The Midshipmen rolled up 257 yards on the ground in their thrilling 46-44 triple overtime victory over Notre Dame. Navy punted just once in the contest, when the Irish came up with a critical stop late in the fourth quarter. The Midshipmen's only miscue was a fumble in the first quarter. Other than that hiccup, Navy's option machine ate up time off the clock and put points up on the scoreboard.
On the three scoring drives in regulation, the Midshipmen's drives were 19 plays, 11 plays and 15 plays. The touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter that tied the score up at 21-all was the sixth time in nine games that's happened for Navy coming out of halftime on the first drive. The Midshipmen ran 75 plays and 67 of those were on runs. Navy did not go away from their bread and butter.
"I think that obviously Navy is a grind-them-out team, two, two, two, two seven," head coach Charlie Weis said. "It is just go, go, go and everything ends up changing. Now, I think we made some plays. We made enough plays to put us in position to win the game. But I think that at the end of the day when the game's played in the 40s, we just didn't make enough plays to win the game."
"That's what they've been doing all season to score that many points," fifth-year senior linebacker Joe Brockington said, who led all Notre Dame defensive players with 16 tackles on the day. "They did a good job making adjustments (to our defense) and things like that."
"That's their offense," fifth-year senior safety Tom Zbikowski said. "They've been putting up points like that no matter who they're playing. Obviously, I can say it again; it came down to them making one more play (than we did). We had the opportunity to make that play, too."
***Navy quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada only threw the ball eight times on Saturday, completing six for 81 yards. But the most important completion came in the third overtime. The Midshipmen got the ball first and didn't take long to put the pressure squarely on Notre Dame.
On the first play, Kaheaku-Enhada faked a sweeping pitch and dropped back to pass. The fake apparently got the Notre Dame defense to forget about Reggie Campbell, who ran down the right sideline on a wheel route. The Navy quarterback found the senior splitback open in the front corner of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown. It was Campbell's only reception of the day and Kaheaku-Enhada's longest of the day.
"Well, they started firing the corners," Navy head coach Paul Johnson said. "They made some adjustments and they were going to stop the run.
"I didn't want to do it in a third down or whatever. But I felt like it was there because in the second overtime, they hit us on the option. They fired the corner. And if you're going to do that you can't fire the corner and cover the wheel. Kaipo did a nice job finding him and Reggie did a great job catching the ball."
"That's part of their offense," Zbikowski said of the touchdown pass. "They're going to run it, run it and run it and then hit you with a big play on a pass like that."
If that wasn't enough, Campbell also caught the two-point conversion, which proved to be the difference in the contest.
***The decision by Notre Dame not to kick the field goal late in the fourth quarter with the score tied at 28-all was a head scratcher. The Irish also came up blank on another field goal attempt, this one in the first quarter.
After a Shun White fumble, the lone Navy turnover of the day, Notre Dame, protecting a 7-0 lead, drove to the Midshipmen 20-yard line and faced 4th-and-15. The field goal unit came on the field. The first sign something was up was that Irish quarterback Evan Sharpley was the holder, in place of regular holder Geoff Price. Also, backup kicker Nate Whitaker was on the field instead of starter Brandon Walker.
Sharpley took the snap on the 37-yard attempt and took off running for the first down. The Notre Dame quarterback came up 10 yards short and it gave the ball back to Navy. The Midshipmen promptly moved down the field and tied the score up at 7-all on Zerb Singleton's one-yard touchdown run. What could have been a possible 10-0 lead turned into a tie contest.
"We had put that in situationally on that same spot," Weis said. "Once again, we were having trouble kicking that way in pre-game. We really had trouble kicking into the wind in pre-game. We felt that if we got the ball the first time on left hash, we had the one way. We were trying to get it in there. If we couldn't, at least we could pin them back and not give them field position.
"We figured maybe we could get ten yards if we didn't make it and get them down to the 10 yard line and actually got the ball to the 15. I'd rather, the way Navy plays, to have them play on a long field than play on a short field."
***Nose tackle Pat Kuntz got injured in the first half and did not return to the game. The junior was seen on the sidelines in overtime wearing street clothes. In Kuntz's place, freshman Ian Williams saw extensive action, totaling a career-high 11 tackles on the afternoon.
***With junior free safety Kyle McCarthy earning his first career start, there have been 24 different Notre Dame players who've started their first career game this year. McCarthy registered seven tackles in the game.
***Fifth-year senior Trevor Laws had a career-high 15 tackles on the afternoon. The defensive end now has a team-high 82 stops on the year. It's the seventh most ever by a Notre Dame defensive lineman for a single season.