DUBLIN, Ireland -- Great spectacle. Pity about the game.
Yesterday, Notre Dame and Navy served up football -- American style. They brought out cheerleaders, marching bands, mascots and two squads filled with enough players to fill a few Irish villages.
But in the end, all they could produce in front of 38,651 spectators at Croke Park was the great American blowout: Notre Dame 54, Navy 27.
It was Notre Dame's 33rd straight victory over Navy, the longest winning streak in NCAA history. The 19th-ranked Fighting Irish -- rushed for 303 yards and forced three turnovers to improve to 5-2 and keep alive their hopes for a major bowl berth.
Navy, which had won three straight, dropped to 5-2, despite two touchdown runs by Omar Nelson and two touchdown passes from Ben Fay to Corey Schemm.
Basically, this was like most any other Navy-Notre Dame game, except they weren't playing it in America.
So the teams had to make a few adjustments. They shared a sideline. They slipped around on a soggy grass field. They performed in front of a crowd that cheered for just about anything.
But it didn't rain. There wasn't much wind. And, was that really the sun that poked through the clouds as Notre Dame's band played "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling"? It sure was.
There weren't even any television timeouts since the game was broadcast in America on tape delay.
"If PBS was interested in televising our games, that would be tremendous," Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz said.
Holtz was really pushing the education line throughout his team's stay in Ireland. He marveled over such things as a trip to a monastery and a lecture at Trinity College. He even told his players to write a journal of the trip during today's flight home.
Off the field, Holtz said the players did everything he asked. "My problem is they don't listen to me on the field," he said.
Oh, and there was another problem Holtz had with the trip. Dublin traffic.
"I thought New York traffic was bad," he said. "Most people must live in their cars here. I've never seen traffic like this."
But Holtz wasn't complaining too much. He said he'd like the Fighting Irish to play in Dublin again. After all, there was nothing wrong with his team that couldn't be solved by a trip to Ireland, and a game against Navy.
The Irish needed this win badly after losing in overtime to Air Force two weeks ago. With a week off in between, they prepared for Navy just like a bowl game. And it showed.
Fullback Marc Edwards rumbled for three scores, and tailback Autry Denson raced for 123 yards and two touchdowns, including a 33-yard score that gave Notre Dame a 21-7 lead with 14 seconds left in the first half.
"Our backs were running over people all day," said Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus, who completed six of 11 passes for 91 yards and one touchdown. "We knew they'd try to confine us. But it didn't come off."
Notre Dame's defense also smothered Navy quarterback Chris McCoy, who was held to minus-16 yards rushing only a week after he rambled for 181 yards against Wake Forest.
"We wanted to get some good licks on McCoy," said Renaldo Wynn, who picked up a fumble by McCoy and raced 24 yards to give Notre Dame a 28-7 lead early in the second half.
Notre Dame also toyed with the Midshipmen defense, running it into the turf.
"A couple of their big plays came after we made contact," Navy linebacker Clint Bruce said. "We didn't wrap them up. You give running backs room to run and they'll run."
The Midshipmen got a lesson -- in big-time college football. They can handle teams such as Rutgers, Southern Methodist and Duke, but beating Notre Dame is still an improbable quest. The last time Navy beat Notre Dame was when Roger Staubach was starring back in 1963. Despite the latest loss, Navy still can dream of gaining a postseason bowl berth.
"We were disappointed in the way we performed," Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie said. "Notre Dame is a good football team. We cannot afford to give them what we gave them in turnovers. Fundamentally, we did not play very sound up front."
Weatherbie said he enjoyed the Irish experience. But he said this hardly felt like the "home" game that was advertised on the team's schedule.
"It's a little tough to travel six hours by plane and feel like we've got a home game," he said. "We had the home uniforms, but this wasn't our home turf."
And it sure wasn't a Navy crowd.
"I don't think it was really a home game for us," Bruce said. "Thousands of people here were Irish."
Notre Dame 7 14 14 19 -- 54
Navy ......0 7 14 6 -- 27
Next for Navy
Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium
When: Saturday, 1: 30 p.m.
Yesterday: Lost to William and Mary, 10-7.
Pub Date: 11/03/96