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Irish hope streak doesn’t end

Justin Schuver | Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Forty years, forty wins. And the Irish would like to keep it that way.

Notre Dame faces Navy Saturday in East Rutherford, N.J. in a matchup that has been won by the Irish since 1964.

The Midshipmen certainly appear capable of ending that streak this season, however. Navy has started the year 5-0 and currently has the nation’s sixth-best running attack at an average of 267.4 yards per game.

“They have the talent and they are a good team,” Irish guard Dan Stevenson said. “The thing that they do is that they never quit playing. They’ll play you until the very end. You can’t really look at the past and you can’t really say they are the Naval Academy and they don’t have the talent because they do. They’re undefeated and they are a tough opponent.”

The Irish are coming off a narrow 23-15 victory over Stanford this weekend, where Notre Dame was outgained on offense by the Cardinal and trailed 6-3 at halftime.

Notre Dame knows that they’re going to have to pick up the intensity against a Navy team that played the Irish down to the wire last year at Notre Dame Stadium. A 40-yard field goal by D.J. Fitzpatrick proved the difference as the Irish won by the final score of 27-24.

Last year, though, the Irish were unable to parlay that Navy win into getting a bowl invitation. At 3-2 coming into Saturday’s matchup with the Midshipmen, Notre Dame doesn’t want to miss the postseason again.

“It’s always good to keep streaks alive and things like that but I don’t think it’s something that we focus on,” Irish guard Dan Stevenson said. “Our ultimate goal isn’t about keeping the 40-year streak alive. It’s about what we want to do this season.

“We’re not setting out to try and keep the 40-year streak alive. We’re setting out to beat Navy and to focus on our task at hand, which is to go to a great bowl game.”

Navy and Notre Dame are the only two remaining independent programs in NCAA Division I, and are also well-known for their academic and all-around excellence. Irish linebacker Brandon Hoyte feels that the Naval Academy’s rigorous disciplinary curriculum transfers to the football field as well.

“I would say what they stand for and I think that helps to propel their players and that’s hard, emotional play every single down regardless of the score,” Hoyte said. “I think that’s something every team envies and every team strives for and their team definitely has that character.”

The Midshipmen run a complex triple-option style offense that almost completely ignores the passing game, and the Irish defense knows they will have to be disciplined and on top of their game to stop the potent Navy attack.

“[There’s] a lot of preparation, Navy drives the coaches nuts because it’s such a completely different type of offense to prepare for,” Irish linebacker Mike Goolsby said. “It’s fun. I’m looking forward to Kyle Eckel, their fullback. He’s a [heck] of a player so we’re going to have to get ready for him this week.”

Navy also has one additional advantage over Notre Dame – a bye week. The Midshipmen will have not played a game in 16 days by the time they meet the Irish Saturday.

“It’s a pretty big advantage,” Goolsby said of Navy’s bye week. “But I know a lot of times in my experiences sometimes the longer you have to prepare for a game it gives you that many more things that the coaches can throw at you to get ready for.

“It can work with you and it can work against you at the same time because you have so much more to digest mentally to get ready for a game. They’re going to come out ready and I’m sure they’ll be more than prepared so we have a big challenge ahead of us.”