This time, they were in his favor.
Staked to field position at both the Navy 7-and 26-yard line due to Midshipmen fumbles, Notre Dame turned the miscues into 14 points, the latter at the outset of the second stanza to take a 31-21 lead.
"Huge. Huge possessions," said Irish head coach Brian Kelly of the short fields provided. "We were able to gain more possessions in this game than any other we've played against Navy. We were close to 15 possessions. Those obviously meant a lot in this game."
Navy had tied the Irish at 21 with less than 30 seconds remaining in the first half, rallying from a 14-point deficit without injured starter Keenan Reynolds under center. Backup Tago Smith engineered a pair of second quarter scoring drives culminating in touchdown runs of 45 and 22 yards, respectively, by fullback Quentin Ezell.
The host Irish scored 17 unanswered points in less than nine game minutes thereafter, the first three courtesy a 52-yard field goal by freshman Justin Yoon. The boot marked the second longest in program history and provided notable momentum at the conclusion of the first half.
Notre Dame drove 40 yards on three plays in just 19 seconds to set up Yoon.
“It was a great momentum piece for us just before the half,” said Kelly of Yoon’s deep shot.
Yoon tacked on a 36-yard field goal at the 9:53 mark of the fourth quarter to extend Notre Dame’s lead to a comfortable 17 points, 41-24.
Senior safety Elijah Shumate ended Navy’s comeback efforts at the 6:14 mark of the fourth quarter, securing a diving interception at the Irish 6-yard line.
“We knew we had to play perfect against these guys and this was probably our worst game this season,” said Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo, referencing three turnovers and a series of uncharacteristic costly penalties.
C.J. Prosise dominated the Midshipmen’s defense on a variety of shuffle passes and runs off tackle, totaling 185 yards from scrimmage (136 rushing) and three touchdowns.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” said Niumatalolo of Prosise. “He kind of reminds me of (former San Diego Chargers running back) Chuck Muncie. “Real slithery, the next thing you know, he’s gone. Really patient ‘back, good vision.”
Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer finished the day an economical 22 of 30 for 281 yards with one score, a 36-yard scramble toss to Will Fuller. Approximately 50 of Kizer’s passing yards came on four passes that traveled less than a foot.
“Navy runs a lot of two-shell. It was really trying to find different ways to get (Prosise) on the perimeter,” said Kelly. “Sometimes it’s trying to build some speed and get him on the perimeter.
“Just trying to get one of our skill players on the edge of our defense. That was the plan.”
Kelly jokingly added of the tactic, technically a forward pass, “And we wanted Kizer’s stats to look a lot better.”
Navy rushed for 239 yards in the first half but was limited to 79 in the second stanza as the Irish defense held the Midshipmen to a pair of third quarter field goal attempts, one unsuccessful, after two drives that bled nearly 10 minutes off the quarter clock.
Defensive tackle Sheldon Day led the Irish defensively, finishing with a career-high nine tackles including five at or behind Navy’s line of scrimmage.
The host Irish finished with 459 total yards, converting 7 of 12 third down chances into first downs and scoring touchdowns on three of its four red zone forays.