Patience proved to be the wisest course of action for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday as they raised their record to 8-1 on the season with a 34-6 win over the Navy Midshipmen. The victory marks the fourth Irish win in a row and keeps them as a viable entity in any discussion of the college football playoffs.
Notre Dame combined a balanced offensive attack with a defense that largely shut down an upset-minded Navy squad. The 430 yards of offense for the Irish marked the fourth time this season that they’ve broken the 400-yard threshold and gives them 955 yards over their last two games. The 184 yards gained by Navy mark a season-low number for the Notre Dame defensive unit.
Below are some of the key aspects of the Irish victory:
Notre Dame struggled to get things going during the opening period, with a pair of three-and-outs followed by a seven-play effort that stalled out on downs. During those first two series, the Irish gained a total of only nine yards and managed to get flagged for a false start on the opening play.
In Navy’s first try on offense, they also began with a three-and-out, but then managed a 13-play series that ended with a 49-yard field goal to take the early lead. Entering the game as three-touchdown underdogs, the Midshipmen were twice willing to go for it on fourth down. That strategy proved to be a success to give them the upper hand for a while.
On the Defense
During the first two quarters, the Navy offense could be encapsulated within their scoring drive since every other effort before halftime ended with a three-and-out. Their offense uses the run almost exclusively, with Notre Dame finding a way to shut the Midshipmen down albeit for a single trick play. That first-quarter call was an end-around to Jayden Umbarger and gained 32 yards to the Irish 25, putting Navy in prime position for a potential touchdown.
The Midshipmen ended up settling for three points thanks to consecutive sacks by Kurt Hinish and Jordan Botelho that pushed them back 15 yards. Outside of Navy’s offensive production on that series, the Notre Dame defense virtually wiped out the running game of the Midshipmen. The other 24 Navy carries gained a mere 25 yards and for the game, Navy picked up 166 of their 184 total yards on the ground.
While Navy managed to start the third quarter with another field goal, the 14-play, 71-yard drive ate up nearly 10 minutes on the clock and still put them behind by double-digits with a 17-6 score. Both teams sputtered during their efforts on offense for the remainder of the third quarter, with an early fourth-quarter punt laying the groundwork for the Irish clinchers.
Notre Dame managed 18 yards on five plays and was forced to punt from midfield, with Jay Bramblett’s boot pinning the Midshipmen at their own one. On Navy’s second play, a fumble in the end zone resulted in a safety and gave Notre Dame the ball back. The Irish needed just seven plays before Kyren Williams scored on a 19-yard run, with the running back being stripped of the ball at the goal line before recovering in the end zone.
Entering the Navy game, Kevin Austin was tied for third among Notre Dame receivers with 25 but ended up his best-ever day with the Irish. When the contest ended, Austin matched a career-high with six receptions and broke the 100-yard mark for receiving yardage for the first time at Notre Dame. The 139 yards on the afternoon included a 70-yard scoring grab in the final minute of the first half.
That reception total also matched the number of grabs Austin collected in an Irish uniform prior to this season. His production for the remainder of the season may need to pick up if the “significant” knee injury suffered by Avery Davis during the game is severe enough to keep him out for an extended period of time.
Next Up for Notre Dame Football
Following a three-game homestand, Notre Dame heads back out on the road next week to take on the Virginia Cavaliers. The Irish have won all three of the previous meetings between the two schools but are likely to be taking part in another offensive shootout. The Cavaliers have an explosive offense though they’ve allowed 106 points in their past two games.
The key player in Virginia’s offensive unit is quarterback Brennan Armstrong, a southpaw who’s already thrown for 3,557 yards and 27 touchdowns. Despite being so prolific through the air, he’s only tossed eight interceptions and is also a threat with his feet. Presently, he’s second on the Cavaliers with 271 yards rushing.