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Around the world in 96 games: the geographic history of Notre Dame-Navy

| Friday, August 25, 2023

On Saturday, Notre Dame and Navy will meet on the gridiron for the 96th time. While the near-century-old rivalry is best known for its longevity, tradition and respect, its presence around the country and beyond is often overlooked. The series has visited 11 different cities, including Dublin, Ireland where it returns this weekend. Leaving the familiarity of South Bend and Baltimore behind, let’s tour Notre Dame-Navy’s most unique battlegrounds.

Dublin, Ireland

The Irish have enjoyed tremendous success in two meetings with Navy in Dublin, scoring a combined 104 points. Notre Dame trampled the Midshipmen 54-27 at Croke Park in 1996. The result served as a resounding bounce back after the Irish dropped a stunning overtime home game to Air Force. It also marked Notre Dame’s 33rd consecutive defeat of Navy, marking the longest win streak against an annual opponent in college football history.

With over 300 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground, the Irish quelled Navy’s 5-1 start. Notre Dame tailback Autry Denson captured the headlines, responding to a performance-based benching with 123 rushing yards and a pair of scores.

More recently, the Irish opened their perfect 2012 regular season with a 50-10 sinking of the Midshipmen. In front of 48,820 fans at Aviva Stadium, Notre Dame overcame several key player suspensions to secure one of the series’ most lopsided victories in recent memory. 

Running backs Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III minimized 1000-yard rusher Cierre Wood’s absence by accumulating 206 yards and four touchdowns. And with 2011 starting quarterback Tommy Rees out, the debuting Everett Golson went 12-for-18 with 144 passing yards. The Irish did not punt until the late stages of the third quarter after a seven-for-seven start on third-down conversions.

San Diego, California

The third-ranked Irish met the Midshipmen at SDCCU Stadium during their undefeated 2018 regular season. Their late-October meeting marked the rivalry’s first and only trek west of the Mississippi River. Despite a lost fumble on the first play from scrimmage, the Irish defense denied Navy, putting a dominant effort in motion.

In the end, Notre Dame doubled up Navy 44-22 after opening up a 27-0 lead by halftime. The Irish offense, led by quarterback Ian Book’s 330 yards and two scores on 27-for-33 passing, enjoyed a complete performance. Running back Dexter Williams toted the rock for 142 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. 

Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida

Heading from sunny SoCal to the Sunshine State, Notre Dame and Navy have linked up twice in Florida. Like Dublin, the two previous meetings were separated by 16 years. Midway through Navy’s one-win 2000 season, the Irish leveled the Midshipmen 45-14 at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando. 

Running back Julius Jones, who averaged nearly 150 rushing yards in three career games against Navy, cranked out 105 in the 31-point victory. Defensive back Tony Driver starred on the defensive side of the ball, returning a pair of first-quarter fumbles for touchdowns.

However, the Midshipmen would capitalize on Notre Dame’s 2016 struggles in Jacksonville. To this day, Navy has defeated the Irish once since 2010, doing so by just one point at EverBank Field. The early-November clash featured six lead changes and at least 10 total points in all four quarters. 

Though Navy quarterback Will Worth ran away from the Irish with 175 yards and two of his 25 rushing touchdowns on the season, Notre Dame remained within four points late in the contest. Ultimately, fourth-down aggression and execution decided the outcome. On a fourth-and-four at the Navy 14-yard line, the Irish kicked a field goal to move within one point. Already severed by the triple option, the Notre Dame defense would need to make a stand. It nearly did, but the Midshipmen converted a pair of fourth downs — one through the air — to ice the game.

Other Sites

Believe it or not, Cleveland has hosted the third-most Notre Dame-Navy games (11), but none since 1978. A hotspot early in the rivalry’s history, Cleveland Municipal Stadium staged the only tie in series history, a 6-6 deadlock in 1945. 

The Irish won six consecutive games in East Rutherford, New Jersey before the Midshipmen snatched a third victory in four years in 2010. Among Philadelphia’s nine games is Notre Dame’s 40-0 dismantling of Navy in Ara Parseghian’s 1964 debut season. Soon-to-be Heisman winner John Huarte knocked off future Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Roger Staubach in that game.

Notre Dame has taken each of two meetings at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, including a 49-39 barnburner in 2014. Though Chicago has seen the Irish battle different opponents more recently, it did host Notre Dame-Navy in 1928.

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About Tyler Reidy

Tyler is a sophomore who serves as an Associate Sports Editor at The Observer. Hailing from Omaha, Nebraska, and Keough Hall, he enjoys road trips, all things collegiate athletics and Kansas City barbecue. Reach out here or @TylerJReidy on Twitter!

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