Final Review: Notre Dame v. Navy ’06

Running game is still broken
Darius Walker topped 100 yards on Saturday, but the running game wasn’t very consistent for the Irish. Walker ripped off 18 yards on his first carry and it looked like he was in for a monster game, but the offensive line still couldn’t dominate an opponent.

The running game is getting to the point where it may be beyond repair with just four regular season games remaining. I fully expect Weis and his offensive coaches to continue to chug along trying to fix it, but at this point it might be to the point where we just won’t see it improve all that much more this year.

Quinn is, and very much deserves to be in the thick of the Heisman race
Brady Quinn was as efficient as a quarterback could be Saturday. He completed 18 of 25 passes for just under 300 yards and was responsible for four touchdowns (3 passing, 1 rushing). The offensive line gave him good pass protection and he picked apart the over matched Navy defense. At times it looked like Quinn was out at practice with everything working for him and the Notre Dame offense.

Quinn and Troy Smith have very comparable numbers at this point and despite the media’s willingness to just concede the award to Smith, Quinn is firmly back in the race right behind the Buckeye QB. It will still take an Ohio State loss to vault Quinn ahead of Smith, but with the efficiency that Quinn is playing with, he will easily have the numbers at the end of the season to win the award.

Grimes starting to really grasp this offense
David Grimes put up his first back to back good games of the season. The sophomore receiver caught three passes for 72 yards including his first career touchdown from 36 yards out. Grimes looked great with the ball in the hands on a crossing route in the second quarter and is really starting to establish himself as a bona fide weapon in this offense.

Grimes continued development will be something to watch over these final four games. With Samardzija and McKnight in their final years of eligibility, Grimes is going to be counted on heavily next year so his progress this year is something to watch.

Abiamiri is really coming on strong
Victor Abiamiri recorded two sacks and was really a disruptive force. After a somewhat slow start, the senior defensive end is really becoming the kind of dominant player we all thought he would be when he signed with Notre Dame four years ago. He now has eight sacks on the year, which ties his career high, and should add to those totals in these last four games.

If Abiamiri can have a couple more multiple sack games down the stretch here, he could very well end up being a first round selection in this April’s draft.

Second half defense strong again
Notre Dame was gashed for over 200 yards on the ground in the first half, but hunkered down and held Navy to just 60 rushing yards in the second half. The Irish defense also kept the Midshipmen off the scoreboard over the final thirty minutes a week after holding UCLA to just three points in the second half.

Whatever Rick Minter is doing at half time, he needs to start doing prior to kickoff. The Notre Dame defense has been strong in the second half the entire year and have surrendered almost all of their big plays within the first two quarters.

Rhema needs more quick slants called for him
McKnight looked great on a first quarter slant where he got the ball in his hands with a lot of open room. McKnight is a gifted runner with the ball in his hands, but hasn’t gotten too many chances to show it this year. Most of McKnight’s passes have come on routes where the fifth year senior catches the ball stationary or coming back to the ball.

Rhema now has nine touchdowns on the season and should only add to that total over the next couple weeks. He would need another six touchdowns in the last four games to tie the single season touchdown mark set by Jeff Samardzija last year. Coincidentally, another six touchdowns would also tie McKnight with Derrick Mayes for the career touchdown mark as well.

Aldridge wasn’t very impressive, but…
Most Irish fans were very pleased to see James Aldridge get 12 carries on Saturday, but most would have also liked to see him gain more than 29 yards. The circumstances in which Aldridge got his carries didn’t exactly put him in a situation to rip off huge gains though.

Aldridge saw all his work in the fourth quarter with backup linemen against the starting Navy defense when everyone knew exactly what was coming. The important thing is that Weis gave the freshman more work and should keep giving him more work. I still would love to see Aldridge get in a game with the starting offensive line much earlier in the game.

Notre Dame-Navy games are great experiences
All of the Navy fans I encountered Saturday were all very classy and very complimentary of Notre Dame. There’s more mutual respect between Notre Dame and Navy fans than almost any other rivalry in sports and it’s definitely a great experience. Both sides fully respect the others traditions and history and it is very evident.

“Dark and Stormies” are an excellent early morning tailgating drink
One of the Navy guys at our tailgate introduced me to a drink called a “Dark and Stormy.” It was a wonderful concoction made of Captain Morgan and ginger ale. It tasted exactly like cream soda and was very easy on the stomach at the beginning of the tailgate. I highly recommend.

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