 35-13. The D just ran out of gas in the second half because Pyne couldn’t move the offense. The D also had quite a few TFL and a couple of sacks, so it is not as if the D wasn’t doing its job. They were producing stops when needed. They just got tired. It was easier for Navy’s D to get off the field in the second half due to the ineptitude of the offense.

          • That’s great, but I was talking about ND’s offensive staff. As compared to their Navy counterparts, they were well behind the curve in adjusting to the opposing defense.

  24. Can we quit talking about Gerry Faust already? We’ve had three awful coaches since, can you at least compare to one of these? Or have you not watched and committed to memory what you’ve seen since 1997?

    Also, quit talking as if USC has reached Alabama program status. They’ve been sneaking by bad teams all year. They’ve played one team currently ranked and lost. The last several years they’ve been awful. Predictably with Riley they can’t even spell defense.

    Finally, yesterdays second half is on Rees and Pyne. MF gets part of the blame but is stuck with both for now. If MF wanted us to run, we should be able to execute against Navy. That said, playing Navy is like playing a different sport. Win and move on. Go Irish!

    • I am not too concerned with USC for the reason you just stated – eeking by bad teams all season. Their QB is nothing spectacular either. I have watched them the past couple of weeks, but I just do not see what others see. Maybe it is me, perhaps I need a new pair of glasses. But USC is not all that inspiring if you ask me.

      Yes, Navy is like playing an ancient version of the sport. Not many teams see the triple option anymore. And, there is a reason why they don’t. They do not want to deal with the triple option or the potential of losing key players to season ending knee injuries due to the (illegal, if you ask me) cut blocks.

      Where I am most disappointed is the second half offensive collapse. If they score after the D spotted them only 3 after a 10-minute drive, Navy is deflated.

  25. The offense and defense do not have the ‘killer’ mentality. The special teams crew is much better in that regard.

    When you have a 35 – 13 lead, you should not assume the game is over.

    There will be no national championships for Notre Dame as long as the team decides they can relax and let their opponent get back in the game

  26. somehow or someway the offence must learn how to make adjustments during the game. This has happened in two of their losses and almost cost them the game.

  27. Drew Pyne; **They have ten men in the box, lets go with the deep-ball.**

    The inability to make adjustments to what the defense isn’t even camouflaging is stunning. I’m half convinced that Pyne is too short to see what’s going on. How many years are we gonna go with a QB that other teams are willing to concede the pass to sell-out for the run.

    • He’s not 5’11. They fudge those playing stats and have been doing so for a long team. All teams do it to some degree. I have heard from people who have actually seen him on campus and he is more like 5’9 which means he is way too short for that position.

      • He looks too short on TV. No way he is able to see over the OL. However, there is no excuse for missing a safety vale to his right or left. He’s just never looking that way.