With the score standing at 28-24 in favor of the Midshipmen, Brian Kelly opted to kick a field goal on 4th and four with 7:28 left in the fourth quarter. The Irish pulled within one, 28-27. The Notre Dame offense didn’t see the ball again.
Tough call? Maybe. But, not really, because the Irish defense hadn’t forced a punt all day. Sure, they would have on one occasion; in fact, the punt even took place. But a review revealed that a 12th Notre Dame player had not gotten off the field in time. The resulting five-yard penalty gave Navy a fourth and one, rather than a fourth and six. It might as well have been a six-yard penalty, because you generally don’t stop Navy on fourth and one. Sure, the Notre Dame offense had moved the ball and scored points during the course of the game. But, that’s the defense and circumstances that Brian Kelly based his decision to kick a field goal on.
The drama came after Navy had eaten about six minutes worth of clock after the Notre Dame field goal. It came down to needing few stops against the triple option and, as it was all game, Notre Dame could not get those stops. Navy would convert a fourth and six with 1:09 left in the game (on a pass, of course). And with no timeouts left, the Irish were defeated. Here’s what it looked like:
Both teams gained 370 yards; both teams had 21 first downs. Navy, who was behind in time-of-possession at halftime by about three minutes, ended up winning the battle 33:53-26:07.
How did Navy achieve such an advantage? In usual Navy fashion, they ate clock and yards on the ground, limiting opportunities. Today, they were so extraordinary that the Notre Dame offense had six total possessions. Six. Only two came in the second half. It’s like trying to bat against Andrew Miller, pitching with a lead in the middle innings of an ALCS game.
Now, Notre Dame has to win out to avoid a losing season and reach a bowl. Brian Kelly is coaching for the future, but you lose out on a lot of practices without the bowl trip. With games against Army, Virginia Tech and USC looming, those practices aren’t looking likely.
On the bright side, the mid-morning game start time means it’s only 3:00 eastern! Go outside!