Saturday, October 23, 2010

Navy routs Notre Dame

By John McMullen

East Rutherford, NJ (The Phanatic Magazine) - Notre Dame hasn't been a real national power since Lou Holtz was roaming the sidelines in South Bend but there is still something about the Fighting Irish.

A crowd of 75,614 greeted the Irish in north Jersey on Saturday but the subway alumni went home despondent as Navy routed Notre Dame, 35-17, in the renewal of college football's longest continuous intersectional rivalry at the new Meadowlands Stadium.

Alexander Teich had a career-best 210 yards rushing on just 26 carries, and added a career-long 31-yard touchdown reception for Navy (5-2), while quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who came in averaging just 2.9 yards a carry, finished with 90 yards and three touchdowns on 20 rushes.

Notre Dame (4-4) apologists will point to the fact that the Irish were playing without their top three receivers, wideouts Michael Floyd (hamstring) and Theo Riddick (ankle), along with tight end Kyle Rudolph (hamstring), but that doesn't explain the woeful performance of the team's defense.

Under the much-maligned Charlie Weis the Irish had a ton of trouble defending Navy's triple-option in recent years but things hit rock-bottom on Saturday afternoon. The Notre Dame defenders were on their heels from the outset and never recovered, allowing 367 yards rushing.

"This is what we are. We are an option team," said Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo. "Sure we use the triple but I'm not sure we did anything Notre Dame hasn't seen, we just executed."

Notre Dame is now 72-12-1 all-time against the Midshipman since the rivalry began back in 1927, but has lost three of the past four matchups since 2007 when Navy beat the Irish to snap Notre Dame's 43-game winning streak in the series, the NCAA record for the longest run against any opponent.

Meanwhile, the Irish lost for the first time ever in the state of New Jersey. Notre Dame came into today's contest 14-0 in the Garden State, including an 11-0 mark at the old Giants Stadium.

"This is 2010," Niumatalolo said. "We are a good team, they are a good team."

Dayne Crist completed 19-of-31 passes for 178 yards with one TD and two interceptions while Armando Allen added 90 all-purpose yards for UND.

The Irish and their new coach Brian Kelly were simply outschemed by the far less-talented Midshipman. Time and time again Notre Dame failed to locate the ball as Navy gashed them in the historic performance.

The Irish went methodically downfield on the games's opening possession but came up empty when Christ was stoned on a quarterback sneak on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line.

That stop changed the game's momentum and Navy never looked back after quickly taking an early 7-0 lead thanks to a six-play, 99-yard march in what could have been called the Teich show. First, the Navy fullback converted a 3rd-and-1 with a career-high 54-yard rumble and, three plays later, corralled a poorly thrown screen pass with one hand before racing 31 yards for the TD.

The Irish were able to move the ball again on their second possession but bogged down inside the 25 before David Ruffer came on to boot a 45-yard field goal, his school record 18th consecutive.

The Notre Dame defense continued to struggle identifying the ball carrier during Navy's next possession and a big pass interference call on safety Harrison Smith helped the Midshipman en route to another TD and a 14-3 lead. Dobbs capped the 12-play, 77-yard drive with a 3-yard keeper with 11:01 left in the second quarter.

The Irish kept moving the ball and finally found the end zone on their next attempt when Crist finished a 13-play, 72-yard march by finding freshman receiver T.J. Jones for a 16-yard score on a big 3rd-and-14 play to make it a 14-10 game with 6:07 on the clock until intermission.

The Notre Dame defense finally stopped Navy for the first time when junior defensive end Ethan Johnson sniffed out a Dobbs run for a 2-yard loss on a 3rd-and-4 near midfield. But, Midshipman punter Kyle Delahooke pinned the Irish at their own three. Notre Dame was unable to move the ball and Crist
threw an awful pass into double coverage on third down that De'Von Richardson picked off at the ND 30.

The Irish defense continued its hapless performance when Carlo Calabrese, a Verona, NJ native, missed a tackle on Gee Gee Greene in the open field, allowing the running back to get the corner and find the end zone for a 9-yard score, giving Navy a commanding 21-10 edge heading to the locker room.

Any hope on an Irish comeback in the second half was quickly muted when Navy came out and sliced through the ND defense again, this time for an easy 7-play, 77-yard drive that Dobbs puncuated with a 9-yard TD run.

The rout was on after another Crist interception when Dobbs scored for a third time and the 43td time in his college career, this time on a 1-yard TD plunge to make it 35-10 with 4:38 remaining in the third quarter.

Cierre Wood's 1-yard TD run for Notre Dame with 6:12 left in the game accounted for the final margin.


*Rudolph, an All-American tight end, recently underwent surgery for a torn hamstring and is out for the season. The junior had 28 receptions for 328 yards and three TDs before being shut down.

Riddick, who moved from running back to receiver this spring, was enjoying a breakout season before suffering a severely sprained ankle last week against Western Michigan. Riddick, who the team hopes to have back for the Utah game on Nov. 13, has 38 receptions for 406 yards and three touchdowns in seven games.

Floyd, one of the best receivers in the country and a future first round pick in the NFL Draft, was listed as a game-time decision with a hamstring injury. The junior from St. Paul, Minnesota's famous Cretin-Derham Hall High School has 44 catches for 624 yards and six TDs on the year.

*The two schools officially announced at halftime that next year's game will be played on Sept. 1 at the new 50,000 seat Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. The teams also played in Ireland back in 1996.

*Despite its failings in recent years Notre Dame is still a "national" program that recruits from the entire country. The Irish have seven players from New Jersey, incuding tight end Mike Ragone of Camden Catholic in south Jersey. The Irish have eight players from Pennsylvania including West Chester's Ryan Kavanagh, a reserve long snapper.

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