5 Things I Didn’t Like in Notre Dame’s Blowout of Navy

Whenever you win a football game against a top 25 team by 32 points, there usually isn’t a lot to dislike in the game, but since I do this column every week, I thought long and hard about this to come up with a list of five things even if some are more on the trivial side.  After some of the performances Notre Dame turned in during October, everyone should be pleased about how hard these columns have been to write for me the last two weeks.

Notre Dame’s running game

Most of these are all ticky-tack type things that I had to stretch for since Notre Dame did beat a top 25 team by 32 points after all, but the Irish ground game was stuck in neutral again this week.  The Irish ran 31 times for 105 yards, with only 71 yards coming from non-quarterbacks and 55 coming from running backs.

Jafar Armstrong struggled again with just 11 yards on seven carries while Tony Jones Jr added 26 on nine carries.  That isn’t good production from your top two running backs against the Navy defense.  Considering how well the Irish passing game worked, they didn’t need the running game this week, but they will against Boston College and Stanford and probably even more so in whatever bowl game they land in.

Notre Dame’s passing attack has come alive the last two weeks, and it’s been fantastic to see Ian Book bounce back the way he has, but if there is something the Irish need to work on in the next two weeks, its the running game.

The backup offense not really running the full offense

It usually a great game when one of the things I didn’t like is regarding how much playing time the backups got, but for the second week in a row, Notre Dame probably could have given its second-team offense a bit more work or at least more meaningful work.  Against Duke Phil Jurkovec and the second-string offense didn’t get in the game until late in the fourth quarter and against Navy Jurkovec didn’t have the opportunity to throw the ball much.

In two blowouts, Jurkovec only threw two passes.  One was a nice 17 yard gain to Braden Lenzy on a pass he just snapped off, but other than that, it was a lot of handoffs for the sophomore quarterback.  You don’t want to run it up on Navy in that instance necessarily, but at the same time, it’s impossible to replicate a game environment in practice for a young quarterback.

Notre Dame’s sellout streak ending

I know there have been some creative methods used to get the sellout streak to last this long. Still, if Nebraska can do it with a program that has not been relevant for years, it is a little sad to think that Notre Dame’s ended with the Irish ranked 16th in the country playing a traditional rival who also happened to be ranked in the top 25 at the time.  It just shocks me that a matchup of top-25 teams, even if one was Navy, is how this thing ended.

I get it, Notre Dame – Navy isn’t usually an exciting game.  Watching the Navy offense is as much fun as going to the DMV.  It’s a lot of sitting around without much action most of the time that leaves you frustrated.  But still, this is how it ended?  Notre Dame vs. Bowling Green sold out this year, but this one didn’t?

I know there were rumblings that this weekend’s game with Boston College is also not expected to sell out, and that’s why those creative methods weren’t used this time.  Again, how does senior day against Boston College not sell out, though?  It’s not a good look.

Notre Dame’s punting

We’re stretching here since Notre Dame only punted twice against Navy, but freshman Jay Bramblett only averaged 35.0 yards per punt against the Midshipmen.  It was the third week in a row in which Bramblett averaged less than 40.0 yards per punt, which is a bit concerning since he is a true freshman, and he could be hitting a bit of a freshman wall, even though punters are not called on that often.

In a perfect world, Notre Dame won’t need to rely on Bramblett much the next two weeks, but if they do, it’d be nice to see Bramblett start hitting some punts like he did earlier this season.

Chris Finke’s punt return getting called back

Brian Kelly joked after the Duke game that Finke leads the nation in punts returned to the 10-yard line.  Then it finally happened.  Chris Finke took one to the house against Navy.  But, there was a flag on the play.  Notre Dame got called for an illegal block in the back all the way back at the start of the return.  It was a little bit of an iffy call, but one that was easy to see why it was called in real-time.  It was also a penalty that didn’t need to be made, Finke was going to make the initial defender miss anyway.

After the struggles Chris Finke had earlier this year and the struggles Notre Dame has had in the return game, in general, the last few years, it would have been great to see Finke get rewarded for a great return.  Alas, it was called back.  Notre Dame scored on the drive anyway, so it didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but it would have been nice to see it stand.

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  1. BTY: Virginia Tech didn’t sell out either…they had 40+ seats empty in the ADA section I sat in, even after listing them for public sale to anyone, handicapped or not, for at least week before the game! And there were more that went unsold as well. The price for those was dropped from $65 to $45 too…and still they didn’t sell!

    BGC ’77 ’82

  2. Thing I didn’t like and want to remind everyone of…Book and the Irish got smacked by Michigan this year 45-14 which is probably the worst loss I’ve ever seen from an ND team to an opponent where ND has better talent than on paper. This was worse than Miami in 2017.

    Book was 8 of 25 for 73 yards and 1 TD which is 32% completion, 32…

    Phil Jurkovec on the other hand playing just a little bit of time was 3 of 4 for 60 yards and a TD.

  3. Not having your 2nd team offense and QB take meaningful snaps is one that always mystifies me. CFB is not like the NFL. In CFB your back-ups are typically your next batch of players (whereas in the NFL a lot of times your back ups are just that, back ups). CFB does not get pre-season games. The only time they can really practice in a real game environment against opposing teams is during the season. Use the time for practice when the opportunity presents itself.

    It seemed they were doing better earlier in the year using Jurkovec at points, giving him real plays to run and so forth. Now it seems they’ve backed off a bit. Now he’s doing the old fashioned hand off lets burn clock til the game is over.

    The cynic in me thinks this is because Book has already decided to come back and they plan on benching Jurkovec again next year so they’ve backed off on his ‘practices.’ I believe if Jurkovec is benched again next year that would give him 1 year that he could play for us, if I’m counting correctly (assuming he doesn’t transfer).

    I remember my PSU fans complaining way back in the day about how Paterno used to do that with his QB’s. He’d continue playing them even if there was a more talented QB on the bench. I don’t recall the names but they had a QB that couldn’t do anything and they had a couple losing seasons in the early 2000s as a result. The next QB they had only had 1 year of eligibility left and he got them to an 11-1 record (with a 1 second loss to Michigan they still complain about—I remember it was the same week as the Bush Push and I have to agree the 1 second gift to Michigan was a stretch—the usual special treatment they get by the refs, nice to know it isn’t just us that has to deal with that I guess). Their fans were wondering why they only got to see that QB for 1 year and where things could have gone had he led the offense earlier. But Paterno was loyal to his QB’s to a fault.

    Now Book will get you winning seasons, even 10 win seasons. But I just hope we don’t find out Jurkovec is a championship level QB that warmed the bench for 3 or 4 years. Because while I believe Book is a 9-10 game winner, I’m not sold yet that he can beat an elite level defense. And if we really want to see a NC at ND we need a QB that can beat elite defenses. Is Book that QB?

    1. Book is not that QB. We need to hope he graduate transfers to a competing school. Hurts will be out at Oklahoma so maybe Riley will come calling for Book to keep that going.

      Jurkovec is a redshirt freshman this year. If Book starts next year and Jurkovec stays, Jurkovec will have an opportunity to start for 2 years after Book is gone. But someone Kelly will find a way to start Book over Jurkovec even after Book’s eligibility is up.

  4. Frank, the cost of the tickets is an absurdity. That’s the only “bad look” in all this. When my father was still alive, tickets were free for us (Dad only went to one game per year, at the most…he liked to watch on TV where there were replays). So we got the tickets. That’s how a public school teacher could afford to go to well more than a hundred games! And other costs were fair for everyone, not just fac brats.
    We lived here, or at least close, so no flying costs, and no hotel costs. The hot dogs and cokes and buttons and hats, etc. – the concession stands, were run by locals and charities or churches. Now they are run solely by professional ball park type companies who charge professional ball park prices.
    So I still go to a few games per year – I’ll be at the BC game Saturday. But I no longer have student loans…my wife and I are not the mythical family of four that all government calculations are made for…no kids in college or private high school or private elementary school. Since we are over 65, no $20,000 per year for health care insurance for me and my spouse, and my house didn’t cost 350,000 for a modest ranch style home because it’s not in New York or San Francisco, or even Chicago.

    So they don’t sell out? That’s because they HAVE sold out, Frank! The four classes Development serves, the RICH, the SUPER RICH, the MEGA RICH, and the HYPER RICH, are too small, or too disinterested, to buy 75,000 tickets each week. It’s a tradeoff the “Johnny Shorts” of this world think is best for ND. I disagree…always have. We just agree to disagree and let it go. I’m not the guy who gets hurt – for reasons stated above.

    The real bad look in all this is the abandonment of the working class – which the University was created to serve…or at least so the narrative spoken by Development goes.

    BGC ’77 ’82

    1. Throw in this as well, sitting attempting to watch games that you had to pay astronomical prices for and then so many people going back and forth getting their nachos, getting rid of their beers, or whatever else…back and forth-back and forth. Too many people sitting on their hands. That is not a fun environment to watch games. The last game I went to was USC vs ND 2005. I was amazed at the number of people that were not cheering, clapping and screaming. It was somewhat embarassing. The Bush-push game was one of the best I had ever seen and for ND fans to sit there in a comatose state or really not there to even watch the game, many forget that.

    2. This was the cheapest ticket of the year. The face value of upper level tickets was $45. Sorry, that is not “astronomical”. It’s 2019. $45 for an upper level ticket is about as cheap as you will find.

      1. Sure, Frank, AFTER it was reduced from $65 to $44 (the 88′ special…two for $88) presumably because they were not selling.
        Frank, calculate the cost of a family of 4 flying in from New York for the weekend for the game…everything included…car rental, hotel rooms, meals for the weekend, game programs that cost $10 each!!!, and concessions…at pro park prices.
        Yes, it was always somewhat expensive – but it was never as expensive, or more expensive, than the Orange or Sugar Bowl! It was NEVER as expensive, or more expensive, than a Bears or Colts game…until now.
        Please Frank, give us your best estimate of that cost – then tell us all again how this, ANY OF THIS, is “cheap” for a working class Catholic family.

        BGC ’77 ’82

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