Possessions come at a premium during the yearly matchup against the Navy Midshipmen (6-4). Last year the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-2) were taken down by Navy 28-27 en route to a lowly 4-8 record. This year, the #9 Irish played physical defense and made key plays on offense as they took down the Midshipmen 24-17.
Senior Day is a special game for not only the seniors on the team but their families, coaches and fans. Notre Dame came out of the tunnel wearing the Knute Rockne era throwback uniforms as each jersey adorned the Rockne name on the back above the players numbers. Their helmets evoked the look of the old era leather helmets. They were pretty sweet looking in my mind.
Quarterback Brandon Wimbush bounced back from a poor performance last week against the Miami Hurricanes and completed 9 of his 18 passes for 164 yards, 2 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Wimbush also added 41 yards on the ground on 8 carries and one momentum building TD that tied the game at 10 to finish out the first half.
Wimbush said after the game, “I started seeing things a little more clear and adjust to the tempo Navy was playing at.”
Wide receiver Kevin Stepherson made some big plays for the Irish after Equanimeous St. Brown went out of the game early with what is being said as a head injury. Stepherson snagged 5 balls for 103 yards and 2 TDs.
“He means a lot to our offense and you can see the results,” Wimbush stated. “He’s become such a huge factor in our offense.”
Irish running back Josh Adams amassed 106 yards on 18 carries as he finally bounced back from 2 subpar games in recent weeks. Adams also became the fourth running back in Irish history to run for 1,300 or more yards in a single season. He also surpassed the 3,000 yard mark for his career becoming the 6th RB to do so for Notre Dame.
The Midshipmen’s offense is based on the triple option and gave the Irish defense fits throughout the. They tallied 277 yards on the ground on 72 carries as the Irish defense limited them to a 3.8 yards per carry average. Quarterback Zach Abey was their leading passer as he completed 3 of his 6 passes for 41 yards, he tossed 1 TD and had a crucial interception late in the game that solidified the game for the Irish. The time of possession heavily favored the Midshipmen as they had the ball for 42:42 compared to the Irish at 17:18.
With all those running plays by Navy, the Irish defense feasted on tackles as linebacker Greer Martini tallied 15 total tackles, 7 of them solo. Safety Julian Love and linebacker Te’von Coney amassed 14 and 10 tackles respectively.
Martini stated after the game, “They’re a four down team. They get fourth and short (and) they have a high percentage of getting those two to three yards.”
It wasn’t until the 4th quarter that Brian Kelly and his squad pulled away. Wimbush connected with Stepherson for a 9 yard TD on a crossing pattern that gave the Irish their first lead of the game at 24-17.
“I thought he was gritty and hung with it,” Kelly stated. “I was proud of the way he responded.”
The defense then made the play of the game as they intercepted Abey’s pass midway through the 4th quarter to deflate any momentum that Navy was trying to put together. The Midshipmen did have one last opportunity as they tried a trick play but with the wet field, Navy wide receiver Tyler Carmona slipped and the ball hit the turf on fourth down, giving the ball back to the Irish for the kneel down.
Midshipmen coach Ken Niumatalolo said after the game, “He was open. We missed the block on the edge. If we get the block on the edge, we had a shot. Our kids fought to the end, our kids didn’t show any quit.”
Notre Dame may still have a chance to slide into one of the final four spots in the College Football Playoff but they will need a lot of help to get in. Being seated at number 8 and a regular season finale Saturday in Stanford it is a possibility. With a possible victory at Stanford, the Irish could get one of the New Year’s Six bowl games. But like I just said, IF. One more game left in enemy territory isn’t a gimme victory. Let’s not look past the Cardinal.