Heather VanHoegarden | Monday, November 14, 2005
Brady Quinn threw for four touchdowns, broke Notre Dame’s single-season passing record, led the No. 7 Irish to a 42-21 victory over Navy and still wasn’t happy.
“I should have done better, whether it be mental mistakes or physical things, there’s still lots of room for improvement,” he said. “I was unhappy with the way I performed.”
The junior quarterback led a balanced Notre Dame attack that earned 505 total yards of offense en route to the Irish’s NCAA record 42nd straight victory over the Midshipmen. Notre Dame passed for 284 yards and ran for 221, including 118 from Darius Walker, his first 100-yard game since he started the season with four straight. The Irish offensive line did not give up a sack.
“I think this team is light-years better offensively than they have been in past years,” Navy head coach Paul Johnson said of the Irish. “Some of the other teams may have been better defensively. Each year they are different.”
The Irish jumped to an early lead after Quinn hit Maurice Stovall in the end zone for a 31-yard score on the first drive of the game. But Navy responded with a drive of its own. The Midshipmen went 68 yards in 16 plays on the drive, taking up 7:45 and tying the game on a nine-yard scamper by Adam Ballard.
With 5:29 to play in the half, Irish running back Travis Thomas scored from 12 yards out to put Notre Dame ahead 14-7 after a 71-yard drive.
Navy got the ball at its own 30 after the kickoff, and was driving down the field. But one play after converting on third-and-7, quarterback Lamar Owens fumbled the option pitch to Ballard. Linebacker Corey Mays recovered for the Irish, and Notre Dame didn’t look back.
Notre Dame got the ball at Navy’s 49-yard line and three plays later the Irish were in the end zone. Walker danced in from 13 yards out to put Notre Dame up 21-7 with 2:08 to play in the half.
“Basically, they were doing what they wanted,” Johnson said.
Navy was then forced to punt and Notre Dame got the ball back with 1:35 to play in the half. Quinn then hit Anthony Fasano twice – once for 30 yards, and another for an eight-yard touchdown to put the Irish ahead 28-7 at the half.
Navy came out firing in the second half, driving 80 yards for its second score of the game. Owens ran it in from one yard out to make it 28-14.
“I think that the first drive of the first half and the first drive of the second half were the two high points/low points, depending on perspective,” Weis said. “I think that our defense, in both cases, settled down after those drives.”
Notre Dame’s defense got back to form, and the offense kept putting up points. Quinn hit Stovall for a 16-yard completion and safety Tom Zbikowski intercepted an Owens pass at the Notre Dame 12-yard line with the Irish up 35-14 to ensure the victory over a tough Navy team.
“They run what they run with perfection,” Irish defensive lineman Derek Landri said. “We played hard and we played well and if you don’t do that in this game, then you will be the victim of them putting up a lot of points.”
Stovall finished with 130 yards receiving on eight catches, including three touchdowns. Quinn was 22-for-31 and before his interception in the fourth quarter had completed a school-record 130 passes in a row without an interception.
“We had trouble getting pressure on the quarterback, and if you’ve got gifted receivers like they do and a great supporting cast, [Quinn] is going to light you up,” Johnson said. “And he did.”
Navy finished with 239 yards on the ground, and had the ball for 31:35 to Notre Dame’s 28:35. The Irish kept the time of possession, which normally works in Navy’s favor, to a minimal advantage.
“They control the clock,” Stovall said. “We knew every time we touched the ball we would have to score, and we sort of did that today. We didn’t score [on] every possession, but [we scored on] the majority.”
With the loss, the Midshipmen still have to win one game to become bowl-eligible and the Irish kept their BCS bowl hopes alive. But for the Midshipmen, the experience of playing the Irish is one to remember regardless of the results.
“All our guys look forward to this game, in essence, because it’s a totally different kind of [opponent],” Johnson said. “We have a lot of guys who aren’t recruited who come to Navy to have a chance to play Division-I football. And it’s a chance for them to match up against guys who were Parade High School All-Americans and the guys who were more highly recruited and sought after. I’m sure a lot of them grow up thinking they can play at Notre Dame.”