Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said he felt his team caught Notre Dame in a perfect storm in Saturday's 23-21 victory at Notre Dame Stadium.
Niumatalolo said the possibility of a BCS bowl berth and the prospect of the No. 19 Irish playing No. 14 Pittsburgh next week could have had an affect on the way Notre Dame played.
"We felt like we had them in a perfect situation," Niumatalolo said. "We felt like if we come out, execute, we would have a chance to compete."
Notre Dame players said the didn't get caught looking ahead Saturday, but receiver Golden Tate did say he felt there wasn't the same energy level as usual at the start of the game for the Irish.
But the junior receiver couldn't explain why he felt the team was flat.
Now Notre Dame has to look to playing the part of spoiler for Pittsburgh's season.
It is a roll, coach Charlie Weis said, the team is up for.
"Pittsburgh just ended up beating Syracuse soundly today, and they're ready for their dog‑and‑pony show," Weis said. "It'll be the largest crowd in Heinz Field history. They're all ready for their major celebration when Notre Dame rolls into town, and we're going to go there with the intent of spoiling it."
Help from last season
Notre Dame didn't have too many problems with Navy's triple-option offense last season.
The Irish held the Midshipmen to 178 rushing yards in a 27-21 victory.
But it was Notre Dame's success that helped Navy in this year's game, according to the Midshipmen's coach.
"I think the thing that helped us this year was last year," Niumatalolo said. "We knew they would come out lined up in the same way. We didn't execute well against them last year, and we had a pretty good clue that they were going to come back and do the same things they did last year. We had a few things. We were expecting that same defense that we saw last year."
For Weis, Navy's 348 yard rushing day that produced two touchdowns was more of a product of Notre Dame failing to stop fullback Vince Murray.
The junior ran for 156 yards with a 25-yard touchdown he could have walked in to start the second quarter.
"I think the first thing you have to do is stop the fullback," Weis said. "That's were the whole defense starts. He had too many yards, some of them easy yards."
Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph left late in the third quarter and was in street clothes after the game.
During the game, the prognosis on the sophomore tight end looked bleak, according to Weis.
"Well, at first, the first word back to me was collarbone, and I thought, oh, here we go again," Weis said. "But then the medical people came back – I don't know for sure what the complete diagnosis is, but the medical people came back and said he'll be gone for the day, but we should have him back. All I'm thinking is Michael Floyd revisited. That's what I'm feeling. But I really don't know other than the fact that during the game they came back to me, he's out for the game, but he's not out. I'll have to wait and see what they say tomorrow."
The Irish also got a scare when quarterback Jimmy Clausen was hit hard and fumbled at the goal line to end the third quarter.
Clausen stayed on the ground for a while, but was able to continue to play after Navy gave the ball back to Notre Dame early in the fourth quarter.
"Well, at first when he's laying on the ground, my first concern was his head," Weis said of Clausen. "That's what I'm concerned with the most. But once he got up, he was sore all over, but the only thing that was really hurt was his left hand. We weren't going to be underneath the center with the way the game was going, we were going to be in shotgun, so after he regained his composure – I told him that if I was looking at him and I didn't think he could do it, he's not going whether he wanted to or not.
"After he gained his composure and took a couple shotgun snaps and there was a little timing lapse, like we didn't have to go right back out there because they had a little drive going. But the time that happened he had recovered and he was pretty much ready to go."