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Football: Running backs a lonely highlight

Ken Fowler | Monday, November 5, 2007

Notre Dame’s running back combination of James Aldridge, Armando Allen and Travis Thomas was one of the team’s lone bright spots in its loss to Navy Saturday.

Aldridge was the Irish workhorse, running 32 times for a career-high 125 yards.

“I am just going in and running hard,” Aldridge said. “I am trusting in my linemen, trusting they open up some holes and take advantage of the situation. It is an opportunity game and get some yards and take advantage of it.”

Irish coach Charlie Weis said his game plan was to stick to the running game, ostensibly to exploit Navy’s undersized defense.

“We went into the game figuring we were going to run the ball a whole bunch of times … with efficiency,” Weis said. “And for a good part of the day, that’s the way the game went. We ran the ball over 60 times, but I think every one of the running backs ran hard. James ran hard. Armando ran hard. Robert [Hughes] ran hard. Travis ran hard. They all ran hard and we got a lot of production out of the run game.”

Allen also notched a career-high, with 91 yards on 16 rushes – an average of 5.7 per carry.

Thomas had three touchdowns, including one in triple-overtime, on four carries. He brilliantly spun off a defender on the left and scooted right for his first score. On his final touchdown, which came on fourth down, a defender hit Thomas behind the line, but the fifth-year senior leaped over a Midshipman and kept his balance to reach the end zone.

In fact, the only time Thomas ran and did not score was on Notre Dame’s failed two-point conversion.

Notre Dame’s team rushing average, however, was lower than Navy’s opponent average this season. The Midshipmen are in the bottom third of the Football Bowl Subdivision, surrendering 4.4 yards per carry, despite facing only the 70th toughest schedule this season, according to Jeff Sagarin’s college football rankings.

Notre Dame managed only 3.7 yards per attempt Saturday but moved the ball consistently when it committed to the running game.

On its third-quarter possession that led to a missed field goal, the Irish ran on 10 consecutive plays and gained 43 yards. The drive stalled when Irish quarterback Evan Sharpley threw incomplete passes on second- and third-and-10.

Despite Notre Dame’s 235 yards rushing, the Irish total offense remained last in the nation with an average of 208 yards per game. The rushing offense, however, moved out of No. 119. Notre Dame has gained 56.44 yards per game. Duke is averaging 56.11.