A fumble by Navy quarterback Lamar Owens in the second quarter and subsequent recovery by Corey Mays led to Notre Dame turning a one touchdown lead into a 21-point halftime lead as the Irish downed the Midshipmen 42-21 for the 42nd consecutive win in the rivalry series. In front of a sellout crowd at Notre Dame Stadium, Irish fans saw Brady Quinn set a few more records and Maurice Stovall catch eight balls for 130 yards and three touchdowns as the team improved to 7-2 on the season and stay in line for a possible BCS bowl berth. Notre Dame used a balanced approach of 284 passing yards and 221 rushing yards in beating Navy.
"We hoped going into the game that would be the case," head coach Charlie Weis said. "We wanted to play a little more ball control, especially at the end of the year when you don't know what the weather is going to be. You can't go out there and sling it on every play. So we wanted a little more balance out there and run it a little more than we threw it. I think we ran it very efficiently. That was a good thing."
A Travis Thomas 12-yard touchdown run off left end put Notre Dame up 14-7 with 5:29 left in the second quarter. On the drive, Quinn's 22-yard completion to Stovall broke Jarious Jackson's single season yardage total. The junior quarterback now has over 2,700 passing yards on the year. For the day, Quinn was 22-of-31 for 284 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.
Owens moved the Midshipmen into Irish territory when an errant option pitch fell onto the ground and into the arms of Mays. It took only three plays for Notre Dame to convert off the turnover as Darius Walker ran up the gut for a 13-yard touchdown scamper to extend the lead to 21-7. Walker ran for 118 yards on 19 carries and it was the sophomore's first 100-yard game since Washington.
A three-and-out by the Irish defense gave the ball back to the Notre Dame offense and they did not disappoint. Quinn took his team 48 yards in six plays capped off by an 8-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Fasano to sent the Irish into the locker room with a comfortable 28-7 lead.
Navy did not show signs of backing down from the three-touchdown lead. Owens led Navy down the field on the opening possession of the second half and finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak to cut the lead to 28-14. But Quinn put the game out of reach with a 16-yard scoring strike to Stovall, the receiver's second of the day, to make it 35-14 Notre Dame. Quinn did see his streak of consecutive passes end without an interception at 130 with a pick early on in the fourth quarter. The previous record was 124, set by Carlyle Holiday in 2000-01. He redeemed himself later in 4th when he hit Stovall for his fourth touchdown of the day on a 10-yard scoring fade route. More importantly, it broke Ron Powlus's career passing touchdown record of 52. Quinn now has 53.
"Our big deal was that we couldn't get any pressure on the passer," Navy head coach Paul Johnson said. "They broke off some runs but basically they did about what they wanted. They are very talented."
A quick first quarter saw two time consuming drives by both teams that resulted in touchdowns. Notre Dame won the toss and elected to receiver. The decision paid off. Quinn, who got great protection all day from his offensive line, lofted a jump ball in the back of the end zone to Stovall. The 6-5 receiver got in front of the Navy defender and out jumped the Midshipmen's Keenan Little for a 31-yard touchdown grab to give the Irish an early 7-0 lead.
Navy fired right back with the longest drive of the year on the Notre Dame defense. A 16-play, 68 yard drive, which saw the Midshipmen convert two fourth downs, was punctuated with a 9-yard run by Adam Ballard to even the score at 7. On the drive, Navy's second leading rusher, fullback Matt Hall, went out of the game with a sprained knee and did not return to the contest.