`Wow, what a game'

Mids outlast Fighting Irish in 3 OTs for first win in series since 1963

Navy 46 Notre Dame 44

November 04, 2007|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN REPORTER

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- With Navy trailing and all but a small contingent of Navy supporters among the 80,795 fans at Notre Dame Stadium cheering for the Irish, Midshipmen quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada raised his arms to encourage the crowd to grow louder.

He hugged opposing players. He put his arm around one of the game officials. He smiled from inside his helmet and almost seemed to dance.

This was the confident attitude that helped lead the Mids to a 46-44, triple-overtime victory against Notre Dame yesterday, ending the longest losing streak in an uninterrupted series in NCAA history at 43 games.

"It was a hard-fought game to the wire," said Kaheaku-Enhada, who threw just twice to slotback Reggie Campbell yesterday - both times in the third overtime - once for a touchdown and once for the two-point conversion that was the final difference in the score.

"I wouldn't have asked for it to be any different ... We love this atmosphere. The crowd was pumped up, and when they get pumped up, we get pumped up, too."

Navy had not been this pumped up in 44 years, not since Roger Staubach led the Mids to their most recent victory over Notre Dame in 1963 - in South Bend, it so happened.

But the streak did not go easily into history. It took the first overtime game and the highest-scoring game in the 81-year history of the series. The two teams, each with its own set of problems, played to a 28-28 tie in regulation before going into overtime.

"Navy made one more play than we did," said Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, who had his team fake one field-goal attempt in the first half and decided not to try one late in the game that could have won it, because he felt sure his kicker could not make them.

After Campbell had put up the go-ahead points in the third extra period, Navy (5-4) still had to stop Notre Dame (1-8) one last time. The Mids couldn't stop a 5-yard touchdown run by Travis Thomas, but they did stop the two-point conversion attempt that came after it - twice.

The first time, Navy sophomore right cornerback Blake Carter was called for pass interference, cutting short Navy's celebration. But on the second attempt, Thomas was stopped short by a band of Navy defenders, who then fell all over themselves in joy.

"Wow, what a game," Navy coach Paul Johnson said. "It had to be a great game for a fan to watch. It was back and forth and up and down. I'm just so happy for our players, especially our seniors, because it is a big win for our program.

"It is a big win for the academy, and I'm happy I don't have to answer anything else about a streak every time we play."

Johnson stood at the locker room door as his team came off the field after a lengthy celebration and hugged nearly every one of them as they passed by.

He told them before the game there were just three determining factors: to believe they would win, to believe they would win and to believe they would win.

Navy had plenty of opportunity not to believe.

The Mids basically set up Notre Dame for its first touchdown with a face-mask penalty. And gave the Irish a chance to go up by another score with a fumble at its own 30-yard line on the next series. But Weis decided not to go for a field goal on fourth-and-15, and Navy's defense made the stop to regain possession.

The defense was a maligned group coming into this game. But even though Navy's defense did not force a punt for the third straight year, it came up big in big situations.

One of the most important came in the second half after Navy kicker Joey Bullen missed an extra point, leaving the Irish with a 21-20 lead. To that point neither defense had shown much ability to stop the other, so falling a point behind in the rotation was big.

What was even bigger was the play of Michael Walsh, who sacked Notre Dame's Evan Sharpley and forced a fumble that Navy's senior left end, Chris Kuhar-Pitters, picked up and ran 16 yards into the end zone to put Navy on top.

"I'm just in awe of everything that happened," Kuhar-Pitters said. "The coaches called a good play and I was in the right place. It was a game of ups and downs and throughout the whole thing it was a matter of getting down, getting the stop and knowing we could rally."

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

Long runs

Most consecutive wins over an opponent in an uninterrupted major college football series (must have played in consecutive years):

No. Winner Loser Years 43 N. Dame Navy '64-'06 36 Nebraska Kansas '69-'04 32 Oklahoma Kan. State '37-'68 29 Nebraska Kan. State '69-'97 28 Texas Rice '66-'93

Source: Associated Press

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