Sunday, November 02, 2014

Mids Fall Short Against Notre Dame

Navy's Keenan Reynolds looks to pass against Notre Dame at FedEx Field.
The 4-4 Navy Midshipmen came into Saturday's game against sixth ranked Notre Dame looking to steal some of the luck of the Irish. This game marked the 88th time the two schools have met making this the longest continuous intersectional rivalry in the county, however Notre Dame has dominated the series holding a 74-12-1 record against the Mids.

Navy hoped to use some of the magic that's helped them make this a competitive rivalry over the past seven years, three of which have been won by the Midshipmen.

With just 52 seconds gone off the FedEx Field clock in the first quarter, it didn't appear the Mids had any magic or Irish luck when Notre Dame's Everett Golson hit a wide open C.J. Prosise on the second play from scrimmage for a 78-yard touchdown.

Notre Dame's explosive offense led by Golson and running back Tarean Foslton didn't let up.  The Irish scored touchdowns on their first four possessions and jumped out to an early and dominating 28-7 lead. Even more impressive, the four scoring drives accounted for 79, 65, 76, and 84 yards respectively.

Those that thought that the game was over before halftime don't know the history of Navy and Notre Dame. The scrappy Midshipmen battled back and scored 24 unanswered points to take a 31-28 lead with 4:09 remaining in the third quarter.

"I'm just proud of the way our guys battled the whole game," said Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo. "We never quit. We were down, and it's a great testament to the type of young men that we have in our football program. The type of young men that will eventually be serving our country."

After falling behind, Notre Dame refocused and scored touchdowns on their next two possessions retaking the lead 42-31. 

Navy scrapped their way to the end zone and converted a two-point conversion to cut Notre Dame's lead to three with just 4:18 remaining in the game. 

After recovering Austin Grebe's onside kick attempt, Notre Dame answered the Mids score with a 48-yard drive and another TD to set the final at 49-39.

Navy didn't let Notre Dame's early score affect their game plan. On the Mids' ensuing drive, they kept the ball on the ground with eight different players getting carries. On second down and 10 from the Notre Dame 26 yard line, Keenan Reynolds' first pass found Thomas Wilson, Jr. in the end zone for a Navy TD. The catch was Wilson, Jr.'s second collegiate reception and his first career TD. It couldn't have come on a bigger stage.

After Notre Dame scored touchdowns on their next three possessions to take a commanding lead, the Navy offense began their comeback.

Demond Brown was able to find the end zone after taking a pitch from Reynolds and sprinting 26 yards down the sideline.  Brown picked up excellent blocks from Dishan Romine and Brendan Dudek that paved the way for the junior running back.

George Jamison forced one of Golson's few mistakes in the game by picking off the Irish QB in Navy territory with just 24 seconds remaining in the half. That proved to be plenty of time for the Mids to put points on the board.

On first down, Reynolds completed his second pass of the game, this time to Ryan Williams-Jenkins for 42 yards to the Notre Dame 30 yard line.  Three plays later Austin Grebe nailed a 44-yard field goal as time expired to cut Notre Dame's lead, 28-17.

Williams-Jenkins started the game after missing the last three after shattering his orbital bone against Western Kentucky on a kick return. Grebe's 44-yard field goal was the longest field goal scored by a Navy player since Jon Teague's 44-yarder against Army in 2011. 

Navy took the opening kick of the second half and began a scoring drive that defines the Navy offense.

Reynolds led the Midshipmen offense with precision into Notre Dame territory.  The junior QB called his own number six times that accounted for 26 yards rushing.  He also completed a 12-yard pass to Dudek to the Irish 14 yard line.  Two plays later Geoffrey Whiteside scrambled 13 yards and found himself in the end zone and the Mids found themselves within striking distance of taking the lead.

"We feel that if we execute we can move the ball on anybody," noted Niumatalolo. "But we also know that was a tough offense that we had to stop. I did things in this game I never do because we had to find a way to keep their offense off the field."

The Navy defense stood tall on Notre Dame’s next drive.  They held the Irish to negative four yards on four plays and forced a Notre Dame punt - the first Irish punt against the Mids since 2012 when the two teams played in Ireland.

Navy kept the ball on the ground during their next possession as well.  Noah Copeland found a hole in the Irish defense and sprinted 54 yards to the Notre Dame four yard line. On the next play, fellow fullback Chris Swain barreled four yards into the end zone giving the Mids their first lead of the game, 31-28.

Consecutive Notre Dame touchdown runs by Golson and Folston took the wind out of the Navy sails and gave the lead back to the Irish, 42-31.

Two missed field goals by Notre Dame (wide left, blocked) gave the Mids hope that they could pull off a last minute upset.

Navy, down by 11, got the ball back with 5:43 left in the game and began their march toward the end zone. Copeland came up big again with a 33-yard carry into Notre Dame territory. On the next play, Reynolds hit Jamir Tillman with a 21-yard completion to the 12 yard line. Chris Swain found his way into the end zone on the next play, his first career reception.  The Mids went for two and were successful on another pass - Reynolds to Whiteside.

Navy couldn't muster another score and lost a close game to the Irish for the second consecutive year.

Navy's 336 yards rushing were the most yards allowed on the ground by Notre Dame all season. Navy's 454 yards of total offense were the most the Mids have gained against the Irish since 1972 and their second most all time.

Senior captain, Noah Copeland led the Midshipmen in rushing with a season-high 138 yards, his seventh career 100-yard rushing game.

Navy next hosts Georgia Southern for Senior Day on November 15 at Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.

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