Anatomy of a disaster

Navy's big-play running game and Notre Dame's offensive red-zone futility were the difference in Saturday's 23-21 defeat.

The Midshipmen ran for 348 net yards, and two players, quarterback Ricky Dobbs and fullback Vince Murray, exceeded 100 yards on the ground. Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo reflected on his team's 27-21 loss to the Fighting Irish a year ago when talking about how his team prepared for the trip to Notre Dame this year.

"I think the one thing that helped us, and I really hope this doesn't come across wrong, but I think the thing that helped us this year was last year, because we knew that they'd line up the same way," Niumatalolo said. "We didn't execute very well last year, and coming into this year — they did a great job against us last year defensively, so we had a pretty good clue that they were going to come back and do the same things as they did last year, and we had a few things (planned)."

Navy used plenty of motion and unbalanced formations in its triple-option offense.

"They're not used to being cut and blocked, and it's a whole different look for them," Dobbs said of Notre Dame's defense. "It has a lot to do with execution when we play anybody."

Navy completed just two passes, though one was a long touchdown, a 52-yard strike from Dobbs to Greg Jones that was Jones' first career scoring catch. The passing total wasn't all that unusual for the Midshipmen, who didn't attempt a pass two weeks ago in a win over Wake Forest, a feat they also accomplished a year ago against SMU. Navy was averaging just under 280 yards rushing per game entering Saturday's contest, a number that would be its lowest since 2002.

The Midshipmen ran for big gains throughout. Alexander Teich burst for 32 yards on an outside option pitch late in the first quarter. Murray ran up the middle for an easy 25-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. Gee Gee Greene gained 16 and Dobbs 19 on a drive to end the first half that resulted in a missed field goal.

Murray (14 carries, 158 yards) rumbled up the middle for 18 on the third play from scrimmage of the third quarter, and ran for 22 yards on the first play of the next drive. And he gained 39 up the middle from his team's own 1 yard line, in a play that Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis pointed to as a huge one in terms of momentum and change of field position, on the first play of the fourth quarter.

On the move, and then ...

Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen threw for 452 yards. Receivers Michael Floyd (10 catches, 141 yards) and Golden Tate (nine for 132) piled up big numbers. And yet the Irish scored only three touchdowns. What happened?

Notre Dame didn't run the ball, and didn't execute consistently inside the 20. The Irish gained just 60 yards on the ground on 20 attempts, with Theo Riddick's 35 on five carries leading the team. Starting running back Armando Allen sat out with an ankle injury.

They missed two field goals, lost a fumble on the goal line, threw an interception in the shadow of the end zone (on a miscue when Floyd thought he was blocking for a screen and Clausen's pass hit him in the back), and misfired on a fourth-and-goal attempt from the three.

"I'm not sure why we couldn't get them in the red zone," Clausen said. "That's definitely something we're going to be focused on working on next week and hopefully change that around."

Entering and exiting

Floyd made a big return after sitting out since injuring his clavicle against Michigan State in the season's third week.

"I think he played hard," Tate said of Floyd, who caught a touchdown and actually would have had 11 catches, but a swing pass for an 8-yard gain was ruled a lateral and thus a rushing attempt. "There were a few balls him and I both thought we should have caught. That just means we need to catch more balls after practice, during practice. I think he did pretty well the first game back."

Tight end Kyle Rudolph left the game after a 14-yard catch and run on a pass late in the third quarter. Weis said it was initially thought to be a shoulder injury, but according to a report from the Chicago Tribune in the early afternoon Sunday, X-rays were negative.

On first and goal from about the 10 on the last play of the third quarter, Clausen's left-side run ended just short of the end zone, as he was leveled by Navy corner Kevin Edwards, with the Midshipmen recovering the subsequent fumble. Clausen was motionless face-down for quite a while before rising and walking off with assistance. He didn't miss a play, but was aided by a Navy drive that took several minutes and gave Clausen a chance to recover.

"My first concern was his head," Weis said, but Clausen regained his composure and returned to the fray.

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