Meaghan Veselik | Monday, November 9, 2009
Jimmy Clausen set career-highs in pass attempts (51), completions (37) and passing yards (452), and a new school record of completions, Golden Tate made nine catches for 132 yards and a touchdown and Michael Floyd returned to the field for Notre Dame.
The numbers appear to be from a Notre Dame rout, but the Irish were unable to come back against Navy Saturday, falling 23-21. Notre Dame was in contention for a BCS berth heading into Saturday’s match-up, but Navy’s victory effectively ended that hope. The Irish also fell to 6-3 as the Midshipmen moved to 7-3.
“I think it came down to red-zone production for us,” Irish coach Charlie Weis said Saturday afternoon, and he was right. Notre Dame scored on only two of their six chances in the red zone.
As in the Irish style this season, Notre Dame worked on making a comeback with less than a minute left. After the Irish recovered an onside kick, Clausen found Tate for a 31-yard touchdown pass to make the score 23-21 with 24 seconds left in the game. The following onside kick went out of bounds, however, and Navy left South Bend with their second straight win at Notre Dame Stadium.
Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs passed for 56 yards and rushed for 102 in the game, second to fullback Vince Murray’s 158. Going into the game, Weis knew Murray would be a threat.
“Well, I think the first thing you have to do is stop the fullback,” Weis said. “That’s where the whole defense starts, with stopping the fullback. He had too many yards, some of them easy yards, and he had a couple of big runs.”
Where Notre Dame did outdo Navy was in game stats, including going the entire game without once punting.
On top of Clausen’s impressive career highs in attempts, completions and passing yards, he had one interception and threw for two touchdowns. His 452 passing yards rank as the fourth highest in a single game in Notre Dame history and are the most by an Irish signal caller since Brady Quinn threw for 467 against BYU in 2005.
As good as the Clausen-orchestrated offense was, Navy’s triple-option offense ruled the field.
“Their offense did great today and executed their game plan,” Clausen said. “I give a lot of credit to their coach, their defense and all their players.”
Tate also put up strong numbers in the game, most coming out of the second half where he had eight catches and 127 of his 132 yards.
Michael Floyd, playing in his first game since breaking his clavicle against Michigan State on Sept. 19, had 10 receptions for 141 yards and a touchdown, tying his career high in receptions.
Leading the Irish defense Saturday was Brian Smith with 10 tackles, followed by Sergio Brown and Kyle McCarthy with nine and Ian Williams with eight.
Notre Dame could not cross the 50-yard line on its first possession when senior wide receiver Robby Parris fumbled a reception that was recovered by Navy. From there, Dobbs marched the Midshipmen down the field to score and Navy led 7-0.
Despite moving the ball well, Notre Dame failed to score in the first half. Freshman kicker Nick Tausch attempted a field goal from the Navy 24 and missed wide left, leaving Notre Dame still behind 7-0. The Midshipmen began the second quarter with another touchdown on Murray’s 25-yard run to make it 14-0 at halftime.
The Irish finally got on the board with 5:03 left in the third quarter after junior halfback Robert Hughes made it over the goal line for a touchdown. However, Navy responded with one of their own when Dobbs threw a 52-yard pass to junior wide receiver Greg Jones to increase their lead to 21-7.
Sophomore cornerback Robert Blanton apparently thought Jones was an ineligile receiver, and as a result Jones was wide open on the play.
The Irish finally started to rack up points late in the fourth quarter. Floyd caught a 12-yard touchdown pass with 4:46 left to make it 21-14. After a key defensive stop that forced a Navy punt, the Irish started a new drive at their own 13-yard line with time running out. Their success was cut short, however, when Navy sacked Clausen twice, the second time for a safety with a minute left in the game.
Weis felt along the same lines as his players in terms of correcting mistakes and looking ahead. Not only is he prepared to fix his team’s mistakes from Saturday, but Weis is also ready to look to next week.
“Right now that’s the only thing you are chasing,” he said. “You can’t be worrying about two or three games down the line, you’ve got to worry about Pittsburgh at 8 Saturday night.”
Ranked Notre Dame teams had defeated unranked Navy teams 41 straight times, a streak dating back to 1936.