Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said that of all the players stewing over the loss to Florida State, none was more fired up than Everett Golson.
Tonight against Navy, Golson unleashed it all on the field.
The Irish quarterback threw for three scores and ran for three more as Notre Dame survived a feisty Navy squad, 49-39 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.
The game looked like most Notre Dame-Navy matchups that Irish fans have been accustomed to recently. With the 2012 game being the exception, these contests have been relatively close ones. Tonight was no different.
As well as Notre Dame moved the ball offensively (537 yards of total offense), they were equally as bad defensively, giving up 454 yards.
Golson was electric all game., easily finding receivers and when covered, making plays with his feet. The Irish QB spread the wealth, tossing passes to eight different Irish receivers. Leading the way was Chris Brown, who tallied 82 yards, and CJ Prosise, who scored on the Irish's first drive of the game. Ben Koyack also got back into the mix, scoring a touchdown. Almost every Irish receiver on the field caught a pass tonight. Even when an interception that killed an Irish drive at the end of the first half, it wasn't even Golson's fault.
The fumbles that plagued Golson earlier in the season were all but eliminated once he broke the pocket and rushed downfield. Golson would run for 33 yards on 9 carries and three TDs, but that wasn't even as impressive as RB Tarean Folston.
Folston was the featureback tonight for Notre Dame, and rushed for 149 yards on 20 carries and a TD. After having some trouble early, the Irish RB went off, easily eluding Navy defenders en route to a season-best performance.
Defensively, the Irish struggled to contain Navy's rushing attack. After Schmidt went down with a significant ankle injury, Irish Defensive Coordinator Brian VanGorder was forced to play his four true Freshmen at the same time. Yikes.
The Irish head to Arizona State next weekend in what will be a major test for the Irish.
Some thoughts below:
Notre Dame should start the season vs. Navy and if not possible, end the series vs. Navy
Hot take? Maybe. Before I elaborate, this has nothing to do with the closeness of this evening's contest. I've been saying this for years now. Navy, as of tonight per Sagarin, boasts the 101st-ranked schedule. That's it. I shouldn't really need to go beyond that. Outside of Rice, no other team on ND's schedule has as weak a slate on their schedule, and the Irish started their season with the Owls. In addition, I will then delve into the injuries that the Irish suffered tonight. While Jones' was unfortunate, Schmidt's was directly due to Navy's style of play. As long as cut blocks are legal, the Irish should avoid them whenever possible. In 2012, the Irish were fortunate enough to start the season with Navy. That means that the Irish spent weeks preparing for the option and how to defend it. When you get Navy in the middle of the season, you aren't blessed with the same timing. Playing Navy is also a no-win scenario. The expectation is that the Irish will win handily, but anything else is viewed in a negative light. Considering the CFP Committee's apparent dislike of the Irish resume, I'd rather see the Irish schedule a higher-tier opponent than hug onto history and deal with the consequences that follow from it.
Defense was about what I expected
Ugly? Yes, but consider that at one point, the Irish had Trumbetti, Martini, Tranquill and Morgan on the field for a Navy series (that resulted in a TD). You're asking a lot of a young defense to try and defend an exotic offense even with the bye week. At its core, defending Navy is assignment football. Asking a defense that had a lot of rotating personnel to be that disciplined is asking a lot. The only thing that really disappointed me was the long pass near the end of the first half. It was an obvious throwing situation for Navy and the Irish played run and got burned badly. Sure, there were missed tackles and missed assignments all over the place, but I expect that when we play Navy. I was happy to see Onwualu get into the mix tonight as he had some good stops. Lee Corso says dumb things from time to time but there are moments where he is correct. On Gameday, he noted that ND will pull away in the 4th quarter and win. They did and the defense did enough to allow the Irish offense to pull it out.
I'll keep saying it until I'm blue in the face: Golson should be a Heisman front runner
Have I waffled on this this season? Yes, but I'm back on the karma train, baby. Golson was the difference maker tonight. With the struggles on defense, Golson put the team on his back with the Irish down in the 2nd half and blew off an immediate scoring drive to end the threat. Bros, he combined for six touchdowns. Even the turnover wasn't his fault (it was Carlisle's). I hope that the miscues on defense don't overshadow what a great night Golson had, and it should carry him into the Heisman consideration.
Folson should get the lionshare of carries from here on out
Yes, Cam McDaniel had some clutch runs and yes, he is better at blitz pickups, but Folston is the Theo Riddick of this year's Irish backfield. He is smart with the football and with his feet and vision. We didn't even see Greg Bryant on the field tonight. Folston has fundamentally sound, waiting for his blockers and attacking the right gaps on his runs. Yes, it is Navy, but still. I was impressed with him and am interested to see how he is utilized against Arizona State next week.
If you're not gonna fill the alternate venue, play Navy's home game at their house
FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, is a massive stadium. It is one of the largest in the NFL. If Notre Dame is playing Navy on a cold, windy night, it is likely not going to fill up. Heck, even the Redskins struggle to fill the stadium up. On television, it looked like a bad Thursday night game. If that is gonna be the case, then the game should be played at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis. Its a smaller venue and would be a great place to watch the Navy-Irish matchup. Besides, Annapolis is way better than Landover. Trust me, I'm a Marylander.