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Notre Dame Football Notebook: Fighting Irish 35, Navy Midshipmen 32

It was just weird

Notre Dame v Navy Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish improved its record to 7-3 after defeating the Navy Midshipmen 35-32 in a game that was the most bi-polar football game I can remember.


Drew Pyne had himself one hell of a first half, and it was better by a mile than any performance he’s had this year. Through the first two quarters, Pyne was 14-16 for 234 yards and 4 touchdowns — and he added 17 on the ground with a rushing touchdown.

It was more than just the numbers that looked impressive. In Pyne’s other good performances this year, most of his production felt very manufactured with short safe passes and a lot of Michael Mayer. In this game (half) Pyne tossed the ball downfield more than at any time this season.

Notre Dame v Navy Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Pyne used Jayden Thomas, Deion Colzie, and Braden Lenzy in the passing game and the three combined for 6 passing plays of 20+ yards for a total of 184 yards and two touchdowns.


It’s hard to say that the second half was the complete opposite for Pyne given the circumstances surrounding the game — like Navy’s opening possession of the third quarter that took over 10 minutes off of the clock. But — it was still pretty bad. Pyne’s passing numbers were minimal as he went 3-5 for 35 yards and an interception off of a tipped ball — but it was the sacks that killed everything.

Navy put together 5 sacks against Pyne by selling out and blitzing continuously. A majority of those sacks were avoidable if Pyne would have just thrown the ball rather than be ridiculously hesitant. It put the Irish in bad down and distance situations, which hamstrung the running game (which was doing a fine job hamstringing themselves as it was).


Without a doubt, this was Braden Lenzy’s best performance in a long time. The senior speedster caught 5 balls in the first half for 67 yards — one of which was one of the most amazing TD grabs you’ll ever see.

As far as the second half goes — and there’s a theme here — I’m not really sure how to rate it given the absolute weirdness of the half. At any rate, it’s nice to finally see Lenzy be more involved, and now it feels like the passing game problems have less and less to do with the wide receiver group, and more to do with... well... other things.


After stomping the Clemson Tigers with 266 yards on the ground last week, the Irish followed that up with a 66 yard performance against Navy. Credit to the Middies for getting after it, and making tackles on first contact — but what the hell?

You could tell that Notre Dame really emphasized the passing game in the first half, and with so much success, there were less yards to go around. In the second half, however, it never got any sort of momentum. There were the sacks which helped put the Irish in bad down and distance spots, but they got bullied in the second half by Navy as well.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 12 Notre Dame vs Navy Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

And it was just weird. Audric Estime, for example, had just two carries in the second half and only eight for the entire game. I just don’t get it.


Brian Mason deserves to win the Broyles Award this year, and I don’t think it should be close. Notre Dame blocked its 7th punt of the season (Jack Kiser) in the first half which resulted in a Drew Pyne to Jayden Thomas touchdown pass on the very next play. It’s incredible what kind of a weapon the Irish have with its punt block unit.

The Irish kick return also made a couple of big plays as well. Notre Dame fielded a surprise onside kick from Navy, and they fielded the onside kick after Navy made it 35-32 with 1:21 left in the game.

The only black mark on the day was a 45 yard Blake Grupe field goal attempt that went wide right. Grupe has looked shaky this season, but there’s only so much coaching you can do with a kicker.


The Irish started the day down J.D. Bertrand and Brandon Joseph who both sat out the game because of injuries. Against a triple-option team, I’m not sure if there was a worse duo to not have on the field. Both Bertrand’s and Joseph’s absence was felt up the middle as Navy fullback Daba Fofana rumbled up the gut for 133 yards on the day — and amazingly 112 of it was in the first half as the Irish dominated.

Notre Dame was forced to start freshman Junior Tuihalamaka at the MIKE, and Jayden Sneed saw action as well on the edge with a lot of 4-4 looks.

Notre Dame was able to mostly bottle up the Midshipmen attack in the first half despite a few big plays, but there were wholesale breakdowns in the second half. The 16 play opening drive by Navy in the 3rd quarter that took over 10 minutes was the worst of it as the Irish continually got themselves out of position and were pushed around.


I’ll have a little more on this game and what it actually means moving forward, but the end result is still a win. It wasn’t as fun as we thought it was going to be, but the Irish are 7-3 with a real chance to finish 9-3 — something that seemed impossible about a month ago.