Irish defense stymies Navy’s offense
Joe Meixell | Monday, November 10, 2003
Notre Dame had only three practices to figure out how to shut down Navy’s potent triple option attack. After holding the Academy to 70 rushing yards less than its average this season, the Irish defense felt good about its effort.
“I thought we did some good things in some critical situations,” Irish defensive coordinator Kent Baer said. “We made some adjustments early in the game, at halftime and a lot in the second half. Our kids did a good job.”
Notre Dame only forced one turnover but stuck to assignments and held Navy to only 238 rushing yards for the game. Defensive end Justin Tuck led the unit with 14 tackles, while Quentin Burrell and Courtney Watson had 10 tackles each.
“I thought we played well, but I don’t think we played as well as we could have,” Tuck said. “The effort was great, we made plays and luckily we came out with a win today.”
The Midshipmen averaged 4.5 yards per carry, but that number is a bit skewed thanks to Tony Lane’s 65-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Besides that big play, Notre Dame’s defense held the dangerous Navy ground game in check.
“If you take away [the long run], we pretty much got the goal that we set before the game,” Baer said.
Irish offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick thought his unit would need to respond when Navy scored. They did just that Saturday.
The Midshipmen took the lead three times but couldn’t hold it as Notre Dame’s offense found ways to score at critical times throughout the game.
“The thing we preached all week long was that they are going to go down and put points on the board, and we have to respond,” Diedrick said. “Overall, with the balanced attack, I was very proud of our guys and thought they stepped up and made plays when they had to.”
Notre Dame strung together three drives with at least 10 plays to produce points. Diedrick said that was precisely what the offense wanted to accomplish.
“We were trying to take them off the field and help our defense out and, other than the times we were pinned up deep and couldn’t get the ball out of there, that was the only real disappointment of the game,” Diedrick said.
Campbell happy about win
No one had a bigger smile after Notre Dame’s win than defensive lineman Darrell Campbell.
“We won. That’s why I’m smiling,” Campbell said.
Campbell said the key for the defense was to listen to their coaches during the practice week and hold their assignments Saturday.
“Today was all about being disciplined and being aggressive. This is what the coaches have been preaching all week. We had our share of mistakes, too, but we respect those guys because they play hard and don’t quit, just like we don’t quit.”
Campbell thinks that Notre Dame has had the ability to win more games this season but haven’t put all the different pieces together.
“It’s kind of hard when you’re not winning. People always want to look at the minuses of things when, in actuality, the stuff that we do well has been here all the time. We just have to show it on Saturday.”
Notre Dame’s captains were Julius Jones, Jim Molinaro, Cedric Hilliard and Campbell.