The Notre Dame Fighting Irish held off the Navy Midshipmen 49-39 in a wide open game where both teams combined for 987 yards of offense at Fed Ex Field in a nationally televised night game. Notre Dame jumped out to a 28-7 lead but Navy responded with 24 unanswered points to take a 31-28 lead. Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson put Notre Dame back in front with a 3-yard touchdown run. The Irish then extended the lead to 42-31 on a 25-yard touchdown run by Tarean Folston. Navy battled back and scored on a 12-yard juggling reception by fullback Chris Swain to make it 42-39 after a two point conversion. Navy's onside kick failed although it was well executed. Golston completed third and six pass to Folston for 30 yards to the Navy three. The Mids allowed the Irish to score to avoid allowing them to run out the clock. Navy failed to move the ball on their last series and the Irish took over on downs to run out the clock. Navy's record falls to 4-5.
PASSING OFFENSE: B
Keenan Reynolds completed 6-of-15 passes for 118 passing yards with two touchdowns and an interception. On his first pass Reynolds scrambled away and rolled to his right to avoid pressure and hit wide receiver Thomas Wilson in the end zone for 26-yard touchdown. Wilson got away with offensive pass interference as the officials failed to call many penalties all night. Reynolds threw two passes that fell incomplete on the next three-and-out series with the Irish crowding the box. Keenan made a great throw to slotback Ryan Williams-Jenkins for a 42-yard reception on a wheel route to set up Austin Grebe for a 44-yard field goal.
Reynolds teamed up with Brandon Dudeck for a bullet 12-yard completion to move the chains during the opening touchdown drive
of the third quarter. It was a great throw and catch. At the start of the fourth quarter, trailing 35-31, the Mids ran a trick play on a third-and-7 from its own 39. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds pitched the ball to Copeland, who passed it to a wide open Reynolds. The ball went through Reynolds hands and fell incomplete forcing the Mids to punt.
Later In the fourth quarter Reynolds was hit on a play action pass and failed to connect with a wide open Jamir Tillman running all alone deep on a post pattern. His next pass was intercepted by a defensive lineman Justin Utupo when he was under pressure and trying to throw the ball away. I still wonder how Utupo caught that ball. It was a great defensive play.
The next series Reynolds made a great throw to Jamir Tillman for 21- yards to the twelve yard line. The next play Reynolds hit Chris Swain who made a 12- yard juggling reception to narrow the score to 42-39 after a two point conversion where Reynolds hit Whiteside with another pass.
On the final series Reynolds was sacked twice and Calvin Cass Jr was interfered with on his final throw but the penalty wasn't called.
The offensive line did a good job even after losing center Tanner Fleming to an injury.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A
Navy ran for 336 rushing yards, a 5.6 average and scored three rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds ran 18 times for 47 yards. Reynolds did a nice job reading the ND defense.
B-back Noah Copeland had a huge game with 138 yards on 16 carries. Copeland had a 54-yard run when Navy went for it on fourth-and-two from its own 42-yard line on a fullback pitch out of a heavy formation to set up a touchdown. He later ripped off a 33-yard run on Navy's final touchdown drive. Fellow fullback Chris Swain (5 atts, 21 yards, TD) scored on a 4-yard touchdown run the next play after Noah's 54 yard run on the same fullback pitch out of the same formation to give the Mids a 31-28 lead.
Slotback Demond Brown (2 att., 21 yards, TD) scored on an 18-yard run off a pitch which started the Navy comeback. Geoffrey Whiteside had five carries for 52 yards and a touchdown. Whiteside scores on a 13-yard run to finish the 15 play drive to open the second half. It was nice to see Ryan Williams-Jenkins (6 for 24). Dishan Romine (3 for 15) showed his speed on a key 13-yard run for a first down on a third-and-9 play to open the second half. DeBrandon Sanders (3 for 17) had an 18-yard run on a touchdown drive but most of the slotbacks had some trouble getting to the edge against the Irish's team speed on defense.
PASSING DEFENSE: C+
ND quarterback Everett Golson's completed 18 of 25 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. Navy's secondary had a rough time matching up with Irish speed but they battled all game. Kwazel Bertrand took a terrible angle and missed the tackle against C.J. Prosise on his 78-yard touchdown reception on the second play from scrimmage. Bertrand was benched in favor of George Jamison (8 tackles, INT) who came off the bench and played well. Jamison made a big interception to end Notre Dame's last scoring drive before the end of the first half.
Cornerback Brandon Clements (5 tackles) was blocked and sealed off on William Fuller's four yard screen pass touchdown. Brandon was hit with a questionable horse collar penalty on a long reception by Brown that set up a ND touchdown. Cornerback Quincy Adams (4 tackles) did a much better job in the second half in coverage
Obi Uzoma (3 tackles) teamed with Bernie Sarra (4 tackles, 1/2 sack, PD, BK) with a sack for a loss of 15 yards to force the Fighting Irish's only punt. Sarra broke up a third down screen pass that forced a ND missed field goal.
Parrish Gaines (3 tackles ) was a few steps late and allowed Ben Koyack to cross in front of him for a 19- yard gain on a key third -and four -play after Navy took the lead. ND scored later on the drive and never looked backed.
RUSHING DEFENSE: C
The Mids allowed the Irish 218 rushing yards, 5.6 yards a carry and four touchdowns. The Mids hung tough on defense. Jordan Drake made seven tackles and did a better job in the second half. Dan Gonzalez didn't have a good game and only had three tackles. Tyler Goble saw more snaps from Gonzalez and made three tackles.
Chris Johnson (3 tackles) had his second consecutive rough game against Notre Dame. He was late to cover tight end Ben Koyack on his 2-yard touchdown reception. Johnson was twice caught watching on two Golson touchdown runs. It was a rare bad game for Chris who couldn't get off blocks and make plays like he normally does.
The Midshipmen struggled in the first half but did a better job late to force two missed field goals after the Irish took over on two consecutive possessions deep in their territory.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Kicker Austin Grebe hit a career long 44-yard field goal just before the half. It narrowed Notre Dame lead down to 28-17 at halftime. He had one touchback on five kickoffs and hit one out of bounds.
Punter Pablo Beltran averaged 48.3 yards on his three punts and placed two inside the twenty yard line. Beltran's booming 47-yard punt was fumbled by Riggs and almost recovered by the Mids as they failed to fall on the fumble. Bernie Sarra burst through the line to block a field goal attempt. Navy's coverage teams did an excellent job covering kicks and punts. The onside kick was well designed and executed but Notre Dame was able to cover the ball.
Head coach Ken Niumatalolo and his staff had a tremendous plan and executed it well on offense. Niumatalolo and his players never stopped playing after falling behind 28-7 and the Mids scored the next 24 points to take a lead. The announcers missed that Niumatalolo had his defense allow the last score because it was his only hope was to get the ball back. Ivin Jasper called another masterful game against ND with his use of misdirection, counter option and heavy formations. He had the Fighting Irish on their heels running up 454 yards of offense. Navy’s 39 points are the most points scored against Notre Dame in a regulation game and the second most all-time (2007, won 46-44 in triple OT). His option pass back to Reynolds had everything but the catch. Buddy Green's defensive scheme was sound but the Mids were overmatched at the point of attack. Still they made enough plays to allow the offense to rally back from a 21 point deficit.
OVERALL GRADE: A
The Mids played so hard and deserved better. This was another heartbreaking loss at ND. There were so many would of, could of, should of moments. If Reynolds had caught the option pass from Copeland, if Keenan's arm hadn't been hit as he threw to a wide open Tillman in the fourth quarter on the post pattern. If the Mids coverage team had beaten Riggs to the fumbled punt. The luck of the Irish was with Notre Dame as the ball bounced their way most of the night. Navy’s 454 yards of total offense (336 rush / 118 pass) is the most by the Mids in the series since 1972 when they amassed 459 yards (182 rush / 277 pass). It’s the second best of all-time. This defense will struggle against any top ten team but the overall team and coaching effort deserves an A-grade.
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Navy Report Card: Notre Dame
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