That was a close one.
Notre Dame didn’t just hang on to a tight victory against Navy to bring their season record to 9-2. They also held on to the goodwill that’s been built throughout the 2017 season. Two weeks ago the Notre Dame machine was building a Heisman campaign for star running back Josh Adams while in the drivers seat for a playoff berth. Saturday they found themselves a quarter and a half away from fielding questions about the status of the coaching staff. Football can be a funny, fickle sport.
However, the Fighting Irish pulled it together, overcame a seven point second half deficit and improved their record to 9-2, in solid position for a New Years Six bowl appearance.
We’ll know what to make of this next weekend. Beating Navy is really nothing more than punching another ticket toward a double digit season and a lucrative bowl. It’s a lot more meaningful to lose it than it is to win. If Notre Dame beats Stanford next weekend, this game and its result will be forgotten, except as a footnote in history. If they lose, we’ll look back at the last two weeks to explain where it all began to fall apart. In other words this might have meant something, or it might have meant nothing.
Every season has a game like this and why wouldn’t it have been this one? It was so obvious. Senior week, following a crushing loss that knocked the team out of playoff contention, in the rain and cold, against an unconventional opponent who no one wants to play (except Julian Love and Greer Martini, they love to play this game).
All in all, it was frustrating and unsatisfying, but the ticket was punched and it’s on to Stanford.
Easily the sophomore corners’ best game in a Notre Dame uniform; he recorded six tackles, one tackle for loss, a pass broken up, and made a late interception to kill a Navy drive in Notre Dame territory. He’s been coming on for a few weeks now and has added further depth to the Irish secondary as Nick Watkins has struggled with tendinitis in his knee.
More than anything, this is a great development for the 2018 season, as the list of quality corners with playing experience grows to four, all of whom will be back next season. (I’m assuming Watkins is back, although he could declare for the draft.) His ascent also provides flexibility to a secondary where Julian Love could move to safety if the coaches feel comfortable enough at corner to do so. (Kelly called Love their best safety during his Sunday teleconference today.)
Likely the fastest player on the team, Pride was a pure corner out of high school who took some time to develop physically. Now that he’s closed the physical gap, he could be the answer at corner should the coaches choose to shift players around.
I usually don’t harp on play calls too much, mostly because I think it’s too revisionist. For example, Notre Dame opened against Michigan State with a lot of passes. They mostly worked, Notre Dame opened the game with a touchdown, and everyone was happy. The opposite was true against Miami. Notre Dame didn’t score and turned the ball over a bunch. Everyone was mad. It’s pretty easy to say “do the opposite thing from what you did because that failed.”
That being said, I felt like Chip Long was trolling all of us when he opened the game with three straight pass plays, none of which traveled beyond the first down marker, and the last of which wasn’t attempted because Wimbush left the pocket. Aside from the fact that it was raining and his quarterback was suffering from a crisis of confidence, running at Navy, with this team, should be a given. You know who loved Notre Dame coming out and throwing intermediate routes in the rain on the opening drive? Navy did, that’s who.
The thing is, it’s Navy. You don’t need to stay up to all hours of the night coming up with a game plan. Just run your stuff, especially when you’ve got your two captains on the offensive line playing their last game, and probably Adams as well, in Notre Dame stadium, itching to hit someone. Play the hits, Chip. They’re hits for a reason. It’s what everyone is tuning in for.
The Overall Level Of Play
There is a lot of angst around the program right now, blowout losses do that, but that didn’t happen in a vacuum. Sandwiched around Miami was a lackluster defensive finish against Wake Forest and the nail biter against Navy. It’s been about four game weeks since we could say we saw a good performance from the Notre Dame football team. It’s the type of thing that makes people nervous. We’ve seen it before, and not just that but it’s a stark deviation from the previous 7-8 weeks of the season.
In any given week, I could have picked a dozen guys to put in the “rising” portion. They were playing great ball. Now, it’s much more difficult. Who is playing at a high level at this point other than Quenton Nelson, who is a robot. It’s getting hard to pick.
A lot of people saw this coming. Heading into USC, it was pointed out a number of times the final stretch of games was daunting; it makes sense this team ran out of gas a little bit. Guys are getting banged up (how long has Nyles Morgan been playing in pain? Josh Adams? Jerry Tillery?) and this Saturday will be Notre Dame’s fourth ranked opponent in six weeks, and sixth of the season. It’s hard not to think about where the Irish would be if they were faced with a schedule more along the lines of say, Wisconsin or Alabama.
Games played vs. current CFP top-25 teams (specific ranks)…
Notre Dame 5 (3, 7, 11, 17, 19)
Auburn 4 (2, 7, 16, 20)
Penn State 4 (9, 17, 23, 24)
Georgia 3 (6, 8, 16)
Ohio State 3 (4, 10, 17)
Oklahoma 3 (9, 12, 13)
Alabama 2 (16, 20)
Clemson 2 (6, 19)
Miami 1 (8)
Wisconsin 0 https://t.co/Kt9thwfcuf
— Michael Bertsch (@SteelersPRMike) November 15, 2017
The team that came off the bye wouldn’t be sweating Stanford right now. But, I’m not so sure that’s the team that will take the field next week. Not to make an excuse of course, everyone is at the end of a long season. But, this team has given a lot this year. More than most predicted. Hopefully they’ve got one more performance in them before regrouping for bowl season.