At First Glance

Saturday night's notebook heralds the emergence of a new feature back -- maybe -- and acknowledges the just-in-time defensive stop that saved Notre Dame's 38-34 victory over Navy.

Offensive MVP: Tarean Folston

Running with vision and showing off his elusiveness, Folston gained 140 yards on the ground against Navy. He did it all while not breaking a run of more than 15 yards.

The 5-foot-9, 207-pound freshman out of Florida easily reached career bests in carries and yards, and scored the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard dive with 4:25 to go as well.

It will be interesting to see what Folston does against a tougher run defense. The Irish (7-2) had their way with Navy's defensive front all day, gaining 264 yards rushing on 7.3 yards per attempt. It will also be interesting to see how many carries he gets while competing with the other backs in Notre Dame's stable in the weeks ahead.

Offensive Game Balls

Notre Dame's offensive line did what it was supposed to against Navy: open up big, big holes for the running game. Give the up-front guys some props.

T.J. Jones continued his stretch as Notre Dame's energizer at receiver. He caught four passes for 111 yards and a touchdown, all in the first half, and could have had another big gain had quarterback Tommy Rees not missed him early on a deep ball down the left sideline.

And Rees? He earned a solid grade today. He did have two interceptions, but one came after Jones slipped while cutting. Rees was 12-of-20 for 243 yards and two touchdowns, and on one of the biggest plays of the game late, found tight end Troy Niklas for a critical first down over the middle on third and 8.

Notre Dame punted exactly zero times. That's a credit to the offensive line, and Rees, who on several occasions used play action effectively.

Just because it came so early doesn't mean we should overlook running back George Atkinson's 41-yard touchdown burst up the middle to open the game. He finished with 74 yards on seven carries.

Defensive MVPs: Jaylon Smith, Eilar Hardy and Bennett Jackson

It only seemed as if Notre Dame's injury-depleted defense gave up 55 points and 500 rushing yards on Saturday. In fact, the Midshipmen (4-4) scored five touchdowns and gained 417 yards in all, 329 on the ground. And whenever Navy seemed to need a first down or a big gain, it seemed to come up with one. The visitors only punted twice and didn't turn the ball over.

Perhaps the most important defensive play of the game for Notre Dame involved a botched pitch on Navy's part late in the fourth quarter, a loss that helped lead to a fourth and 4 from the 31 with 1:16 remaining. That's when the Midshipmen tried an end around to Shawn Lynch. Notre Dame safety Eilar Hardy stepped up and forced Lynch wide, cornerback Bennett Jackson got a piece of the ballcarrier, and linebacker Jaylon Smith brought him down, ending Navy's upset bid. Without all three of their efforts, Lynch very well might have found his way to the first-down marker. (And yes, I know Jackson got beat on a play-action touchdown pass. We'll take our defensive heroes where we can find them today.)

Defensive Game Balls

Linebacker Ben Councell had five total tackles, including one for a loss, and broke up a pass. He was dinged up late on a kickoff.

Romeo Okwara and Carlo Calabrese combined on a first-half sack. Calabrese finished with 10 total tackles, second to Kona Schwenke's 11.

Special Teams MVP: Kicker Kyle Brindza hit a 26-yard field goal and put two of seven kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks.

Notes: Navy not only did not turn the ball over, but it did not commit a penalty. The Midshipmen had two fumbles and recovered both. … Quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who did not complete a pass until well into the second quarter, finished 6 for 9 through the air for 88 yards. … Notre Dame had five tackles for loss against Navy's option offense. The Irish had seven tackles for loss against Air Force's option last week. Top Stories