Might have had an opening drive TD run on a designed draw but LT Zack Martin missed his backside block, limiting Crist to two yards…Shuffle to Wood was ill-advised in tight (gained 2 yards, could have ended in calamity)…LG Chris Stewart and C Braxston Cave shoulder plenty of blame, but Crist's sneak attempt from inside the Navy 1-yard line on 4th down was unacceptable – zero leg drive, zero base or power behind his surge; just appeared to fall flatly at the line. Irish QBs need to watch film of Brady Quinn (2005-06) for proper effort and technique on QB sneaks. In short, Crist avoided contact rather than trying to absorb and push through it on the crucial play…
Best pass of the day: a 3rd and 9 bullet to Eifert on a skinny post down the right seam for 14 yards and an Irish first down…Followed that with a 21-yard strike to Duval Kamara on a short side fade…Hit T.J. Jones for four yards on a bubble screen on the next snap. Jones followed a nice cut block by Eifert but John Goodman barely made contact on his defender (Jones tackled from behind by a pursuing linebacker, regardless)…Three snaps later on 1st and 10, threw high and behind (and maybe late) to an open Robby Toma on a post route that would have given ND 1st and Goal at the Navy 10-yard line…Received no time on the following 2nd Down snap (scrambled for no gain) then again forced from the pocket on 3rd and 10, missing a wide open Cierre Wood running 10 yard directly in front of him for an easy first down (and possible touchdown). Crist instead missed on a lob to the front pylon to a well-covered T.J. Jones. The Irish settled for a 45-yard David Ruffer field goal.
Had front side pressure to deal with, but decided too early to throw deep downfield to a double-covered John Goodman on a backside post. Crist had Jones breaking over the middle (tough throw) and Mike Ragone free early in the left flat on the play…Nice fake on a read-option but failed to run through a leg tackle just past the line of scrimmage (no help from RG Trevor Robinson on the play)…Nice effort two plays later to turn a 4-yard loss into a 6-yard gain: that's one of a handful of examples of Crist making something out of nothing this season…Sailed an out to Kamara but the 6'4" senior went up and got it for an Irish first down…Poor decision on a read-option attempt and was dropped for a 4-yard loss by Tuani…Excellent post pass to T.J. Jones to convert 3rd and 14 into a 16-yard touchdown, cutting the Navy lead to 14-10 with 6:07 remaining.
Limited on a designed 2nd and 10 sneak from the 7-yard line late in the half as Braxston Cave missed a key cut block in space. On the ensuing snap, Crist makes the mistake of the game, throwing into a well-occupied zone on a pass intended for T.J. Jones, who was decidedly not open or breaking open.
Poor decision by Crist but a myopic decision by the head coach to force the issue with a depleted offense that had shown no ability to block the defense, deep in his own territory. Run, run, run, punt...it's impossible to throw a game-changing interception in such a sequence.
Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.
2nd Half: Poor read, worse throw on an ill-advised toss into Cover 2, intercepted (out of bounds) by Wyatt Middleton who simply played his role perfectly as the deep-side safety. As Charlie Weis said after the 2005 loss to USC: "You don't complete fades into Tampa Two"…Followed that with a terrible sideline throw to Kamara: underthrown and intercepted by CB Kwesi Mitchell; A comeback-killing mistake by the junior QB in his eighth start…Hit Jones with room for an easy catch-and-run on a 2nd and 10 cross but the freshman dropped the ball…Failed to step up from edge pressure created by Tuani and saw his key 3rd and 10 pass fall incomplete…Took a 4th and 10 sack on the next play, effectively ending the contest with an entire quarter remaining.
Hit two short throws (Wood and Eifert) on the final drive before missing Goodman (awful slant route) and throwing short of the marker but complete to Duval Kamara and the Irish punted on 4th and 3 from their own 24-yard line, trailing 35-10. It was Crist's final play of a frustrating afternoon.
Observation: Crist never established a rhythm during the contest and remained tentative on a few well-timed designed draws. It was a team effort up front though and Crist's team of blockers was soundly beaten by Navy's suddenly imposing front wall.
Rees found his first career completion (had not attempted a pass since the Game Two loss to Michigan), hitting Robby Toma on a short square-in and the sophomore did the rest, shedding an ankle tackle and motoring for 20 yards and an Irish first down…Bailed out on a short cross that sailed to Cierre Wood (reaching grab resulted in an eventual 24 yard gain) then calmly hit a wide open Tyler Eifert down the right seam for 22 more yards down to the Navy 15-yard line as the Midshipmen hit prevent mode defensively…Fired past Toma who had just slipped open down the seam at the goal line. Rees had to let it loose though as Navy's safety was shading over to make the hit…Found Kamara on a WR screen for an easy seven yards...Hit Eifert who bounced off a hit but was still limited to one yard then completed a 4th and 3 pass to Toma for six yards on a quick slant to keep the drive alive inside the Navy 5-yard line. Cierre Wood scored two runs later.
Garbage time snaps notwithstanding, Rees' effort will likely provide confidence should he be pressed into duty over the final 4-5 contests.