It was a tale of two halves for Notre Dame and Navy. While the Irish got off to a great start, the second half was a different story entirely. Through it all, Notre Dame still ended up on the right side of things with a 35-32 win.
The Irish got on the board with its first drive of the game. Notre Dame drove 67 yards, and Drew Pyne found Audric Estime on a halfback angle route for a 30-yard touchdown pass.
Notre Dame’s defense was down both safety Brandon Joseph (Xavier Watts got the start) and linebacker J.D. Bertrand (Junior Tuihalamaka got the start) but forced navy to punt after five plays on the Midshipmen’s first drive of the game. On Notre Dame’s next drive, Drew Pyne launched a pass into the endzone for Braden Lenzy, and the senior from Oregon made one of the most remarkable receptions you’ll ever see to put Notre Dame up 14-0.
If there was a plan to get Braden Lenzy more involved, it worked. Lenzy caught 5 passes in the first half for 67 yards and that incredible touchdown.
Navy fought right back — just like a Navy team does. Xavier Arline hit Mark Walker for a big pass play, and then fullback Daba Fofana busted up the middle for a 36 yard touchdown run to put the Middies on the board. Navy missed the PAT.
Notre Dame went right back to work and drove the ball 83 yards on 10 plays to get the score. It was another Drew Pyne touchdown pass that got the job done — this time it was a 5 yard flip to Chris Tyree to put Notre Dame up 21-6.
Again, Navy’s determination can’t be undersold. The Middies used a 50 yard fullback dive by Fofana to help get down inside the five. On third down, Arline threw an interception to D.J. Brown in the back of the endzone, but it was called back for a holding call on Brown. The Middies ended up punching it in to make it 21-13 halfway through the 2nd quarter.
The Irish were looking to answer the Navy touchdown but stalled out in Midshipmen territory after 7 plays and 23 yards. Rather than going for it, Marcus freeman sent out Blake Grupe to attempt the 43 yard field goal — which went wide right.
The Middies got the ball back and quite a bit of momentum but threw it away on a reverse pass that Clarance Lewis intercepted. Three plays later, Drew Pyne runs the ball 11 yards into the endzone to put the Irish up 28-13 with 2:19 left in the half.
After wisely using its timeouts on the next Midshipmen possession, Notre Dame forced Navy to punt on a three and out. Notre Dame’s punt block unit then got its seventh block of the season and gave the ball back to the offense on the 37 yard line. On the very next play, Drew Pyne hit Jayden Thomas on a touchdown strike to go up 35-13 at the half.
Drew Pyne threw for 234 yards and four touchdowns in the first half — and he gained 17 yards on the ground with a touchdown run.
Navy came out in the third quarter and took over 10 minutes off of the clock with a 16-play 72-yard drive that ultimately ended in a field goal to make it 35-16 Irish.
After exchanging a couple of mutually respected three-and-outs, Notre Dame was looking to get things on track for the first time in the second half, but a tipped Drew Pyne pass was intercepted by Navy and set the Middies up deep in Irish territory. On the very next play, Arline hooked up with Walker for a 23-yard touchdown pass. Arline ran it in for the 2-point play, to make it 35-24 Irish at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Notre Dame wasn’t able to answer the Navy score, and despite driving the ball close to field goal range (thanks mostly to a nice kick return by Audric Estime), the Middies sacked Drew Pyne (4th sack of the day) to force the Irish to punt with just under 11 minutes left in the game. At this point in the second half, the Irish had run 12 plays for -3 yards.
Navy quarterback Xavier Arline got hurt on the second play of its next drive, and the Irish forced a three-and-out to get the ball back with almost 10 minutes left in the game. Despite finally getting some positive yards, the Irish had to send Jon Sot out again to punt the ball.
Despite some help from the refs, Navy was forced to punt the ball with 5:54 left in the game and the Irish took over on their own 37 yard line. The Irish were forced to punt on another three and out as the Navy defense was killing Notre Dame with the blitz against the pass and the run. With 4:18 left in the game, the Irish had just 5 yard of offense in the second half.
Navy, despite several flags on the drive, Navy drove down to around the 20 yard line. After about 15 minutes of the refs figuring out what down and distance the game was actually at, Navy quarterback Maasai Maynor found Maquel Haywood in the back of the endzone for a touchdown. Navy converts the two point play to make it 35-32.
The Irish were able to field the onside kick, and ran the clock out for a win.
Dear lord... more to come on OFD.