N. Dame finally gets idea: give Jones ball

Big runs on 231-yard day prove difference vs. Mids

College Football

November 09, 2003|By Nathan Max | Nathan Max,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham took a long time to figure out how to beat Navy's defense.

In the end, the solution was simple - give the ball to senior running back Julius Jones again and again and again.

Jones finished with 231 (221 rushing, 10 receiving) of the Irish's 417 total yards and almost personally led Notre Dame on its fourth-quarter, game-tying and game-winning field-goal drives.

He amassed 37 of Notre Dame's 62 yards leading to kicker D.J. Fitzpatrick's 40-yard field goal as time expired. He accumulated 47 of his team's 63 yards to set up Fitzpatrick's 30-yard tying kick with 5:10 remaining.

"I'm glad they didn't decide earlier to do that," Navy coach Paul Johnson said. "Defensively, we just had a hard time stopping them when they ran the football. They're so much bigger and more physical than we are. We had a lot of guys up there, but at times we still couldn't get them stopped."

Navy's defense alternated between stopping Jones and allowing him big plays. The Midshipmen (6-4) held him to no gain or tackled him for a loss nine times. However, they also allowed him to rush for double-digit yardage 10 times, including a 12-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and a 48-yard scoring run in the first quarter.

On the latter touchdown, Navy sophomore linebacker Jeremy Chase shot through the Irish line and grabbed Jones in the backfield, but he escaped from Chase, changed direction and had a wide-open field in front of him after the Mids' entire defense over-pursued to the direction of the play.

"He's a good running back, but we had a lot of stops in the backfield," Navy senior linebacker Eddie Carthan said. "We just didn't wrap up. He didn't kill us by himself; we killed ourselves. The [first] touchdown run that he had, we hit him in the backfield for a loss and he got around the corner and scored on us."

If Notre Dame (3-6) had used Jones as often in the first half as it did in the fourth quarter, Navy (6-4) might not have been in the game. He rushed for 40 yards on the Irish's first three offensive plays, but they failed to score after trying three straight passing plays that netted 3 yards. Notre Dame eventually missed a field-goal attempt.

Jones scored on Notre Dame's second possession and had 99 yards on his first five carries, but the Mids then began to come up with big stops. Navy forced the Irish to punts after three plays on their third and fourth possessions.

And, although Navy did not force a turnover for the first time in 17 games, the Mids prevented Notre Dame from earning a first down five times and gave their offense great field position on several occasions.

In the final drive, however, with the Irish starting on their own 15-yard line with under two minutes remaining, Jones ran the ball four times and caught two short passes.

"He's just a good back and breaks a lot more tackles than his backup," Navy junior linebacker Lane Jackson said. "He opened up the running game, which led to their win. On the final drive, in passing situations, they still gave it to him."

But when asked to name the difference in the game, Jackson said it wasn't Jones. He pointed to Navy's defense. Despite all the unit did to keep the Mids in it, "They didn't step up [at the end] when they needed to."

Next for Navy

Matchup: Central Michigan (3-7) vs. Navy (6-4)

Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis

When: Nov. 22, 1:30 p.m.

Radio: WJFK (1300 AM), WNAV (1430 AM)

Yesterday: Central Michigan lost to Akron, 40-28.

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