Notre Dame Topples Navy
By Kevin Heitz
The pageantry and fanfare that accompanies a Navy-Notre Dame football game was at a usual high. From the march of the Midshipmen to the fly-over, everything was as expected as the Fighting Irish and the Midshipmen met on the field for the 80th consecutive year.
Unfortunately for Navy players and fans, the outcome of the game was also as expected. Notre Dame (7-1) beat Navy (5-3) 38-14, racking up a season-high 471 yards of total offense and scoring on its first give possessions.
"You're not going to beat them if you can't stop them once," Navy coach Paul Johnson said after the game.
Notre Dame's winning streak over Navy now stands at 43 games, an NCAA record.
After a September loss to Michigan, the Irish have won five straight games and are clawing their way back into national championship talk. After Saturday's performance in Baltimore, quarterback Brady Quinn clawed his way back into Heisman consideration. Quinn finished the day 18-for-25 for 295 yards passing, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Notre Dame got the opening kickoff and made it look easy with their first few plays, but the Navy defense stopped the drive and forced the Irish to settle for a 40-yard field goal by Carl Gioia.
Against the No. 11 team in the nation and playing in front of 71,851 at the Baltimore Ravens' M&T Bank Stadium is not what most quarterbacks envision for their first start…but that was what sophomore Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada faced on Saturday.
The midshipmen put together a solid first drive going 69 yards in 12 plays and eating up five minutes off the clock, but Kaheaku-Enhada was sacked on a third-down play and kicker Matt Harmon missed a 32-yard field goal.
The Notre Dame offense went to work from there. The momentum shifted to the Irish on a fourth-and-2 play from near midfield. Quinn hit John Carlson for a 15-yard gain, and three plays later Notre Dame found the end zone when Quinn connected with David Grimes for a 36-yard touchdown to give Notre Dame a 10-0 lead.
Neither defense could make any stops in the second quarter.
Navy answered the Irish score with a nine-play 80-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard rush by Kaheaku-Enhada to make the score 10-7. Jason Tomlinson had two big plays in the drive, gaining 26 yards on a return, and 19 yards on a pass from Kaheaku-Enhada to give Navy a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line.
The Midshipmen then turned around and gave up a 76-yard scoring drive by Notre Dame capped off by a 16-yard touchdown run by Travis Thomas.
Kaheaku-Enhada looked comfortable whether it was running the option or dropping back in the pocket to pass. He scored his second rushing touchdown of the half with a 1-yard lunge into the end zone after orchestrating a 13-play, 65-yard drive that lasted more than five minutes.
The Irish got the ball back with 2:35 in the half and methodically drove down the field, going 80 yards in seven plays for their third touchdown of the half. Quinn connected with three different receivers including Rhema McKnight on a 33-yard touchdown pass. Notre Dame went into halftime with a 24-14 lead.
Jeff Samardzija was quiet in the first half catching only one pass for 22 yards, but Quinn and the Notre Dame offense spread the field. In the first half McKnight had four catches for 81 yards, Carlson had three catches for 29 yards and Grimes caught two passes for 46 yards. Quinn as the Irish racked up 197 yards passing in a first half that included zero punts from Notre Dame.
The second half was not kind to the Midshipmen. Navy got the ball to start the half but had to punt after gaining only six yards on three plays.
Notre Dame followed up the punt with a nine-play drive that ended with Quinn rushing 19 yards for the touchdown and a 31-14 lead.
Navy tried to fight back but a promising drive ended after a false start penalty on a fourth-and-2 followed by a Kaheaku-Enhada sack. Notre Dame got the ball at their own 47 and proceeded to drive 52 yards in seven plays. Instead of a field goal with fourth-and-goal at the 2-yard line, Notre Dame attempted to put the game out of reach but was stuffed at the 1. It was the first Notre Dame drive that did not result in a score.
Navy stuck to its running game, but could not get things rolling in the third quarter. Notre Dame got the ball back at its 47-yard line, and took only seven plays to rack up another seven points. Quinn hit McKnight for a 6-yard touchdown with 9:36 left in the game to push the lead to 38-14.
Posted October 29, 2006