Notre Dame giving up 367 rushing yards to Navy in a 35-17 loss Saturday was the most glaring problem.
But it wasn’t just the Irish’s inability to adjust to the Midshipmen running the veer that went wrong.
“We have to execute better, clearly, on both sides,” coach Brian Kelly said. “We see glimpses of it. We just haven’t been able to grasp it as a consistent form for us.”
Notre Dame started strong moving the ball 71 yards on 13 plays to the edge of the end zone on the game’s first possession.
But when the Irish couldn’t get that last foot for an opening-drive score, the Midshipmen responded with a touchdown thanks to a 54-yard run by Alexander Teich, who capped the drive with a 31-yard touchdown reception.
“One of things I was looking for offensively was to string some plays together,” Kelly said. “I felt like we had to be patient on offense, and we had to take what we were given. We did that, but we couldn’t put the ball over the goal line. Another learning experience that I don’t want to go through, but we clearly have to.
“I would be less than truthful to say that it is OK to go through it now. It’s not OK to go through it now, and it won’t be OK to go through it moving forward.”
Notre Dame was also hampered by quarterback Dayne Crist throwing two interceptions. The first one gave Navy the ball on the Irish 30 with 1:59 left in the first half and let the Midshipmen increase their halftime lead to 21-10.
Crist’s second interception led to Navy’s game-icing touchdown in the third quarter.
“If we just take care of the football getting out of the half, we come out in the second half and make some adjustments and we’re in much better position,” Kelly said. “If we get off the ball on the one-foot line and score after a 13-play drive – there are so many little things to point to in the game and they’re not just about defending the option. We started with that as the most important things, and there are a lot of little things that need to be worked on. As we’ve worked on them each and every week.”
Despite Saturday’s setbacks, Kelly said he still feels the program is moving in the right direction, and he is not worried about the culture around a program that has lost 25 games in the last four seasons.
“Not disturbing. That would not be a word that I would use at all,” Kelly said. “We’re learning how to play this game. We’re playing it a little bit differently. We’re playing it with a lot of inexperienced players that are growing each and every week. That’s probably the best illustration I can give you.
“What we do on a day-to-day basis here is based upon who I am and my personality. We’re getting to know the way I want the game conducted and played and how come to work every day. That’s work in progress. That’s not going to change whether we win or lose the football game. That is something that happens every single day.”