Mids fail physical test against Irish

College Football


One of Navy coach Paul Johnson's pet expressions is that "Sometimes, physical superiority cancels all theory." He could have easily rolled that one out Saturday.

With one of its most prolific offensive units in the school's storied history, Notre Dame submerged the Midshipmen rather easily in a 42-21 victory, and there wasn't much Navy could do about it.

"I think we had the right idea, to try to make it a short game for them, and minimize their possessions," Johnson said yesterday. "But they have room for error and we don't. And we made some mistakes that didn't help."

Navy's defensive coaches were in a Catch-22 situation against Irish quarterback Brady Quinn, a huge and experienced offensive line and three 6-foot-5 receivers who dwarfed the Navy secondary. Do they try to beat the pass-blockers and get to Quinn, or do they lie back and try to play damage control, forcing the Irish to accept short gains and more plays?

In the end, they mixed it up, Quinn was protected magnificently and his 6-foot-5 targets, Maurice Stovall, Jeff Samardzija and tight end Anthony Fasano, pretty much did as they pleased. Navy had a few small victories, a pass breakup by Jeremy McGown and the first interception of Quinn after a record-setting 130 attempts (by DuJuan Price), but the Irish quarterback barely smudged his uniform.

"We had to get some pressure on him and blitzed a lot," Johnson said. "But they're very good and for the most part, they picked them up. Once in a while, somebody has to beat a block and we didn't do it."

Navy linebacker Rob Caldwell, the Indiana native playing against the team he idolized as a youth, finished with a game-high 14 tackles, but also several errors resulting from overzealousness.

"They would run a lot of underneath routes and we would bite on that," Caldwell said. "Then, they would go over the top and make plays. Their offensive line is probably the best we will play against all year. And you see some of their receivers going up and catching it with one hand. Those guys are going to be playing on Sundays."

No matter what strategy Navy employed, it probably wouldn't have compensated against a bigger, faster, more talented opponent. Notre Dame's NCAA-record 42nd straight win in the series seemed almost inevitable from the beginning.

"We knew they had a very good offensive team and I never saw anything that would change my mind," Johnson said. "Nobody gets close to the quarterback, and when you do that and have outstanding receivers and running backs like they do, it is hard to stop."

On the other side of the ball, the Midshipmen had some notable moments with the triple-option attack. Navy's opening drive to a touchdown was the longest in terms of time (7:45) and plays (16) against Notre Dame all season. They added an 80-yard scoring march to launch the second half and a 78-yard push to the end zone against the Irish reserves and finished with three more minutes of possession time.

Against the type of athletes they were facing, the performance further underscored the effectiveness of Johnson's intricate offense, particularly after starting fullback Matt Hall was knocked out of the game following his first carry with a knee injury.

But only a slip or two were required for the Irish to exploit and put the decision away. In rapid-fire order, Notre Dame scored three second-quarter touchdowns after a defensive stand, a botched Navy pitchout and a short punt, and the upset dreams vanished via a 28-7 halftime deficit.

Their toughest assignment behind them, the Midshipmen now must refocus on what may be their weakest opponent of the season, winless Temple. Navy (5-4) still has plenty to play for, including a winning record and bowl-game eligibility, which can be assured by beating the Owls at home.

Johnson is already reminding his players anew that they aren't powerful enough to take anybody for granted. "Sure, I'm concerned about Temple," he said. "When they don't beat themselves, they're OK. When they make a bunch of mistakes, you've got a good chance. They gave Maryland all they wanted for a half and they might be bigger on defense than Notre Dame."

Better is another story.


Temple@Navy Saturday, 1:30 p.m., 1090 AM, 1430 AM Line: Navy by 27

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.