Notre Dame survives Navy, 49-39
Samantha Zuba | Sunday, November 2, 2014
The Irish (7-1) trotted out to a 28-7 lead, but the Midshipmen (4-5) pounded relentlessly with their triple-option offense to score 24 unanswered points and take a 31-28 lead in the third quarter, their first of the game.
All told, Navy rushed for 336 yards, the highest total by far against Notre Dame this season.
“I’ve got some very smart defensive coaches back there,” Irish head coach Kelly said after the game. “It’s hard to defend what they do at Navy. My hat goes off to Navy and their coaching staff; they do a great job on offense.”
But Irish senior quarterback Everett Golson kept Notre Dame’s offense moving, with 315 yards passing and the first three rushing-touchdown, three passing-touchdown performance ever for an Irish player. Irish sophomore running back Tarean Folston added 149 rushing yards.Notre Dame had the last word, outscoring Navy in the fourth quarter, 21-8.
“Everything was really clicking,” Golson said of the offense’s efficiency. “I think the wide receivers are doing a great job getting to their spots. I think the O-line did a tremendous job tonight, and I think I did a decent job of just working through my progressions and kind of trying to anticipate a little bit more and throwing things on time.”
The Irish jump-started with a touchdown on their second play of the game when Golson connected with Irish junior slot receiver C.J.Prosise for a 78-yard catch-and-run score.
Notre Dame’s offense kept pushing after that. The Irish didn’t punt until the third quarter.
Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said he felt confident Navy would score, but the Midshipmen faced a challenge in trying to stop Notre Dame’s offense.
“We find that if we execute, we can move the ball on anybody,” Niumatalolo said. “But we also knew that was a tough offense we had to stop. I did things in this game I never do because we had to find a way to keep their offense off the field.”
Navy scored on its first possession as well, evening the score at 7-7 as Reynolds showed off his seldom-used but powerful arm. Reynolds scrambled out of the pocket and threw on the move to junior receiver Thomas Wilson for a 26-yard touchdown. The drive featured eight different ball carriers.
Reynolds also completed a 42-yard pass to senior slot back Ryan Williams-Jenkins in the third quarter to help set up a 44-yard field goal by junior kicker Austin Grebe, the longest for a Navy kicker since 2011. The 24-second drive came on the heels of Golson throwing an interception to Midshipmen senior safety George Jamison and ended the first half.
A 4-yard touchdown run by Midshipmen sophomore fullback Myles Swain gave Navy its first lead of the game with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter. To set up the score, senior fullback Noah Copeland broke free for a 54-yard carry, eluding a diving shoestring tackle attempt before being pushed out of bounds.
Notre Dame secured final control of the game in the last two minutes. Golson put the game out of reach at 49-39 when he scored on an eight-yard rush, his sixth touchdown of the game.
Defensively, Irish freshman linebacker Greer Martini led the way with nine total tackles. Senior linebacker Joe Schmidt followed with eight, and sophomore linebacker James Onwualu and sophomore safety Max Redfield each tallied seven.
Graduate student defensive lineman Justin Utupo snagged the first interception of his career in his first-ever start.
Schmidt injured his ankle in the third quarter and was replaced by freshman linebacker Nyles Morgan. Kelly said Notre Dame is waiting on an X-ray to know the severity of the injury.
Sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith said the defense responded well to losing one of its key leaders.
“He goes down, I understand that a young guy’s going to come in, and my job is to help him, to help lead this team, this defense and rally together and essentially play for Joe,” Smith said.
Irish junior defensive lineman Sheldon Day and Onwualu slammed into each other in the fourth quarter. Onwualu didn’t pass on-field concussion protocol, so Notre Dame will continue to monitor him, Kelly said. Day hurt his shoulder on the play but returned to the field.
Kelly also noted the contributions of Morgan, freshman safety Drue Tranquil and freshman defensive lineman Andrew Trumbetti.
“It was difficult, but they persevered, hung in there and fought their butts off,” Kelly said.
Notre Dame travels to Arizona State next weekend to square off with the Sun Devils in Tempe, Arizona, on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.