Navy piled more misery on Notre Dame on Saturday as the Mids took down the Irish 28-27. This was only the fourth win for Navy over Notre Dame in the last 53 years and it moves Navy to bowl eligibility at 6-2 while requiring the 3-6 Irish to win out in order to go bowling, The drop off is stunning for Brian Kelly's squad that started the season in the top 10 of most college football prognosticators.
Here is a look back at the three keys:
1) Play better defense - Pass
Giving up just 27 points to a Kelly led Notre Dame offense is new for Navy. The previous five meetings between the two schools had seen the Mids giving up 56,50, 38, 49 and 41 points, averaging a points conceded total of 46.8 points during that run, Obviously the Mids 28 points would have seen them get blown out in any one of those games.
It was a game that on the stats sheet looks remarkably close. Neither school had a turnover. Navy had 368 yards, two less than Notre Dame's total of 370 yards. Each school gained exactly 21 first downs. The Navy defense was far from flawless, but they didn't allow Notre Dame (147 yards rushing) to dominate on the ground as South Florida had a week before. That was all that was required to eke out the one-point win.
2) Win on special teams - Pass
Navy won on special teams due to one specific play that damned Notre Dame at the worst time. The Mids did not punt all game long, but the punting unit was on the field for a fourth-and-6 at the Navy 40 yard line at the back end of the third quarter with Notre Dame leading 24-21. Ken Niumatalolo does not like to punt the ball, but in this situation, it was his only option. That is until the Irish got caught for 12-men on the field on the play, giving Navy a fourth-and-1 that Niumatalolo went for and the Mids converted. The drive ended with a Navy touchdown to give the Mids a lead they would never relinquish.
3) Keep the offense on the field early - Pass
Keeping the offense on the field early became even more critical after Notre Dame took the opening kickoff and drove 83 yards in 10 players for a touchdown three and a half minutes into the game. Navy knew coming in that the Irish had an explosive offense that would cause problems if it got too much of the ball and somehow managed to only allow Notre Dame six possessions for the entire game. Navy tied the game at 7-7 on its first drive of the contest, but it was in the second half that the ball control offense went to a new level. Notre Dame touched the ball exactly twice in the final THIRTY minutes of the game. Navy had a 16 play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown after nine minutes of pure ball control, before ending the contest by running a 14 play, 57-yard drive that milked the final 7:28 from the clock.