Aldridge and Allen Get Running Game Going

SOUTH BEND - Other than a couple plays, Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis was happy with his offense on Saturday afternoon. The main reason, the Irish were finally able to run the football.

Notre Dame came into the game against Navy ranking dead last in the nation in rushing yards (34.13) and total yards per game (187.63). Behind a solid push by the offensive line and good efforts by running backs James Aldridge and Armando Allen, the Irish gained 235 of their 375 yards of offense on the ground.

Aldridge ran for a career high 125 yards on 32 carries, and Allen chipped in an also career-high 91 yards on 16 rushes, but unfortunately it wasn't enough, as Notre Dame saw it's NCAA record 43-game winning streak over the Midshipmen come to an end, falling in triple overtime, 46-44.

"I am just going in and running hard," Aldridge said. The 6-foot, 222-pound sophomore was coming off a high-ankle sprain that kept him out of the USC game two weeks ago. "I am trusting in my linemen, trusting they open up some holes and taking advantage of the situation. It is an opportunity game and get some yards and take advantage of it."

Travis Thomas added rushing touchdowns of one, three and five yards.

"But today there's at least -- for example, in the running game, there is light at the end of the tunnel," Weis said. "Today was a day where you can sit there and say, okay, we can take and run the football."

Behind the solid running game, the Irish were actually able to win the time of possession battle, 30:41 to 29:19, which is impressive coming against Navy's top-ranked rushing offense.

***Midway through the fourth quarter, freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen began warming up on the sideline. Making his second-career start, junior Evan Sharpley completed 17-of-27 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Navy came into the game with the nation's worst pass-efficiency defense and just five team sacks, but they sacked Sharpley four times.

It appeared that maybe Clausen would replace Sharpley.

"Well, the intent in this game was to go ahead and -- was to play both quarterbacks in the game, but there never was an ebb and flow and it was not to play him as a replacement," Weis said. "It was, like, to substitute almost like the running back position. That was the intent in the game.

"But there was never an ebb and flow in the game where making the situation was very practical. You know, so I think that there had to be a natural time to do that. Like, if we would have ever got in the situation where we were up two scores -- what I didn't want to do was replace Evan. Evan understood this, and Jimmy understood this, that this was a possibility that we were going to do that."

Sharpley had been getting the bulk of the reps in practice the past two weeks, but there is a chance those snaps between him and Clausen could become more evenly dispersed, as the team prepares for next Saturday's game against Air Force.

"We're going to continue like we did this week, and I will have to wait and see the tape," Weis said. "I imagine Evan will still get more. Jimmy is getting healthier. I'm not saying he was -- once again, he wasn't injured but he has been hurting. And he's getting better and better and closer and closer. And I think that Jimmy will continue to get more reps as well."

***Freshman tight end Mike Ragone made his first career reception, a seven-yard catch in the second quarter.

***A few Irish players commented on the historical loss to the Midshipmen.

"It's not easy," sophomore left tackle Sam Young said. "Anytime you have adversity, you've got to go into the next week and regroup and stop the bleeding and keep plugging it. No one likes to lose. We've just got to keep plugging away at it."

"We're not focused on what's happened in the past between the two teams," fifth-year senior center John Sullivan said. "Today was tough because today was another loss and all the losses are tough. But I'm proud of our team. I think we went out there and fought hard. We played hard until the very last play and we came up just one play short."

"We're not worrying about that," Sharpley stated. "Now our focus is on Air Force. We didn't get a win today so now we have to move forward and try and get one next week."


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