Is Beating the Irish 'Old Hat' for Navy?

As the last seconds ticked away on Saturday, I prepared for the euphoria that would ensue. Navy was about to beat the Irish for the first time in front of their home crowd in 50 years. That meant there were tens of thousands of Navy fans in attendance who had never witnessed this glorious occasion. Three, two, one…let the party begin! Huh? Why am I the only one thinking about storming the field?

"This is the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen."  I kept saying that famous Rudy quote under my breath during the final moments of Navy's improbable destruction of Notre Dame. After all, I wasn't in South Bend when Navy broke the 43-game losing streak to the Irish in 2007. Like most Navy fans, I watched the game on television at home with my defibrillator close by for the three overtime classic. And in 2009, I was in Disney World when the Mids did it again. It was the first time I had not watched a Navy game live in over 15 years.

I was in Baltimore in 2008 when Navy did what they had a good knack of doing against Notre Dame… when I am in attendance…they teased me pretty good. Their comeback bid fell just short, 27-21.

So forgive me for not getting too overly excited on Saturday when Navy scored first, led 14-3, or even when the score was 21-10 at halftime. I had seen that act before in person. I actually have taken pictures of the scoreboard in South Bend in the mid-90s when Navy had a lead in the second quarter. I thought it was pretty cool to be leading Notre Dame after the first quarter. Back then, it was that rare of an occurrence.

Even at 28-10, I had run through the scenario in my head of how Notre Dame could easily get back into the game. All-everything wide receiver Michael Floyd would come off the bench in dramatic fashion and catch an 85-yard pass from Dayne Crist to cut the score to 28-17. An onsides kick recovery later, and the Irish would be in business again.  The pro-Notre Dame crowd would finally have gotten into the game, and on the first play of the fourth quarter, on a broken play and with Jabaree Tuani dragging him to the earth, Crist could find a 6'8" tight end in the back of the end zone being covered by three Navy defenders seemingly half his height. Of course the pass would somehow miss the Midshipmen defenders and land in this freshman from Kalamazoo's (or wherever) hands. It would be 28-24 and all of a sudden the pressure would be on Navy to find a way to make a first down.

Fortunately, by the time I had run this nightmare scenario through my head about five times, in reality, Navy's Kwesi Mitchell had just stepped in front of another Crist pass to give the Mids the ball again with 9:56 left to play in the third quarter. And miraculously, this was still the most beautiful sight these eyes had ever seen.

But come on already, Navy hadn't committed a penalty all day. Surely these Big East officials would have tuned into the Notre Dame Radio broadcast by now and heard the cries for a chop block call (allegedly – since I wasn't listening). After all Navy hadn't had a penalty free game since 2002. And what about a turnover: Wasn't it time for Navy to cough the ball up at least once? Navy always seems to have at least one turnover against the Irish. And I don't think they have ever had a penalty AND turnover free game in the history of the program. (May need some help with that stat.)So something was about to give, right? Wrong…Navy drove 73 yards for another score…now it was 35-10…but there was still too much time left to get complacent. With over four minutes left to play, I was still in full paranoid mode.  

Why you ask? It's simple.

I started thinking about last year's game against Notre Dame. That drive they had at the end of the game against Navy's prevent offense was pretty quick. So I go back and look it up. Sure enough, the Irish went 66 yards in 3 plays in 36 seconds! Their two other touchdown drives last season against the Mids looked like this: 19 plays, 170 yards in 5:45. So in just over six minutes, they scored 21 points. And most of the damage was done by Floyd…who I was convinced was still going to enter the game.

The Irish finally started to make my nightmare scenario transpire. On their ensuing drive it took them three plays to go 39 yards and advance to Navy's 35 yard line. And after six plays (three of them runs which signaled to me that they weren't panicking yet), the Irish had a first down at the 24-yard line.

That's when Navy's defense did what they have seemingly done all season. They stopped an opponent just as they were about to get into the red zone.

First Down: Incomplete Pass.

Second Down: Incomplete Pass.

Third Down: Incomplete Pass.

Fourth Down: Sack.

And with that it finally hit me that I was going to see Navy beat Notre Dame, in person, for the first time ever. Of course I was in the press box, so I had to keep it professional. But let me just say that in my head, I was figuring out how I would have stormed the field if I was still a midshipman. The walls surrounding the field at the New Meadowlands Stadium seemed easy enough to scale down, especially for agile future officers who maneuver around those obstacle courses all the time. So this would be easy.

But as the fourth quarter ticked away, and Notre Dame fans walked away, the lack of enthusiasm amongst those still in attendance was mind boggling to me. Sure Navy fans were excited, but their excitement was far from the pandemonium that I expected. I could even see pockets of the Brigade sitting down with a minute left in the game. What's going on?!?!?!?! I know about 90% of them were just like me and had never seen Navy beat Notre Dame. They should be going nuts!  Even on the Navy sideline, I saw some small hugs and a few high-fives…but where was the massive celebration?

Had beating Notre Dame become old hat for Navy and its fans? Apparently so.  Don't get me wrong; this small detail, in what was an amazing afternoon in New Jersey, didn't upset this fan one bit. In fact, it made it even more enjoyable for me because Navy was clearly the better team – and for the first time this season, the scoreboard confirmed it. Sure, some fans have gotten a kick out of those come-from-behind victories so far in 2010, but this is what they expected coming into the season – a dominating performance…a blowout like they saw against Missouri in last year's season finale.

Of course now that the victory over Notre Dame is in the rearview mirror, some fans will wonder how that same Navy team they saw at the Meadowlands, lost to Maryland, squeaked by Georgia Southern and only scored six points against you-know-who.

Others will be wondering how high Navy will be ranked if they win out.

The paranoid ones like me will remember what happened in the game following the last two victories over Notre Dame. In 2007, Navy trailed North Texas, 49-45 at halftime before prevailing over the 1-8 team. And in 2009, the Mids trailed Delaware, 9-7 at halftime before putting the Blue Hens away in the fourth quarter.

And to boot, it's Homecoming – an atmosphere that has been less than friendly to Navy in recent years. The Mids have dropped three of their last four Homecoming contests in Annapolis.

Maybe it's a good thing there wasn't too much celebrating after the Notre Dame win because the Mids will have their hands full this Saturday against a Duke team that won't be seeing the triple option for the first time this season.


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