It Was Over When...Everett Golson scooped up his own backfield fumble, surveyed a scattered, oncoming Navy defense, and navigated his way through traffic for an 8-yard score. The unplanned run to pay dirt provided a 10-point edge, 49-39, and occurred after Golson found running back Tarean Folston with a 3rd-and-6 check down pass that resulted in a 30-yard gain to the Navy 3-yard line.
Said Golson of the patient pass to his sophomore runner, "Last read, last read. I was reading one-two (options) to the field, I came back and looked for three-four (options) to the boundary, and he was (number) five. There's not many times you can get through a five (receiver) progression."
Offensive MVP -- Everett GolsonNotre Dame has played 1,230 football games and today marked the first in which its quarterback scored three touchdowns both on the ground and through the air.
Senior Everett Golson completed 18 of 25 passes for 315 yards, including touchdown strikes of 78, 2, and 4 yards -- each of the three scores occurred in the first half. He added 33 rushing yards with touchdown jaunts of 5, 3, and 8 yards, the latter pair coming in the fourth quarter, first to put the Irish ahead, 35-31, the second the aforementioned fumble recovery the put the game on ice with just over 1:30 remaining.
"I thought it was alright," said Golson of a night that included a red zone interception that provided Navy life late in the first half. "I was happy with being able to get to the check downs tonight. (But) a couple of throws, I probably could have gotten through my progressions a little bit better, stuff like that."
Head coach Brian Kelly took the blame for Golson's pick. It was clear the actual transgression was a mis-read route by a wide receiver, likely Amir Carlisle, who Kelly chewed out post-play. Told Kelly took the blame for what he called "too complicated a play" Golson noted. "He's a good guy."
Game Balls: Offense-- Tarean Folston: The surging sophomore registered a career-best 149 yards on 20 carries, the highlight a 25-yard fourth quarter score that provided a 42-31 advantage. Including his aforementioned 30-yard catch-and-run and 25-yard touchdown, Folston finished with a season-best gain of 26 yards and four 11-yard rushes.
-- Ben Koyack: The senior tight end became Golson's security blanket, connecting for gains of 16 yards on a bootleg, five yards on third-and-four, and for 19 yards on a third quarter third-down conversation. Koyack also scored on a 2-yard touchdown toss and later served as Will Fuller's lead blocker on the latter's bubble screen score, his ninth of the season, midway through the second period.
Fuller though was limited to a season-low 16 yards on just three receptions.
-- C.J. Prosise: Hit the Mid's for a 78-yard touchdown on the game's second snap, later adding a 14-yard first down gain on a Jet Sweep. Prosise's score marks the longest play of the season to date for the Irish.
Defensive MVP -- Justin UtupoThe only front seven contributor that will exhaust his eligibility at season's end, Utupo highlighted his first career start with his first career interception, a game-sealing grab of a batted pass (Sheldon Day and James Onwualu created the miscue when they converged on Navy quarterback Keenan Reyolds). Utupo's pick provided Notre Dame the football at the Navy 29-yard line with 7:09 remaining and an 11-point margin.
He added a pass breakup that saved a likely Navy touchdown, a first-down pass from the Midshipmen's 29-yard line that occurred just four snaps prior to his interception. Among Utupo's four tackles was a stop of Reynolds at scrimmage.
"I tried to run it back," Utupo joked of his crucial interception. "I have to work at that…I might have to move back to linebacker."
"I'm just happy the way we adjusted at the end and made the stops that mattered."
Game Balls: Defense-- Greer Martini: In his first career start, Notre Dame's initial commitment of the 2014 recruiting class recorded a game-high nine stops, two of which held Midshipmen short of the marker on third-down, while also providing a pair of third-down QB pressures on Reynolds.
Martini's start surprised Irish media despite Kelly's proclamation early in the week that the Irish would vary their defensive personnel.
"Greer is a very smart kid and his attention to detail is very good," said Kelly, adding, "And he's the only guy we have. We don't have anybody else."
-- James Onwualu: Played a backup role as a boundary-side linebacker to true freshman Drue Tranquill but the former wide receiver Onwualu nonetheless shined, notching a career-high seven tackles including two for lost yardage, another that limited Reynolds to one yard.
-- Matthias Farley: The senior played the game's least consequential series -- Navy's final drive -- but he appeared to unleash his frustrations for a complete lack of playing time prior, registering a pair of sacks and a pass defended on three of his four snaps from scrimmage.
Just the Facts-- Martini, Utupo, and Tranquill made their starting debuts for Notre Dame. Utupo has appeared in 43 games while both Martini and Tranquill are true freshmen that played in their eighth for the Irish tonight.
-- Sophomore walk-on Austin Larkin entered the contest for Onwualu in the fourth quarter when the latter did not pass an on field cognitive test. Onwualu is expected to be fully cleared this week. It was Larkin's first action in an Irish uniform.
-- Folston's career-best 20-carry, 149-yard, one TD outing came 364 days after his previous career high, an 18-carry, 140-yard, one TD effort vs. Navy in Notre Dame Stadium last Nov. 2.
-- Golson has surpassed 300 passing yards in three straight games and in four of the previous five.
-- Golson's three rushing touchdowns scored matched the program's single-game record by a quarterback. He shares the mark with Paul Hornung (UNC, 1956), Jarious Jackson (Stanford, 1998), and himself -- Golson ran it in three times against Rice earlier this season.
-- The Irish have intercepted a pass in 11 straight games and eight different players have recorded a pick for the Irish this season.
-- Navy has scored a combined 73 points in its last two outings against the Irish. The total marks the most combined scored by a foe in back-to-back seasons of the Brian Kelly era, surpassing Andrew Luck and Stanford's 65 point production in 2010-11.