A dominating performance on both sides of the ball led to Notre Dame’s eighth victory of the season on Saturday with a 52-20 win over the Midshipmen of Navy. Behind four Chase Claypool touchdowns and an Irish defense that caused multiple turnovers, the outcome of the game was even greater than the score would lead you to believe. With the Irish playing arguably their best football of the season, Notre Dame had no problems handling another top 25 team.
As offensive efficiency was a factor that was being stressed by Notre Dame heading into Saturday’s matchup, quarterback Ian Book certainly took note of this. Finishing the game completing 14 of his 20 pass attempts for 284 yards and five touchdowns, the Notre Dame offense was firing on all cylinders. From the opening reception by Chase Claypool, the Irish used their superior strength, size, and athleticism to jump out to an early lead and never looked back. As slow offensive starts have been all too common for the Irish, the immediate drive down the field set the tone for how the rest of the game would unfold. With possessions being at a premium when going against a team like Navy who runs the triple option, Notre Dame was able to get points on the board on their first six possessions – five touchdowns and one field goal. Four of those five touchdowns went to Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool who finished the day with seven receptions for 117 yards. The fifth receiving touchdown was a 70 yard bomb from Book to the speedy Braden Lenzy. Book, in his post-game press conference, touched on how hitting those deep plays really opened up the offense. The Notre Dame rushing attack was not as effective as the passing game, but did lead to one Tony Jones Jr. touchdown behind an offensive line that really controlled the line of scrimmage. This control gave Book ample time in the pocket and has contributed to his growing confidence and success that has been on display since the game winning drive two weeks ago against Virginia Tech. Notre Dame’s offensive line deserves praises as well after being reconstructed on the right side from losing both Robert Hainsey and Tommy Kraemer to injury; they were still able to provide Book with an extremely clean pocket against a Navy defense that was schemed to get more pressure in opposing team’s backfields.
With Navy’s quarterback, Malcolm Perry, coming into this game receiving a lot of praise for his quickness and ability to orchestrate the triple option offense (all of this praise was well deserved though as he had played phenomenal throughout their season), Clark Lea planned, and the Notre Dame players executed, an incredible defensive counterattack. The Notre Dame defensive line and linebacking unit was in the backfield before many of their plays had time to develop and this allowed the Irish to cause and recover four fumbles and completely turn the tide of the game. Perry lead the Midshipmen with 25 carries for 117 yards but it was all 11 Irish defenders that engulfed any hope that Navy had of winning that game. Drew White lead the Notre Dame defense recording six tackles but there was a slew of defensemen that deserve credit and recognition for their role in containing Perry and the Navy offense. From Khalid Kareem’s forced fumbles, to Kyle Hamilton and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah’s ability to track down a scrambling Perry, to South Bend native Paul Moala’s interception of a pitch in the backfield that he took for a touchdown, this might have been one of the most complete games that Notre Dame has put together this season. The Irish defense was able to mix up their looks and formations throughout the contest which clearly showed its effectiveness in Navy’s inability to adjust offensively. As the game went on, it seemed that Clark Lea had the Irish defense one or two steps ahead of the Midshipmen and Navy was never able to make up that ground.
In last week’s article, I did predict a Notre Dame victory but I did not see this offensive rout coming. Notre Dame’s ability to put up 38 points while holding Navy to only three points and less than 100 yards rushing in the first half alone, was the exact recipe that the Irish coaching staff drew up for a victory. The Midshipmen’s final 17 points of the game basically came against second string defenders which is why the final score of the game shows it to be closer than what was actually on display. As the Irish found continued success on the ground in the previous game against Duke, Navy’s game plan of shutting down the Irish run only opened up the pass game even more allowing for another incredible, record-tying receiving day for Chase Claypool. Claypool’s four touchdown receptions tied the Notre Dame touchdown receiving record with former Irish wideout Maurice Stovall. With two regular season games remaining, the Irish seem to be playing their best football of the year. Let’s hope they can keep this fire going and finish out the season on a very positive note.