Notre Dame had too many weapons in a provocative pitch-and-catch offense, and Navy had too few answers.
The result was a torrent of big pass plays for the Fighting Irish yesterday, most of them directed at wide receiver Rhema McKnight or tight end John Carlson.
On a blustery day at M&T Bank Stadium, Irish quarterback Brady Quinn - likely the first pick in the next NFL draft - threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-14 walkover against Navy.
McKnight had a pair of touchdowns (33 and 6 yards) among six catches. Carlson didn't score, but couldn't have hurt Navy more. He had five catches for 75 yards, each for a first down, two on big fourth-down conversions.
"Anytime you try to lock down our outside receivers, we try to take that matchup," Quinn said of his quick hitches to Carlson. "Some defenses, I don't want to say they underestimate his ability, but maybe they overlook him in those sorts of situations."
The Irish scored after all but one of Carlson's catches - though they failed to score after his longest catch, a 30-yarder on a deep ball in the third quarter. His 15-yard catch on fourth-and-two in the first quarter helped the Irish open a 10-0 lead. His 6-yard grab on fourth-and-five in the third was followed on the next play by Quinn's 19-yard touchdown run that made it 31-14.
The Irish passed at will most of the day. They scored on their first five possessions and gained 471 yards in total offense. Quinn had six completions of more than 20 yards, four that exceeded 30.
"He's really good at knowing when he needs to rifle it in there, when he needs to put some touch on it," Carlson said. "He's great at reading his receivers and understanding where the receiver wants the ball."
The Irish converted three of five fourth-down plays and never punted.
"It's so disappointing," Navy cornerback Keenan Little said. "You're out there for so long [on defense], then they get to a third-down play. You know if you can make one play you can get off the field, and then if they convert it, it hurts your heart."
Late hit hurts Mids
Perhaps the biggest defensive play of the game for Navy came early in the third quarter, when Notre Dame converted a third-and-19 play with the help of a personal foul (late hit) by linebacker Rob Caldwell. The Irish went on to score and take a 31-14 lead five plays later.
Quinn covered 12 yards with a short pass to Darius Walker, but Caldwell, coming across the field, knocked Walker down about three feet over the sideline.
Navy linebacker Tyler Tidwell didn't absolve Caldwell, but he understood what happened.
"It was unfortunate and I know Rob is really upset about it," Tidwell said. "But the bottom line is the guy was just hustling. He was running to the ball.
"I've been there. You're running, just trying to tackle the guy and make a play in a big game, and you don't even realize he's stepped out of bounds. It happens."
Notre Dame defensive end Victor Abiamiri (Gilman) made the most of his homecoming. He had two sacks and six tackles in the stadium he used to visit.
"He was one of those guys [who was] all geeked up all week," Irish coach Charlie Weis said. "Sometimes we forget, because we're sitting in South Bend, Indiana, how special it is for guys to have a game in their area of the country."
Abiamiri said he gave out about a dozen tickets to family, but "had a lot more friends in the stands."
Irish rush hour
Notre Dame had almost 100 fewer rushing yards (176) than Navy (271), but Weis was more than happy with the yield.
"I was much more pleased with how things went in the running game," Weis said. "I thought we were more physical across the line of scrimmage. ... I had a lot more hardball runs called where you go smash them in the mouth. I'm always a big draw [play] guy. I didn't call as many draws today."
Walker rushed for 103 yards, his third 100-yard game of the season and 11th of his career.
The 471 total yards put up by Notre Dame was the most by a Navy opponent since the Irish totaled 505 a year ago. ... Quinn on the Navy series: "You don't see a lot of trash-talking out there. You see a lot of respect." ... The loss ended Navy's five-game winning streak in home games played away from Annapolis. ... Quarterback Brian Hampton had surgery Thursday on his left knee for three torn ligaments.