Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Notre Dame 42 Naval Academy 21

This game was similar to what I expected. Navy ran a little better than I expected, amassing 239 total yards on the ground, but this is still over 50 yards fewer than they had been averaging. The difficulty in stopping the run was their consistency; they averaged a little over 4 yards per carry, and they didn't have any big runs to skew the average (their longest was 12 yards). Also, because of their consistency, they initially went for it on 4th and short, going 2-2 on 4th down in the first quarter. However, as the game wore on, the larger defensive line started getting excellent penetration into the Navy backfield, disrupting the option offense. They only went for it one time on 4th down after the 1st quarter, and the defense stopped them.

Notre Dame's offense was predictable - they leveraged their strength and height advantages, leading to a touchdown on 6 of their 9 drives in the game. The other drives ended in a turnover on downs, an interception (surprising from Brady), and the end of the game.
The Irish leveraged their strength advantage by providing healthy doses of Walker and Thomas on the ground, amassing a total of 221 yards rushing as a team (Walker led the team with 124 yards). The Irish run game also allowed the Irish to even up the time of possession against a ball-hogging team, wearing down their defense as much as they tried to wear down ours.
Notre Dame leveraged their height advantage all day long, scoring 4 passsing touchdowns against the undersized Navy secondary. Navy made a real effort to try to shut down Jeff Samardzija, routinely double- and triple-teaming him. This, of course, left Maurice Stovall in one-on-one coverage with an undersized corner. He took full advantage, grabbing 8 balls for 130 yards and 3 TDs. Also, while Samardzija's TD catch streak was broken, as he caught only 5 balls for 42 yards, he played a crucial role in tying up the Navy secondary. Fasano caught a TD in his second straight game this week as well, which was nice to see.

Brady was consistent, going 22-31 for 284 yards and 4 TD, but also throwing his 5th pick of the season.

Navy played with a lot of heart, never giving up, even after the Irish went up 3 scores in the 2nd quarter, effectively putting the game out of reach. They wouldn't stop fighting, eventually scoring two TDs in the second half, one with only 1:17 left in the game.

The best part of the game was after the final gun, however, when the Navy players walked over to the Navy band, with the Notre Dame players standing just behind. In a great moment of patriotism, the entire stadium fell absolutely silent as the Naval band played "Navy Blue and Gold," the alma mater of the Naval Academy. Not since I was in the empty stadium about 13 years ago have I heard Notre Dame Stadium that quiet, as the entire crowd showed their respect for our men and women in uniform. It was a very poignant moment.

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