After the second consecutive slow start, Notre Dame exercised functional control over Navy and completed discharge of its moral imperative, defeating Navy 41-24. The win over Notre Dame’s longest continuous and only perpetual rival moved the Irish to 5-1. It was Kelly’s 50th victory as Notre Dame head coach, tying him with Dan Devine for fifth place among Irish head coaches.
Niumatalolo started fast; Redfield didn’t
The Navy strategists had studied the Georgia Tech film and Navy’s first drive was the most successful, aided and abetted by an eager but impatient Max Redfield and what may well be a declining Joe Schmidt. Redfield has mastered Mandarin in the classroom but not yet the triple option on the field.
Notre Dame can now stop the option
Or at least slow it down. After the Middies ripped off 70 yards in 3 plays on the first drive, the Elliott architecture, implemented by the Van Gorder construction plan asserted itself. In the next three drives the Irish Defense held Navy to 16 plays for 52 yards, two punt and a fumble.
As a result, the slow starting Irish offense moved to what appeared to be functional control with a commanding 21-7 lead.
Navy was not able to milk the clock and had a mere 16 first downs. And just as against Georgia Tech, Notre Dame’s defensive schemes forced the Middies to spend Timeouts prematurely.
The anti-option plan can now be mothballed until next Spring. Bobby Elliott, take a bow! Somewhere Bump Elliott is smiling.
After Keenan Reynolds went out with an injury, Notre Dame allowed Navy to score two quick touchdowns in just 4 minutes of possession, aggregating 116 yards in 11 plays wrapped around a horrific interception thrown by Kizer. In the process the Irish linebackers and safeties made Quentin Ezell look like Leonard Fournette. It was 21-21. Control had evaporated.
That is the fifth time this season that the Irish have allowed two quick scores in a little more than 6 minutes;
- In a little over 9 minutes straddling the first and second quarters, Virginia, anemic offense or not, put up two TDS
- Against Georgia Tech, while a hyperventilating Brandon Wimbush waited on the sideline, ND ALLOWED the Engineers to score two TDS in a little more than 6 minutes
- Against UMASS, in a little more than 4 minutes the ND defense ALLOWED UMASS to put up two quick TDS
- Against Clemson, in a little more than 6 minutes, Clemson’s Tigers, aided by the only poor punt of his young career by Tyler Newsome, roared to a 14-0 lead.
Thus, in 5 games, all but Texas, the Irish have suffered a woeful 4-9 minute stretch and allowed two quick TDS.
This “habit” must be terminated with extreme prejudice.
Martini and Grace
The second and eighth leading tacklers both seemed patient, relaxed in space and able to bring the Navy runner down without drama or intrigue.
Newsome and Yoon are assets, now and through the 1/1/19 bowl game. Newsome has length and already has shown the ability to bring the “coffin corner” out of the archives. Yoon seems settled in after a shaky start and his end of the first half field goal was a pressure moment. Cocky is good for a placekicker.
- Josh Adams – frosh running backs are usually shaky the first six weeks. Josh is well above the norm. Neither he nor Denson nor Sanford know what Adams’ ceiling might be.
- Tevon Coney – he will be ready when his time comes. He may be ready even now.
What did we see on Saturday against Navy that has predictive value against USC?
Nothing, absolutely nothing. It’s different next Saturday.
Who controlled the clock?
The Replay booth. Notre Dame and Navy never had a chance.
What will we see against USC?
- The campus at its postcard best, leaves on the ground, color on the trees, the early nibble of Michiana autumn in the air.
- Our rival, our blessing our curse.
- A very precise quarterback, Cody Kessler. Kessler comes in with 54 TDS and 6 interceptions over the last two seasons. But Kessler is the first immobile quarterback we will have faced. He has Reesian mobility, on an absolute scale.
- A bevy of talented receivers. Juju Smith may turn out to be more productive, long term than his predecessors Robert Woods, Marquise Lee and Nelson Agholor. He appears to be stronger. Adoree Jackson is a deadly weapon and gashed Notre Dame last year on a wheel route with Greer Martini the patsy.
- A large offensive line which USC insiders contend has underperformed its hype in 2015.
- The first true test for the Irish secondary with a quarterback who is accurate, a deep corps of swift receivers, and clever play calling by Sarkisian. In 2015 it is arguable that KeiVarae Russell has underperformed expectations more than any other player on the roster. It is time for him to make that a lie.
- A USC defense that has some players, but got gashed and bashed by Stanford when the Cardinal held the ball for 39 minutes and 29 seconds. The other side of that coin is somewhat terrifying, as Troy scored 31 points against an often stingy Stanford defense in just 20 minutes of possession. Su’a Cravens gets the ink on the SC defense, but Adoree Jackson may be the player with the most long term potential. Most believe he will be a better cornerback than MacKensie Alexander of Clemson.
- A pivotal outing for the Irish. With no game the weekend of the 24th, a win against SC can put the Irish in good stead for the final stretch against Temple, Pitt, BC, Wake and Stanford. A loss would eliminate the Irish from playoff contention and diminish the chances of a first rate bowl game.
- All of football is unpredictable, but it seems as if there have been more strange twists and turns in the USC-Notre Dame series than for any other Irish opponent.
- It’s mid-October. Notre Dame versus USC. Enjoy this. It’s why the players play and why we fans are fans.