Notre Dame and Navy renewed their annual rivalry last Saturday in a hard fought battle. In the end, the Irish were able to come away with a 24-17 victory to push their record to 9-2. While it wasn’t the dominating win many expected, a win is a win. All Irish fans have to remember that this is a team that went 4-8 last season. Navy is a team that is well coached and will never just roll over against any opponent. Plus, it was a milestone for Notre Dame as they won a one possession game for the first time since the Miami game last season. The game may not have been pretty, but the win gives the Irish a chance to clinch a New Year’s Six bowl appearance with a win against Stanford. Let’s take a look at how the matchups played out.
Notre Dame Offense vs. Navy Defense
Brandon Wimbush and the Notre Dame offense struggled early in the game, but eventually found their groove. Kevin Stepherson was the key as he scored two touchdowns in the second half. Stepherson has been a massive addition to the offense following his four game suspension to start the season. The running game did not have as much success as was expected coming into the game. In total, the Irish ran for just 163 yards on 31 carries. However, Josh Adams was able to get back over 100 yards, with 106. Unfortunately, it looks as though Adams is a bit banged up. The junior running back has battled injury since his high school days, but he’s a warrior and will be ready to go against Stanford.
The Navy defense was at a major disadvantage in terms of size and speed. To their credit, they held strong and stopped the Irish offense on multiple occasions. D.J. Palmore and Juan Hailey tied for the team lead with 6 tackles each. In past seasons, it was as though Notre Dame could score at will against Navy and that was not the case last Saturday.
Notre Dame Grade: B-
Navy Grade: B+
Navy Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense
Despite only scoring 17 points, Navy controlled the ball for 42 minutes. The Midshipmen accomplished their goal of keeping the Notre Dame offense off the field. Zach Abey commanded the ship for the offense and ran for 87 yards on 29 carries. Fullback Anthony Gargiulo also picked up 87 yards of his own on the ground. Still, scoring just two touchdowns ultimately doomed the Midshipmen.
While it was disappointing that Notre Dame allowed Navy to hold the ball for 42 minutes, the Irish defense came up with some key stops. Most importantly, in the 4th quarter Troy Pride came away with his first career interception and with less than two minutes remaining the Irish turned the Midshipmen over on downs. Greer Martini and Drue Tranquill both had excellent days as Martini racked up 15 tackles and Tranquill had 2 tackles for loss. The Irish were able to hold the Midshipmen under 4 yards per carry, and that is impressive against the triple option.
Navy Grade: B
Notre Dame Grade: B+
Chris Finke made a crucial mistake when he muffed a punt leading to a Navy touchdown. Justin Yoon did go 1/1 as he made a 29 yard field goal. Tyler Newsome had a bit of a rough day as he averaged just 36 yards per punt. Overall, it was a poor performance from the special teams group.
Navy’s coverage team was able to take advantage of the muffed punt, which led to a touchdown. In the kicking game, Owen White had a key miss in the 3rd quarter from 37 yards. At the time, the field goal would’ve given Navy a 20-17 lead.
Notre Dame Grade: C-
Navy Grade: C
Again, it was not a pretty performance from Notre Dame. However, the Irish showed toughness and grit in coming away with the victory. Hopefully, the momentum from the end of this game will carry the Irish to a victory at Stanford this Saturday.