13:23: This play should be reviewed. Absolutely. And yes, that's a fumble. And yes, Navy recovered it. Should be the Midshipmen's ball. Great work by Ken Niumatalolo and his staff to challenge the play. Alert coaching!
11:00: Ricky Dobbs can't throw pop-ups like that, safe to say. Incredibly, he not only got away with it; he gained a completion!
9:35: The Mids are winning battles up front against a Notre Dame defensive line that held its own against USC. (The problem with Charlie Weis's defense lies primarily in the secondary.)
7:15: The Irish (like myself) were thinking outside run, but Dobbs smartly follows his center, running slightly to his left for an opening-drive score. Welcome back, Ricky!
3:35: No kidding, NBC broadcaster Tom Hammond (who is regarded as a superb broadcaster, and is an excellent play-by-play voice for NBC's Olympic track-and-field coverage). Of course Kyle Rudolph doesn't have a first down! He got tackled five yards short! Navy fans are surely muting their television sets after that one. The broadcast relationship between NBC and Notre Dame is affecting the tonal and substantive quality of the commentary here, and that's just not professional.
2:51: Navy won two years ago in South Bend partly because Charlie Weis didn't trust his kicking game. That boot—wide left—provided a reminder. Navy off to a perfect start in Indiana.
0:06: Uh, oh. Osei Asante is down. The loss of any of these linemen—who have been letter-perfect so far—would put a hitch in Navy's git-along. A textbook first quarter just witnessed its first really bad moment.
End of First Quarter Score: Navy 7, Notre Dame 0.
14:56 left, second quarter: A great start gets even better, but let's not kid ourselves: The Jimmy Clausen-Golden Tate-Michael Floyd onslaught is coming, and the Midshipmen need to be ready for it. Complacency can't set in on the visiting sideline in South Bend. The verdict here is that at least 30 points will be needed to win this game for Navy.
10:59: Notre Dame still has second and goal from the 4, but a lot of time is being drained here. And yes, you might think it's nuts to be thinking about such an issue right now, but the pace and tempo of this game matter a great deal. The tactics of both teams indicate as much: Navy wants a drastically shortened game, while the Irish typically play (and thrive in) games that approach four hours and involve stacks of passes. This is why Notre Dame went to the no-huddle, after all.
9:29: I'd expect Notre Dame to go for it here. Great no-call by the officiating crew. Now the timeout by Weis means the Irish will definitely go for the touchdown. It's the proper move.
9:25: I don't like that call from a Notre Dame standpoint: Just drop back, pitch it, and have Tate or Floyd catch it. Ram Vela wasn't fooled, and there was no reason to think about a cute misdirection pitch or handoff. Navy gets the stand after the Irish had 1st and goal on the 1. Huge. This drive needs to be productive, though, in order to truly consolidate momentum and leverage.
8:04: Momentum and leverage NOT consolidated.
7:34: Obvious, but necessary: Navy's Blake Carter can't whiff on a seven-yard route and turn it into a 20-yard gain. Make the Irish dink and dunk as much as possible. You know the drill, boys…
4:22: One more play, and Buddy Green's defense will have notched another stop.
4:17: Yes, sir. Kevin Edwards doing a fantastic job against Golden Tate. Surprised? Yes. Not that Navy will complain at all.
4:12: Wow, another missed field goal. Navy will still need at least 30 to win this, though. The Mids need to post something before the half; they have to play this game as though it's 0-0 until the very end.
2:13: Dobbs is making it look easy right now. Navy can't relent, though, and although lots of fans might be tired of hearing that, it can't be said often enough.
1:00: Someone speed up the tempo in the huddle. Make the field goal as easy as possible for Mr. Buckley.
0:20: Christmas comes a month and a half early for Navy. Niumatalolo, though, needs to employ a trick running play instead of a straightforward pass. Dobbs is not smooth as a thrower; the Men of Ken must come up with something special here if they want seven points.
0:03: Niumatalolo had a trick play dialed up, but the Irish covered it. Okay, Joe, pop it through, and it's an essentially flawless first half in South Bend.
0:00: A terrific kicker who has been so clutch for Navy all season long will never hit a poorer ball than the one he just shanked there. The roster of white-shirted players needs to shrug off that play, and quickly. Notre Dame will use that miss as fuel for the second half. One really good thing, though: Navy gets the ball to start the second half. A nice six-minute scoring drive will re-affirm control for the Men of Ken.
Halftime Score: Navy 14, Notre Dame 0.
9:33 left, third quarter: Awww, Ken. The 36 is too close to the goal line to punt the ball. Trust your offense. (And trust your defense, too.)
7:21: This defense is maxing out. One more play, and the Buddy System will get the Irish off the field yet again to preserve the good vibes flowing through the Navy sideline. Timeout, Notre Dame. With the way Navy can control the ball, the Irish will not want to be trailing in the final four minutes. With only one and a half quarters remaining in a game that the Men of Ken have indeed managed to shorten, the Irish have to be increasingly concerned. Navy can't get giddy. Fundamentals at all times. Get ready to defend Tate on a long ball or Floyd on an intermediate route.
7:12: Tate was too good there, and Clausen had a comfortable pocket.
6:40: Just when Notre Dame had to feel good about its chances, a holding penalty (and a clear one) sets back the Irish. Navy must capitalize.
5:55: Clausen is doing a great job of moving around in the pocket and taking advantage of Navy's need (and it is a need) to defend Notre Dame's receivers while also taking away the deep ball.
5:03: Game on. Niumatalolo won't be punting on any future trips to the Irish 36-yard line.
3:29: HOLY COW! Springing the ambush at the PERFECT TIME! Greg Jones scores on a deep ball, as Niumatalolo and offensive coordinator Ivan Jasper devise a masterstroke. Dobbs, for his part, has the stones to put the ball right in Jones's breadbasket. The Mids immediately wrest back emotional and scoreboard-based control. As Bill Raftery would say (college hoops is about to gear up, after all…), "ONIONS!"
1:54: Tough break for Navy. The Mids just ran out of sideline there. Another two yards of room, and that's a legal recovery. After giving the play a further examination, that was indeed a fumble.
0:11: Blake Carter stands up to Michael Floyd in the end zone. Bravo, young man. Bravo. Navy's corners have been sensational in tough matchups (to say the least).
0:00: It's heartbreaking to see Jimmy Clausen down and motionless, that's point one. Point two, though, is that Mr. Kevin Edwards hustled his butt off to make a sweet stick and force a fumble that's recovered on the 1 by the Mids. The ball was clearly loose, the play will be upheld, and the visitors just took their biggest step yet toward winning this game.
End of Third Quarter Score: Navy 21, Notre Dame 7.
14:51 left, fourth quarter: What a way to start a possession that begins on your own 1. The Mids need to think touchdown here. Attitude of a champion.
12:03: Yes, Navy needs to add one more score, but with that said, good move to not throw the ball on 3rd and 6. The pass will only be effective when Notre Dame has no good reason to expect it. Moreover, since field position has been flipped thanks to the Vince Murray runs, make Clausen produce a long drive. Remember, too, that Notre Dame has only two (not three) timeouts left. Just because the Mids still need a few more points (at least three) doesn't mean they shouldn't shorten the game when they can. Smart coaching from Niumatalolo and staff.
12:03: Clausen coming back in. That's a resilient lad. Pat Haden of NBC can't believe it.
11:35: Here come the Irish. How long can the Mids hold off Notre Dame?
11:04: Ugh. Navy got a pass rush on a slightly delayed blitz up the middle, but Clausen stands and delivers to Floyd, moving the sticks.
10:25: Just a man's catch by Golden Tate. Tip your cap.
10:02: THE BUDDY SYSTEM DOES IT AGAIN! Time after time after time, Notre Dame drives to the red zone. Time after time after time, Navy's defense turns away the Irish. Ram Vela turns a lucky bounce into a turnover, and with a Clausen personal foul thrown into the mix, the Mids will start near their own 40. Navy must put this puppy away with either a score or four clock-draining first downs on the ground.
8:07: Perfect for Navy. Better to have 3rd and 1 then get a first down in just two plays. Chew up that clock.
7:27: What the heck is Dobbs doing not handing the ball to Murray on 3rd and 1?????? Awful misread, or if not a misread, a terrible decision. You need to ride the fullback there (if not try the same kind of QB keeper that netted Navy its first touchdown). Terrible lapse in judgment.
6:34: Quality punt by Kyle Delahooke, but Notre Dame has far more life than I thought the Irish have when Navy set up for 3rd and 1 just moments ago. The Mids have left the door open. Six and a half minutes is a LONG time with Jimmy Clausen, even with the tremendous performance from the Buddy System thus far.
4:57: That is a brutal defensive pass interference call on Carter. Floyd pushed Carter, not the other way around. Pathetic.
4:52: Make-up call.
4:46: Buckley's missed field goal, Niumatalolo's punt at the 36, and Dobbs's horrible 3rd and 1 mistake all loom very large right now. If Clausen gets the ball back down 21-14 with at least a minute left from anywhere on the field, Navy will be sweating. Watch for an onside kick, and then get three first downs.
3:21: A remotely significant play, dontcha think?
2:01: Yes, Notre Dame is without timeouts, but Clausen can stop the clock by throwing past the sticks. The Irish have a good chance of tying things up now.
1:48: A nice bounce for the Mids on the punt, but 108 seconds is forever, as far as Clausen is concerned.
1:41: THE DEFENDER. FELL. DOWN……… AND FLOYD. DROPPED. THE BALL. UNREAL.
1:23: One play, boys. One play. One play, boys. One play.
1:00: FOR THE SECOND STRAIGHT TIME, NAVY WINS IN SOUTH BEND! MOREOVER, THE MIDSHIPMEN KNOCK THE FIGHTING IRISH OUT OF THE RUNNING FOR A BCS BOWL! This defense stood on its head all… day… long. Great to see the defensive front putting the stake in Notre Dame's heart, but the two MVPs today are, without question, Blake Carter and Kevin Edwards. Edwards made the single biggest play of the game when he caused the Clausen fumble near the goal line in the third quarter.
0:58: For next year, let's make it a rule that you can't onside kick after a safety. That totally defeats the purpose of a safety. You have to be forced to give up possession. Change the rulebook in 2010.
0:24: Well, Navy can't give up two onside kick recoveries this year, after recovering two onside kicks against the Irish last year in Baltimore… then again…
0:23: YES! (And "WHEW!")
Final Score: Navy 23, Notre Dame 21. Serving America. Serving the BCS bowls. Headed to the Texas Bowl. Assured of another winning season. Two out of three against the Irish. Two straight in South Bend. Life doesn't get much better at the end of a spectacular decade of Midshipmen football.