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Shake it Off: ND Overcomes Slow Start, Beats Navy 41-24

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A second-half commitment to the running game, as well as better defense, helped the Irish pull away late.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

For the first half of Saturday's game, that John Walters tweet spoke to me. Notre Dame wasn't playing particularly well against Navy, and a silly DeShone Kizer interception turned what was a chance to give the Irish a two-possession lead before the half into a Navy opportunity to tie things up at 21. Luckily, the Irish rebounded to get in position for a long field goal by Justin Yoon, and coach Brian Kelly committed to the run game to help the Irish pull away.

The first half started off very frustrating, with a ND 3 and out followed by a quick Navy touchdown. The Irish did manage to go down and tie the game, but in the process started the game with 8 passes in the first 9 play calls. All told, ND threw the ball 22 times and ran the ball 9 in the first half. Not to be all #RTDBK, but against Navy, you sort of don't want that ratio.

Luckily, in the 2nd half, Kelly unleashed CJ Prosise and Josh Adams, and the results were predictable as ND easily rang up 17 points. Prosise ended up with 129 yards on 21 carries, and Josh Adams added 38 on 8 totes.




Some other brief thoughts:

Kizer not great, but good enough

On paper, Kizer's stats were more than fine: 22/30, 281 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. He made a couple of poor decisions, though, including the interception. He also threw a pass to Will Fuller in double coverage in the red zone that could've been picked off in another universe. Luckily, these did not end up playing a factor in the final outcome, but as his pick against Clemson was a similar error, hopefully this will get corrected for USC.

Stop the fullback!

There was some consternation in my household late in the first half and early into the second as ND looked a little too 2009 Charlie Weis-like in their efforts to stop the fullback in the triple option for my taste. I think I may have curled into a ball on a PTSD flashback when Quentin Ezell romped untouched into the end zone for a touchdown late in the second quarter and then scored again on a similar play to tie the score at 21. Chris Swain also ripped off a couple of good gains from that spot later, though his overall numbers weren't daunting. It's not much of an issue now that it's in the rear-view mirror. Let's all be glad we're not playing any more option teams, if only for the fans' sake.

Good D against Reynolds

With that said, ND handled Keenan Reynolds pretty well on defense. In the 6 series Reynolds played, his team only scored 10 points, and only 3 after the first drive. That's a good statistic. Reynolds left with an injury in the first half, giving way to Tago Smith, who performed quite well, better than Reynolds. This was likely part coincidence and part Reynolds not being 100 percent when he returned. In any case, it was the best defense ND has played against Reynolds the last 3 years. He mustered 'only' 126 total yards in his 6 possessions.

Yooooooooon

Any talk of the yips, freshman struggles, or whatever it was can probably stop as it pertains to kicker Justin Yoon. He clocked a 52-yard field goal at the first-half buzzer that seemed much more needed than it ended up being, and his other field goal attempt was stress-free as well. It seems that ND has a reliable kicker for the first time in a while (no disrespect, Kyle Brindza), which will be a nice luxury to have and I expect to win us a game at some point this season.

BEAT SC

This game, ultimately, functioned more or less as an appetizer for next week's game against USC. Nationally, the matchup has likely lost some luster after the Trojans' no-show against Washington Thursday night, but it will be the biggest game for ND to this point. If the Irish can beat USC, only four currently unranked teams and a very tough game at Stanford will be between the Irish and, hopefully, giving the selection committee a tough decision regarding the evaluation of an 11-1 ND team.