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Photo by Bill Garman/ISD

Wind at its sails: Notre Dame pulls away to topple Navy

November 6, 2021

Survive, move forward and keep any number of plausible scenarios alive for this Notre Dame season.

Rarely seamless and oftentimes disjoined, No. 10 Notre Dame nonetheless meandered past Navy, 34-6, Saturday afternoon before a near-capacity crowd of 77,096 inside Notre Dame Stadium.

The Fighting Irish again saw tailback Kyren Williams shoulder the load on his 5-foot-9-inch, 199-pound load.

Williams struck for Notre Dame's first and third touchdowns while quarterback Jack Coan connected on a 70-yard catch-and-run for six with Kevin Austin.

Notre Dame improved to 40-3 in regular-season play since the onset of the 2018 season, but it was not without impediments against the Midshipmen (2-7).

The Irish did not record their first first down until more than a dozen minutes had elapsed from the first-quarter clock, and they saw Coan sacked twice as part of Navy's half-dozen tackles for losses.

While the offense took a bit to get untracked – the Irish eventually finished with 430 yards and did not commit a turnover, Notre Dame's defense wholly bottled up the Navy triple-option attack.

Despite its 34 minutes, 33 seconds in time of possession, Navy mustered just 184 yards' offense – only 18 through the air – and just 3.2 yards per play.

“Proud of my team and the way they prepared all week and the way they executed today,” said Irish coach Brian Kelly. “Defensively, we played very well. We were detailed, focused, we trusted our teaching, trusted the guy next to each other and got back to the foundational principles of playing really good defense. And that is communication, assignment, tackling. That was on display today.”

Limited to a field goal in each half, Navy never got closer than 17-6 in the second half after it opened the third quarter with a 14-play, 71-yard drive that gnawed 9:36 off the clock.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame's offense found fits of rhythm against the Midshipmen. The Irish, who scored 31 points in the game's final 32:46, saw their first two scores come on 11-play drives.

The rest of the game, Notre Dame's offense had scoring marches of five, seven and seven plays – as well as the safety its defense recorded after Jay Bramblett's punt pinned Navy in the shadow of its own goal line.

Williams' Irish scores covered 1 and 20 yards; freshman Logan Diggs added an 8-yard scoring strike for the game's final touchdown. Braden Lenzy also corralled a two-point conversion pass from Coan that lifted Notre Dame to a three-touchdown edge, 27-6.

Tyler Buchner again spelled Coan at the quarterback position for multiple possessions; Buchner led an Irish touchdown-drive and also completed his lone pass for 11 yards while he also tallied nine rushing yards.

“Offensively, we didn't get off to a great start but kept at it,” Kelly said. “They've got of a unique defense they play, a lot of Tampa-2, drop-8 (coverages). We stayed at it. You've gotta be patient, keep prodding. I thought we did a nice job there and broke the game open.”

Kurt Hinish led the Irish with 10 tackles, and the super-senior defensive tackle also garnered the game ball in the victory. Kelly also revealed that senior linebacker Drew White played with a torn PCL, Kelly labeling White as a “warrior.”

Its three-game home stand completed, Notre Dame has road games for two of its three final regular-season contests. The Irish visit Virginia next Saturday.


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