Mids run out of time, miracles

notre dame 27 navy 21

2 TDs in last 1:39, 2 kick recoveries not quite enough

November 16, 2008|By Don Markus | Don Markus,don.markus@baltsun.com

It might have been too much to ask.

Coming from 20 points behind in the fourth quarter to win is usually a once-a-generation accomplishment, but doing it in successive games would have been unfathomable.

Navy nearly did to Notre Dame yesterday at M&T Bank Stadium what the Midshipmen did to Temple in their previous game in Annapolis. Nearly, but not quite, as the Fighting Irish held on for a 27-21 victory before what was left of an announced rain-soaked crowd of 70,932.

"I thought we were going to win. There was no doubt in my mind we were going to win," said Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, whose team fell behind 27-7 early in the fourth quarter. "Even before our last drive when we scored, I thought we were going to win."

Trailing by the same margin as they did against the Owls, the Mids scored twice in a span of 18 seconds in the final 1:39 and recovered two straight onside kicks but simply ran out of time and magic from backup sophomore quarterback Ricky Dobbs.

"Once I got the second one, I believe with everything in my heart that we were going to win," said senior linebacker Corey Johnson, the former Navy point guard who recovered both onside kicks. "There was nothing that was going to stop us."

The elements might have contributed more than the Irish (6-4). Only a pass that slipped through the hands of slotback Shun White inside Notre Dame's 10-yard line in the last minute likely prevented the Mids (6-4) from completing another incredible comeback.

"I kind of got shoved and I was kind of stumbling. I couldn't get my fingers around it, plus the ball was wet," said White, whose 24-yard touchdown run about a minute earlier was Navy's first score since late in the second quarter.

Dobbs, who had come off the bench in Navy's previous two games after senior quarterbacks Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada and Jarod Bryant got hurt, replaced Bryant late in third quarter when Navy couldn't get anything going offensively.

Struggling as much with Dobbs as they had with Bryant, the Mids finally gave those fans who had remained throughout the second-half deluge something to cheer about.

One play after Johnson recovered the first onside kick, Dobbs found wide receiver Tyree Barnes, who came down near the sideline and stepped out at Notre Dame's 1. Two plays later, Dobbs pushed his way into the end zone.

Asked whether he started to think about the Temple game, Dobbs said: "No, not really. I was just trying to execute the plays the coaches were giving us and make something happen."

When Johnson recovered another onside kick by Matt Harmon, this time at Notre Dame's 41, Dobbs looked as if he was going to make something big happen when he threw to White on the far sideline.

"When I released the ball, I was thinking this is a sure catch," said Dobbs, who could start Navy's next game at Northern Illinois on Nov. 25.

Dobbs then missed on his next two passes, helping Notre Dame break a two-game losing streak. Not only did the win avenge last year's triple-overtime defeat to Navy in South Bend - the first win for the Midshipmen in the series since 1963 - it also might have quieted the criticism of coach Charlie Weis.

"I was pleased until that last run," said Weis, whose Irish became bowl-eligible and beat a team with a winning record for the first time this season.

As he left M&T Bank Stadium, Niumatalolo was also thinking about the beginning of the game, not the end.

"We had the [three] turnovers early on, and we had a chance to do things," Niumatalolo said. "It's just so frustrating some of the mental mistakes we had early on."


Nov. 25,

7:45 p.m.


Radio: 1090 AM

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