Much will be said and written today about Navy's triumphant win over the Irish on Saturday. The media and fans alike will replay every play on Saturday and look at questionable calls, costly mistakes, lack of execution and anything else they can find to explain how the Irish could possibly lose to Navy.
The answer is simple. Navy wanted it more.
I'm hardly dumping this loss on the players. The Irish coaching staff did their fair share to lose the game. It is a team game—players and coaches—but the Navy team wanted it more than the Notre Dame team. It's as simple as that.
The Irish had plenty of chances to win the game.
The Irish, up 7-0, are given a gift from Navy and recover a fumble at the Navy 30-yard line. The Irish picked up a first down to the Navy 15-yard line. Notre Dame runs a screen pass, and Armando Allen loses five yards. Two straight incomplete passes and the Irish are in a fourth-and-15 situation. Yes, I also wonder why Weis decided to run a fake field goal when they needed 15 yards to score, but the Irish team had their chance to not be in that situation as well…..the blew it. Both questionable call and poor execution kill the drive. Navy makes the stop and the momentum shifts.
Navy then takes the ball and uses 19 plays to go 85 yards and score to tie the game. The Irish defense had 19 opportunities to stop Navy and failed….they blew it. Again, momentum building for the Midshipmen.
The Irish entered half time with the 21-14 lead. They knew Navy would get the ball to start the second half, and all the Irish had to do was stop them on that first drive and the game would likely have been over. Navy marches 66 yards on 15 plays to score again. The Irish had 15 chances to stop Navy—they blew it.
Notre Dame takes the next possession and marches to the Navy 23. On first and 10, Armando Allen gets stuffed for no gain….against the Navy defense….no gain. Again, two straight incomplete passes and the Irish are forced to kick a field goal—again, wide right, they blew it.
The Notre Dame defense finally stops Navy and forces them into an unsuccessful field goal attempt. Notre Dame is up 21-20, and a score here would be a dagger in the heart of the Midshipmen. The Irish try to throw on first down, and an unaccounted for Navy defender forces Evan Sharpley from the pocket and another incomplete pass on first down is the result. On second down, two unaccounted for defenders sack Sharpley, who fumbles the football, and Navy returns for a touchdown…..again, they blew it.
With the score 28-28, the Irish get the ball back at the Navy 38 after a thrilling 32-yard punt return by Tom Zbikowski. Finally, the play that will end this nonsense…not so fast.
The Irish pick up a first down to the Navy 26. Then Armando Allen gets stopped for a 2-yard gain (against this awful Navy defense). David Grimes drops a ball on second down, and Armando Allen then gets stoned for zero gain, again, by this Navy defense.
Even after all of those dreadful mistakes in that series of downs, the Irish still had a chance to win the game and Weis decides to go for it anyway. Why? I wish I had an answer. The result? The quarterback taking a 7-yard sack on fourth down instead of at least trying to make a play. Both questionable calls and execution again sink the Irish.
We can certainly second guess a lot of play calls in this game, and rightfully should. But had anything been different in even one of those six blown opportunities, the Irish would have their second victory of the season and the streak would continue.
Execution, play calls aside, what really bothers me, and should bother Weis and this team, is the fact that Navy wanted this game more, and that's why they converted on those opportunities and the Irish didn't. That's why they won the game. They simply wanted it more.
I'm hardly absolving the Irish coaching staff from blame. Their job is to get their team ready to play, and to have them executing at a high level. Notre Dame certainly came out ready to play, but like all season, the execution was sorely lacking on both sides of the ball.
Notre Dame has zero chance of beating anyone if the opponent wants the game more than they do. I mention this only because this has to be fixed before anything else good can happen.
Weis can practice every play a thousand times over and it won't matter if the team won't fight for the win more than their opponent. It's one thing to get beat physically by a superior opponent, but Navy is hardly physically superior to the Irish.
Both coaching and execution have to get better before Notre Dame starts winning again, but both also have to be committed to winning. Until we see that, the Irish won't have a chance to win another game.
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