Notre Dame at Navy: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
The Irish came into the Navy contest with a clear objective: Win.
With a bid to the playoffs on the line, the Irish could not afford a loss and eliminate any chance to advance come season's end into the four team format.
Over the years, the annual contest between Navy and the Irish has become somewhat lopsided.
It was a foregone conclusion that when these two teams played, Irish fans could rest easy with the assumed victory.
Heading into the 2007 season, Notre Dame had a remarkable streak of 43 games over the Middies.
That streak would end, and start a lowly trend of losing to teams usually throttled by Notre Dame.
Navy won after 3 overtimes, 46-44, under former coach Charlie Weis. An era many fans would love to forget, Weis finished a career with losses to Syracuse and UConn as well.
Weis would lose again in 2009 to Navy, 23-21 in South Bend.
The most troubling aspect and glaring number that signaled Weis was not making the most out of his talent base was the scoring margin of those games and the trend that the gap of shear domination had dissolved.
From 2007 to 2009 the Irish had lost 2 of 3 games.
That was bad enough for many.
But the games were no longer customary boatraces or even just wins.
Notre Dame under Weis had 2 losses by 2 points, and 1 win by 6 points against the Middies:
2007: Notre Dame 44 Navy 46
2008: Notre Dame 27 Navy 21
2009: Notre Dame 21 Navy 23
The Navy loss in 07' signaled an end to what could have been deemed a sure win each season, and Weis would also ingrain thoughts in many minds that the Irish were now beatable by even lesser, inferior colleges.
No longer was Notre Dame the team many feared or felt pressured when the golden helmets came storming out of the tunnel.
Enter Brian Kelly.
Kelly's first glimpse of the service academy didn't end well, but it led to a commitment to erase the mess left by his former. Kelly would fall to Navy 35-17, but would beckon the advice of one Lou Holtz to help with the schematic possibilities needed to find success in the future.
Since that time, the Irish have yet to lose. And it's a margin of victory that has all but erased that tarnished legacy of a closed gap.
In 2 of Kelly's wins over Navy, the Irish have scored over 50 points and won by margins of 42 and 40 points.
Kelly's finer point in his short window at Notre Dame is his overwhelming ability to adjust to adversity.
The national championship was a prime example of what he could do as soon as he figured out what went wrong. After starting the first half seemingly out-coached or even out of his element-Kelly directed a team to 14-14 tie in the second half. Many could suggest absurd slants that Bama' simply let off the gas.
Whatever the scenerio, in some minds- adjustments were made.
And it's something the Irish have endured since.
The Navy game is no exception.
Kelly faced Air Force in 2013 with a tremendous outcome going against a similiar style attack.
And although the 2013 Navy result wasn't his finest moment, the Irish found a way not to lose.
Former coaches were not so lucky to stear clear of eventual losses in tight games.
And Kelly again Saturday night would have to find a way to pull one out.
Period, end of story-sort of.
The Irish did what they needed to do for the remainder of the season and that was to win the next game after Florida State.
And don't stop there.
Win the 5 remaining games on the schedule and hope the playoff tandem looks the other way.
This 49-39 win needs to be erased right now. It will not look good come Sunday or Monday as far as perception and debate, but what does look good is there's still a '1' in the loss column and not a '2'.
This was one of those games former coaches find a way to lose.
Brian Kelly and his assistants and team pulled together and found a way after plenty of adversity again.
Injuries are never good, and neither are bad wins or ugly losses.
For what it's worth- everyone loves the academies.
But why a power school continues to play them in an era when bad losses and weak wins hurt your schedule outcome is mindblowing.
Not to mention the most important aspect of it all: Injuries.
This game was no exception as super walk-on Joe Schmidt is now in a boot and Jarron Jones is now hobbled.
The price of the win must be examined down the road, especially if the Irish are going to remain outside a conference for the time being.
The Irish defense unable to stop Navy was almost something to expect, even after a good performance against FSU.
But this was not how many expected it to turn out.
Those that understand the option know rushing yards are going to be racked up big time.
Tonight was no exception.
In the first half alone, Navy had 144 yards.
Outside of quarterback Keenan Reynolds, 9 Middies touched the ball. Reynolds contributed just 16 of those yards, which is a good indicator that defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder schemed to stop Reynolds, who of late has put up some strong rushing statistics.
And for the night, Navy put up 336 total yards.
On the night the Middies racked up 454 total yards.
The Irish defense won't have to look far down the road to try and figure things out, because the schedule isn't letting up with Arizona State up next.
Nyles Morgan Intro
With Schmidt out, bring on Nyles Morgan.
With yet another injection of youth, the freshman came into the game and not only made some plays-but delivered some images most Irish faithful would easily remember of a player wearing #5 before.
Tarean Folston For The Win
On the night, Folston gained 149 yards on the ground. He also had 2 big receptions for 38 yards.
For whatever reason Greg Bryant remained on the sidelines, Folston never relinquished his position-nor was it in jeopardy Saturday night.
Time and time again, the sophomore displayed clear evidence that he is the go to back in the trio with McDaniel and Bryant.
Top 10 Still?
Did Notre Dame play like a top four team Saturday night?
No, but the playoffs didn't start Saturday night or next week either.
Will they remain in the 10 slot or move down or up?
But the game Saturday night would never serve up evidence to justify a top 5 ranking or any top 10 number regardless of the result.
Had the Irish won by 45 points, they would have lost style points because of the lopsided win over such an inferior team.
A loss Saturday?
No explanation needed.
Only one top 10 team fell as expected (Ole Miss) and that won't move the Irish very far.
What did help them was Georgia losing.
Had the Bulldogs won against Florida, they would have jumped the Irish after the Navy performance.
It's still a simple formula: Win the next 4 games.