Notre Dame’s 2012 opener in Dublin, Ireland, was one of the highlights of the season. Everett Golson made his debut as starting quarterback and the Fighting Irish began an incredible football year by brushing aside Navy, 50-10. Notre Dame was one yard shy of possessing two 100-yard rushers on the day, with Theo Riddick touching the ball 19 times for 107 yards and 2 touchdowns. George Atkinson III chipped in another 99 yards on the ground on just 9 carries, two of which went for touchdowns.
ND’s meeting with Navy in 2011 had very similar results. Notre Dame blew Navy off the field with a 56-14 beat down. Michael Floyd tallied 6 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown, and the Fighting Irish chipped in another 6 touchdowns on the ground, with running back Jonas Gray bulldozing his way for 3 of them.
While the past two seasons may have ND fans feeling the status quo has been restored, every supporter of the Irish program would be remiss to let his or her guard down. It was only three seasons ago that the Navy Midshipmen humiliated Notre Dame, 35-17, amassing 367 yards rushing, with 210 yards and an 8.1 yards per carry average coming from Navy fullback, Alex Teich. If that wasn’t enough, how about the 23-21 loss to Navy in 2009, or the 2007 overtime loss, 46-44?
Notre Dame holds an NCAA record with the longest winning streak over a rival with 43 straight wins against the Navy Midshipmen. And despite two straight blowout victories, the fact remains that since 2007 the Notre Dame-Navy series is tied 3-3.
The 2012 football season was par the course for Navy under the leadership of Ken Niumatalolo: another winning football season and another Commander-in-Chief Trophy. The Navy football program has been a model of consistency, having only endured one losing record in the past eight football seasons. And with an 8-5 campaign in 2012, Niumatalolo has amassed a 40-26 (.606) record in his six seasons as head coach.
Only three years removed from a 10-4 season and a blowout victory over Missouri in the Texas Bowl, the Navy football program is churning on as a continued threat to those who underestimate.
DL, Sean Spencer (3-star, Newman, GA)
Spencer was a major coup for the Midshipmen. Listed as the #33 strongside defensive end in the nation, Spencer held offers from the likes of LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and North Carolina. It’s not often a recruit will turn down a program of LSU’s caliber for the Naval Academy, which speaks volumes for Navy’s recruiting efforts as well as the high caliber of Sean Spencer’s character for selecting the challenging road of military service.
WR, Jamir Tillman (3-star, Las Vegas, NV)
Tillman was the #6 rated wide receiver in Nevada and attended the Division I pipeline program of Bishop Gorman, a high school that produced Class of 2012 Notre Dame signee Ronnie Stanley. Tillman chose to spend his days in Annapolis over offers from Georgetown and Southern Utah.
RB, Ernest Alexander (2-star, Lawrenceville, GA)
Though Alexander failed to achieve ranking as one of the top prospects in Georgia, he did manage to earn scholarship offers from Air Force, Army and Presbyterian.
The Naval Academy is a unique institution, and recruiting is no different. Football is not big business – it’s an extracurricular activity and respite from the demanding time constraints of military life. The Midshipmen seek out recruits who fit their system and institution more than anything else, insulating the program from the likes of televised, hat-grabbing commitments from high profile high school athletes.
In 2011 Ken Niumatalolo successfully convinced the Naval Academy to create a director of player development position to help with the burdens of recruiting, hiring former Navy player Sean Magee to fill the position. In one year Magee has managed to land a recruit with SEC offers (Sean Spencer) as well as signing 28 recruits for the Class of 2013. The Midshipmen are succeeding on the gridiron as well as on the recruiting trail.
Notre Dame vs. Navy Recruiting Battles
Notre Dame’s undefeated regular season, coupled with signing the #3 recruiting class in the country, has shown the Fighting Irish are trending up once again after a decade of false starts. And if Notre Dame is to be a dominant football program, Navy is a must win every season. However, it’s important to remember ND has lost three times to the Midshipmen in the past six years. It was only three years ago that ND fans were calling for defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s termination after an embarrassing loss where the Fighting Irish gave up over 350 on the ground.
Notre Dame should take control of this series once again, but Navy will always be a battle for those who take them lightly.