The Navy fell just short of upsetting Notre Dame in South Bend as Mid wide receiver Shawn Lynch was stopped on fourth down on an end-around. The Fighting Irish prevailed 38-34 in a back and forth game that saw nine lead changes. Navy's offense produced 419 yards of total offense and 28 first downs. Navy had no turnovers, no penalties and held the ball for 37:36 while the Irish had it just 22:24. The Navy defense never forced the Irish offense to punt as they racked up 506 yards of total offense and averaged nine yards a play. Navy had destiny in their hands but a pitch slipped out of Reynolds and it put the Mids third and long. Reynolds gave the Mids a chance with a 10-yard completion to setup the fourth-and-four end around that fell short. Navy's record falls to 4-4.
PASSING OFFENSE: A
Keenan Reynolds completed 6 of 9 passes for 88 passing yards with one touchdown. Reynolds complete one pass on the opening drive to slotback Marcus Thomas ( 2 for 25) for a seven yard gain on third down to move the chains. Reynolds had his only poor passing series the second time Navy had the ball. He was sacked on first down and forced to throw the ball away under pressure on third down.
Keenan completed a 12- yard pass to Brandon Dudeck on the drive that made it 20-17 in Navy's favor. Casey Bolena had two receptions for 17 yards.
Reynolds made a key pass completion to Marcus Thomas for an 18-yard gain on third and seven deep in ND territory down 31-27. It was a perfect throw between defenders. Later in the drive Matt Aiken caught a 34-yard touchdown pass. It was another on the money throw as Keenan hit Aiken running a flag route.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A
Navy ran for 331 rushing yards, a 4.7 average, and scored four rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds ran 22 times for 53 touchdowns and three scores. Reynolds did a terrific job reading the ND defense which often would shift just before the snap.
B-back Chris Swain had one of his best games carrying the ball 16 times for 85 yards and one touchdown. He alertly recovered his own fumble at the mesh which kept a touchdown drive alive. With Noah Copeland sidelined Quinton Singleton (16 atts., 77 yards) picked up the slack at fullback. Singelton spun twice for six yards on a key third-and-1 carry in the fourth quarter.
Demond Brown had seven carries for 55 yards. Slotback Geoffrey Whiteside made seven carries for 48 yards. DeBrandon Sanders had one carry for 13 yards. He alertly pounced on the bad pitch from Reynolds during the final series when the ball slipped out of Keenan's hand and landed behind him. That bad pitch may have cost Navy the game. The offensive line did a tremendous job grinding out 28 first downs. It was the most first downs that Navy ever produced in the rivalry against ND.
PASSING DEFENSE: B
Irish quarterback Tommy Rees completed 12 of 20 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. Navy's secondary had a rough time matching up with Irish speed but they battled all game and produced two turnovers. Parrish Gaines (4 tackles) ended a promising Irish drive when T.J. Jones slipped and he jumped the route and intercepted a pass. Cornerback Brandon Clements (8 tackles) was beat deep on the second ND drive for 45-yards which set up a field goal. Clements later made a terrific pick after getting perfect position just before the half. It allowed Navy to walk into the locker room with a 20-17 lead. After Chris Ferguson was knocked out of the game Lonnie Richardson was beat as TJ Jones froze him with a move towards the flag before cutting in front of him to the post for a 36-yard touchdown catch. Kwazel Bertrand (9 tackles) had a busy day with a career high in tackles. Navy's defensive backs did a solid job since the front line was unable to pressure Rees at all.
RUSHING DEFENSE: D
The Mids allowed the Irish 264 rushing yards, 7.3 yards a carry and three touchdowns. The Mids were dominated at the point of attack and unable to maintain their gaps against the Irish's zone running plays. The Irish were running downhill all day. Inside linebacker Cody Peterson led the team with 12 tackles. Peterson made a nice play on the first ND drive when he tackles Daniels short of the first down. The Irish were able to pick up the first down on fourth down. DJ Sargenti (4 tackles) had a quiet game as the Irish linemen were able to neutralizer him at the second level. Rover Chris Ferguson (3 tackles) fanned as he attempted to tackle George Atkinson on his 41-yard touchdown run. Ferguson later left the game with a concussion. Wave Ryder saw most of the playing time in place of Ferguson after Richardson was burned on Jones touchdown pass. Ryder (6 tackles) was buried on Cam McDaniel's touchdown run when ND took a 31-27 lead. Nose guard Bernie Sarra (2 tackles) left the game with an ankle injury. All the nose guards Travis Bridges (1 tackle) and Barry Dabney (1 tackle) had trouble holding the point of attack. Chris Johnson (1 tackle) couldn't get off blocks and make plays like he normally does. The Irish running game was ranked only 95th in the nation entering the game but they beat up the Navy defensive front.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B+
Kicker Nick Sloan had a costly missed extra point. The snap was perfect but he just pushed it wide right. It forced the Mids to go for a touchdown on the last drive. Punter Pablo Beltran averaged 39.5 yards on his two punts and placed one inside the twenty yard line. Marcus Thomas had a huge game as he returned five kickoffs for 137 yards. His 49-yard return put Navy in terrific scoring position on the final drive. Austin Grebe had one touchback on six kickoffs. Navy's coverage teams did an excellent job covering kicks and punts against the Irish's fast return game.
Head coach Ken Niumatalolo and his staff had a tremendous plan and executed it well on offense. Niumatalolo managed the clock well and ran it down before the end of the first half. Ivin Jasper called a masterful game against ND with his use of misdirection, counter option and heavy formations. He had the Fighting Irish on their heels all day. His final play call of an end around by wide receiver Shawn Lynch was stopped only because left tackle Bradlyn Heap missed all three players he could have blocked. Buddy Green's defensive scheme was sound but the Mids were overmatched at the point of attack.
OVERALL GRADE: A
The Mids played so hard and deserved better. This was a real heartbreaking loss. Even with the defensive struggles the overall team and coaching effort deserves an A-grade.
Navy Report Card: Notre Dame
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