After Only 43 Years, Navy Quiets Queries
By Kevin Heitz
While he won't be heading up I-95 to New York at the end of the season to lay claim to the Heisman Trophy, Navy quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada now has one significant thing in common with the legendary Midshipmen signal caller Roger Staubach -- they both led their teams to victory over the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
The two quarterbacks are separated by more than four decades, but now linked forever in Navy athletic history.
Junior quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada led the Navy Midshipmen to their first victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in more than four decades.
When the Navy defense stopped Notre Dame's fifth-year senior running back Travis Thomas for a 3-yard loss on a two-point conversion that would have sent the game into a fourth overtime, the Midshipmen finally brought an end to a 43-year skid against the Irish -- the NCAA's longest losing streak against one opponent.
The 46-44 triple-overtime victory also snapped Navy's two-game losing streak and left the Mids (5-4) one win away from bowl eligibility, but last Saturday it was all about the end of an epic streak. It was the first time Navy beat Notre Dame since a 35-14 win in 1963 with eventual Heisman winner Staubach under center.
No longer will the squad from Annapolis have to field dozens of questions about the mind-boggling losing streak to the Golden Domers. No longer will writers annually get to remind fans that the last time Navy beat Notre Dame the price of gasoline was 39 cents a gallon, J.F.K. was the president, and so on.
"I'm just so happy for our players, especially our seniors because you know it is a big win for our program," coach Paul Johnson said. "It is a big win for the academy, and I'm happy that I don't have to answer anything else about a streak every time we play."
Amid the postgame celebration in South Bend, Kaheaku-Enhada said that while it "was an amazing feeling" to stop the streak, the win is a boost for Navy in many ways.
"It's not just a great win for the team, it's not just about stopping the streak," the junior quarterback said. "It's about recruiting now. Not just for football, not just for athletics but for the whole academy.
"This opens up a lot of people's eyes that the Naval Academy is maybe a good choice. For the young kids out there who are thinking about joining the military, it's a great option. No. 1, you get great leadership, and you are around outstanding people. No. 2, you can be set up for the rest of your life."
The Midshipmen are now set up for another bowl bid, needing to win just one of their final three games to become eligible. The first chance comes Saturday as Johnson has the challenging task of bringing his players down to earth after such a big win.
Navy travels to Denton, Texas, to face another one-win team, the North Texas Mean Green. North Texas (1-7) is coming off a bye week after losing 48-28 to Sun Belt Conference foe Middle Tennessee its last time out.
Navy's offense, which was held to 338 yards against Notre Dame, will look to get back to its 400-plus yard average against North Texas' 117th-ranked defense.
The Mids are 3-1 on the road this season.
Navy's defense continues to give up big numbers. Notre Dame rushed for 235 yards and the Irish's 44 points marked the sixth time this year the Mids' opponent scored more than 40.
Another big number for the defense: Freshman Kevin Edwards made his first career start, making him the 23rd different Navy player to start on defense this year, including the 11th different man in the secondary.
Navy Opponent Preview
North Texas Mean Green (1-7, 1-4 Sun Belt)
Date: Nov. 10, 2007
Time: 4 p.m.
Radio: Navy Radio Network
No offense to Army, Northern Illinois or North Texas, but Navy has an easy stretch in its final three games. The first game is against the North Texas Mean Green, and they are the weakest of the three. They suffered two monumental losses earlier in the season -- the season opener, in which Oklahoma Boomer Soonered the Mean Green, 79-10, and the 66-7 drubbing by Arkansas. Texas high school legend and head coach Todd Dodge will have to conjure up some "Friday Night Lights" magic to derail a Navy team riding high after beating Notre Dame for the first time since Roger Staubach was the quarterback in the early '60s.
Player to watch:
P Truman Spencer
North Texas has been outscored 372-163 in eight games, and for a team that is that offensively challenged, the punter is always one to watch since he is always on the field. Spencer has punted 51 times, putting six of them inside the 20. He has also had three punts blocked, which is never a sign that a team is any good.
Honorable nention goes to wide receiver Casey Fitzgerald, who is averaging 124 receiving yards per game. Against Southern Methodist Sept. 8, the junior hauled in 18 receptions for 327 yards.
Head coach Todd Dodge, defensive coordinator Ron Mendoza, offensive coordinator Todd Ford
North Texas 17
Issue 2.45: November 8, 2007