A win is a win, but the depleted Midshipmen never had much of a chance in Notre Dame's 56-14 runaway victory on Saturday afternoon.
Not the 2010 Navy
This is not the same Navy team that dominated Notre Dame
in a 2010 victory. The 2-6 squad returned some of the elements from last year's strong squad, but was missing some key pieces.
Chief among those is Ricky Dobbs
, the standout quarterback who scored three touchdowns in the 35-17 victory over Notre Dame in New Jersey's New Meadowlands last year.
This time around, Navy was forced to go down the depth chart for a signal-caller, with starter Kriss Proctor
unavailable because of injury. Trey Miller
, a sophomore, made his first career start, and backup Jarvis Cunningham scored a 12-yard touchdown in his first career appearance.
Navy lost its sixth straight, and has not scored a point in the first quarter in four games.
Of Miller's performance, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo
said, "He did OK. I thought he played a little slow at first. We would have loved to have him play faster, but that wasn't on him. We didn't block the greatest. He could have done some things better, but again, they did a nice job against us defensively."
The beating was reminiscent of the way that Notre Dame would handle Navy in the past, in a series that the Irish lead 72-12-1. Saturday's 42-point margin is the largest since 1987, when Lou Holtz's ninth-ranked Irish likewise used seven rushing touchdowns to hammer the Midshipmen 56-13 in South Bend.
Like Saturday's Irish, the '87 offense enjoyed a bit of thunder and lightning in its decisive vicotry: fullback Anthony Johnson produced four scores on the day with eventual Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown collecting a 51-yard scoring pass.
The final margin between the teams was the fourth-most one-sided of the modern era. Ara Parseghian's 1970 Irish won 56-7; his previous unit 47-0. Parseghian-coached Irish teams scored in excess of 40 vs. the Naval Academy seven times, just once allowing in excess of 14 points defensively.
The defense rests
Notre Dame held Navy to a season-low total on offense with 229 yards against. Navy gained 196 of that on the ground, but averaged just under four yards an attempt. The Irish used four down linemen, with Prince Shembo
and Darius Fleming
lining up as defensive ends.
Notre Dame shackled the Navy offense despite missing stalwart run defenders Kapron Lewis-Moore
and Ethan Johnson
because of injury. Moore is out for the year, while fellow senior Johnson was a game-time decision.
"We waited right up until the very end to make that decision," Kelly said of holding out Johnson, who is recovering from an ankle injury. "We thought that he had a chance – game day, you get a little help, and it wasn't going to be enough. He prepared, but he wasn't going to be able to play at the level he needed to."
Even though Navy's defense doesn't scare anyone too much this year, Notre Dame still had to go out and execute on Saturday – which it did, in a big way.
The Irish had struggled entering the contest in the red zone. Inside the 20, they were 110th in efficiency nationally, scoring on 19 of 27 attempts, with 16 of them touchdowns. They had missed two field goals, thrown three interceptions and lost three fumbles.
Against Navy, they went 7-for-7 in the red zone, with all seven scores touchdowns. Notre Dame used a balanced attack, with 182 rushing yards and 260 yards through the air. They ran for six touchdowns as a team.
"I think we probably ran the ball a little bit more effectively in those situations, and put more of an emphasis on the run game in that area, and I think that that is a good direction that we want to keep moving," Kelly said. "Obviously, 7-for-7 is where we think we should be. I thought Tommy (Rees) made some good decisions down there, where it's the decision-making that has to happen down there, and we got it to our guy. We got it to Michael Floyd
. You can't go wrong if you can get it to Mike."