Navy gives effort, but doesn't get victory

Winless Mids play hard but fall to Notre Dame for 38th straight time, 34-16

College Football

November 18, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - On a gloomy, overcast Midwestern afternoon, the lights were on from the start of yesterday's nationally televised game at Notre Dame Stadium.

They burned brightly for underdog Navy until early in the fourth quarter, when Notre Dame's goal-line stand and subsequent 10-point eruption snuffed out the upset bid in a 34-16 Irish victory.

The win extended Notre Dame's streak in the series to 38, an NCAA record against one opponent, and eased the outcry against embattled Irish coach Bob Davie.

However, Navy left South Bend proudly, having produced a yeoman effort against a team with superior size, manpower and talent.

"I thought our kids fought as hard as they could for a long, long time," said Navy's interim coach Rick Lantz. "There was a real excitement coming in here and I honestly thought we were ready to play.

"Maybe I was optimistic, but I thought we would play well enough to win the football game."

It wasn't to be in the longest continuous intersectional series in the country.

The turning point was crystal clear. Trailing 24-13, the winless Midshipmen (0-9) were on the march with a first down at the Notre Dame 4 on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Navy went to its biggest weapon, quarterback Brian Madden, who gained only two yards on three straight runs, and finally settled for a field goal by David Hills that decreased the margin to eight points with nearly a period remaining.

Madden questioned the play calling on the sequence, which he said "was pretty conservative. Maybe throwing on first down would have given us a better chance. We didn't pull out our package."

Lantz decided not to go on the final down although he considered it. "We were going to need a field goal sometime toward the end, so we kicked it," he said.

Notre Dame (4-5) responded by using three plays and one minute to score on a 44-yard touchdown run by Julius Jones, hiking its lead to 31-16.

On the next series, the Midshipmen's bid for a first down while facing a fourth-and-three at their 36 failed when Ed Malinowski's pass - under pressure after a poor snap - fell incomplete.

Nicholas Setta stowed it away for Notre Dame with a 32-yard field goal, his second in a game in which he tied a school record held by John Carney (a field goal in 11 straight regular-season games).

The Notre Dame defense had an extra week to ready itself for Madden and the option after being idle last Saturday. They didn't waste the time, holding Madden to a career-low of 70 yards rushing in games he has started.

"They had a lot of film, knew what people had done against me and did a good job of doing some things to take me out," said Madden. "For me, that's frustrating. It seems like I never do enough, and I question myself every Sunday morning."

"Their game plan was to key on Madden and worry about the rest later," said slotback Gene Reese.

But unlike the trend during most of this season, the Navy defense was not generous early. In fact, it was downright stubborn and the Midshipmen, for once, were in the thick of a game at the half, trailing, 17-13.

"The whole defense was excited," said plebe Dustin Elliott, a relative unknown, who was all over the field with 13 tackles, one for loss, and a forced fumble. Safety Lenter Thomas also participated in 13 tackles.

The defense wasn't responsible for Notre Dame's first touchdown, a 39-yard return of a fumble by Gerome Sapp after a botched handoff between Madden and Tony Lane.

Notre Dame contained Madden well except for a 38-yard scoring scamper and a bullish 15-yard run on which he broke four tackles to set up a field goal.

Reese pitched in with two big plays that accounted for 61 yards and resulted in another Hills field goal, but as usual it was too little against a team with a 65-9-1 advantage in the series.

"When Navy again beats Notre Dame, which will happen, it is going to be very, very special," said Lantz.

The Streak lives on as does the Navy skid that has reached 19 losses in the last 20 games. The only victory was last December in Baltimore against arch-rival Army.

And where do the Midshipmen meet Notre Dame next year? At PSINet Stadium.

Navy 10 3 0 3 - 16

Notre Dame 10 7 7 10 - 34

Next for Navy

Opponent: Army

Site: Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia

When: Dec. 1, 11:45 a.m.

Record: 2-8

Yesterday: Lost to Memphis, 42-10

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