Some quick hits after Notre Dame narrowly kept alive hopes of reaching a New Year’s 6 bowl game with a 24-17…I guess technically it’s called a win against Navy…
– I knew we were in for a long afternoon when ND came out and passed 3 consecutive times. I know Brian Kelly and OC Chip Long want to build confidence back up for Brandon Wimbush, but the absolute worst way to do that is to take the ball after winning the toss, then say, ‘Alright, kid, this might be our only drive of the quarter…have at it”. Predictably, ND went three-and-out.
– That being said, have to give Wimbush some credit for mental toughness. After a complete mess of a start to the game, including basically killing his best wide receiver (Equanimeous St. Brown – get well soon, buddy), he returned to the field facing a 10-3 deficit and a very restless crowd and played darn near perfectly the rest of the game. The final numbers aren’t crazy beautiful – 9/18, 164 yards, 2 TD – but he came up with some big-time plays when ND absolutely had to have them, most importantly that drive at the end of the first half.
– It looked like it was all going down in flames for ND at the end of the first half, when Chris “Your Literal Only Job Is To Fair-Catch Punts” Finke flubbed the ball over to Navy on a punt and the Middies went up 10-3 in response with barely a minute to go. Wimbush made some remarkable throws on the ensuing drive and gutted his way into the end zone on a draw after Kevin Stepherson dropped a pitch-perfect TD on the previous play. Without doubt in my opinion, the biggest drive of the game, and it only looked bigger after Navy scored on an eight-minute possession to open the third quarter.
– Far be it from me to impugn Ken Niumatalolo, who drives me absolutely insane every year with the way he gets the Mids ready to play the Irish, but there were two plays I didn’t understand from him. First, I’m surprised he kicked the field goal on 4th and 4 late in the 3rd. Granted, that’s much easier to say after Owen White missed the kick, but I was sort of wondering to myself even before why he wouldn’t just go for it. A field goal didn’t do a lot for Navy at the time – yes, it gave them the lead, but you had to sort of think ND was going to get a TD at some point – and the Irish defense was having all kinds of trouble stopping the Mids, especially on big downs.
– The second call I didn’t get was the halfback pass on Navy’s final offensive play. This is the second time in Navy’s last 3 visits to ND that Ken has gone to his bag of tricks with the game on the line; four years ago he called a reverse in a similar spot. It didn’t come close to working then. It came a little closer this time, but ND again got the stop it needed and Navy again asked their players to do something they aren’t necessarily good at with the game at stake.
– It’s always hard to measure ND in this game against ND in other games because it’s basically a different sport against Navy. That being said, as I mentioned, the Irish defense was brutal on big downs. 3rd and 16 run play conversions, 4th and long wheel routes to the fullback for conversions, a few missed tackles on a 4th and 3 conversion play that ND had dead to rights…oh boy. It’s making me nauseous just thinking about it. Let’s just move on.
– Josh Adams had a very quiet 106 yards rushing even though he averaged nearly 6 yards per carry. Kevin Stepherson had 103 yards receiving and 2 scores and should have had far more. Get this kid some stickum.
– You know how Alabama is constantly bringing back alums to run scout team or whatever for opponents? Greer Martini needs to be a special option-week-only coach. He does a dang good job against the option.
– As I said at the top, just beat Stanford. First of all, it’s about time ND wins out there; they haven’t won since The Season That Shall Not Be Named 10 years ago. And of course, more importantly, a win puts the Irish in a New Year’s 6 bowl. As of this moment it seems likely such a matchup would be against a Big Ten team, likely Wisconsin or Penn State (I just don’t trust Bucky to beat Ohio State, and the Orange Bowl seems like a cinch to be SEC runner-up vs ACC runner-up). Let’s go get it, please.
(Photo credit: Matt Cashore)