SOUTH BEND –
How it Happened
Navy won the coin toss before the game. That was about the last positive development for the Midshipmen until late in the second quarter. Navy deferred, so Notre Dame got the ball first and immediately began marching down the field. A simple drag route to Chase Claypool over the middle went for 23 yards and moved the ball into Navy territory and a 15-yard rush for quarterback Ian Book – with help from a terrific Tony Jones Jr. block – helped the Irish overcome a third-and-16. Inside the Navy 10-yard line, Claypool ran another drag route and Book found him wide open for a 7-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 Irish lead.
Navy's triple-option offense got the ball and started to advance in medium-sized chunks, gaining an average of 6.8 yards per carry on its first six plays. The Midshipmen got to the Notre Dame 27 and from there quarterback Malcolm Perry tried to run left. Defensive end Khalid Kareem sniffed out the play and hit Perry around the arms, jarring the ball loose. Asmar Bilal pounced on it and the Irish took over.
The ensuing Notre Dame drive opened with an end-around to redshirt freshman Lawrence Keys III, who got to the edge and gained 11 yards, plus 15 more for a late hit out of bounds, pushing the ball back into Navy territory. On the next play, Claypool found himself covered by only a linebacker and he raced down the middle of the field. Book dropped a pass into him over the top and Claypool easily outraced everyone for a 47-yard touchdown and a 14-0 Notre Dame advantage late in the first quarter.
Navy moved the ball again on its next possession, but once again Kareem intervened. On a very similar play to the one that knocked the ball loose the first time, the senior defensive end caused a second fumble and this one was recovered by fellow defensive end Jamir Jones at the Navy 39, giving the Irish a short field to work with early in the second quarter. Kareem had one career forced fumble coming into the game.
The Notre Dame offense took advantage of the great field position, with a pair of nice throws from Book to Claypool and Chris Finke moving the ball to the 10-yard line in short order. Two plays later, Claypool ran an out route in the end zone and Book threw the ball in his direction. The big wideout was well-covered, but he boxed out the smaller cornerback covering him like a center fighting for position on a rebound and hauled the pass in for a 3-yard score, his third of the game, to make it 21-0.
When Navy got the ball back, the Irish defensive line really started to assert its will, staying home against the option and forcing a three-and-out. None of the plays on the drive really had a chance of going anywhere and the Midshipmen punted. Finke received the ball at the Notre Dame 40 and picked and juked his way to daylight, taking the ball all the way to the endzone. That highlight-reel play was erased because of a (dubious) block in the back, but the Irish quickly replaced it with another highlight. On the first playing of the ensuing drive, Book dropped back and looked deep for redshirt freshman Braden Lenzy. Lenzy was questionable to play this week because of "fatigue" but the speedster raced past the entire Navy secondary and Book lofted a perfect pass that hit him in stride. The former track star did the rest, sprinting 70 yards for a touchdown to make it a 28-point Irish lead.
By halftime, the Irish had added another touchdown off yet another Perry fumble and they led 38-3. The fifth touchdown came on a powerful Jones Jr. run up the middle from two yards out and the game was essentially put away before the clock ran out on the second quarter.
The second half began much the same way, as Navy punted and Notre Dame moved downfield without much trouble. This particular drive featured several top-level throws from Book that would have been seemingly unthinkable for the quarterback just a few weeks ago. The most impressive came on a roll to his left, when he fired deep down the sideline across his body and found Keys III with a perfectly-placed ball for a 27-yard gain. Keys got two feet down on the NFL-level throw-and-catch. Later in the drive, Book looked down the opposite sideline, this time for Claypool, and the senior once again outmuscled his undersized defender for a terrific 20-yard touchdown reception and a 45-3 Notre Dame advantage.
Navy scored twice in garbage time, once on a busted coverage due to a mistake by Jalen Elliott and the other on a vintage Midshipmen drive that took 18 plays and covered 75 yards in 9:08, finishing with a 2-yard Perry Olsen touchdown run. In between Notre Dame added its final score of the day on a terrific play by linebacker Paul Moala. The sophomore read an option pitch perfectly and got a hand on it as it was in the air, corralling it on the tip and racing the other direction for a 27-yard fumble return touchdown.
Player(s) of the Game: Ian Book and Chase Claypool
The performance of these two is impossible to separate, but they combined to put together one of the best performances by a quarterback-wide receiver tandem in Notre Dame history. Book went 14 for 20 for 284 yards and five touchdowns, becoming the first Irish quarterback ever to throw for five touchdowns three times in a single season. He also did so against Bowling Green and New Mexico. This is the fifth time in his career he's thrown four touchdowns in a game. Only Brady Quinn, who did it seven times, has more such games.
As for Claypool, he caught seven passes for 117 yards and four touchdowns. The four scores tied the Notre Dame single-game record, which was previously held solely by Maurice Stovall. Stovall had four against BYU in 2005. This was Claypool 's fourth career 100-yard game and second in the last three games.
Facts and Figures
Notre Dame and Navy have played every year since 1927. The Irish have won eight of the last nine matchups. This was the first time the teams have met while both were ranked since 1978. ... Notre Dame has won 17 straight home games, the third-longest streak in Notre Dame Stadium history and the fourth-longest active streak in the country. ... Today's game, with an attendance of 74,080, was not a sellout, the first time in 274 games dating back to 1973 that an Irish home game had not sold out. It was the second-longest sellout streak in college football history. ... The Irish scored four touchdowns on eight plays in the first and second quarters. ... Navy came into the game averaging 40.1 points per contest, ninth in the country. The Midshipmen also entered today putting up 6.5 yards per carry. They had 4.4 per rush today. ... Linebacker Drew White, who had his first career start against Navy last season, had a team-high 10 tackles for the Irish. Former Midshipman Alohi Gilman had four. ... Notre Dame backup quarterback Phil Jurkovec had went 2 for 2 for 21 yards. He did not lead any scoring drives ... The Irish's 52 points was the most it had ever scored against a ranked Navy team.
Notre Dame is back in action next Saturday, taking on Boston College (5-5) at Notre Dame Stadium. The game will kick off at 2:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on NBC. It will be Senior Day for the Irish, their final home game of the season. BC will be coming off a bye, but the last time the Eagles took the field they lost to Florida State 38-31. The Irish have won six straight games in this series after losing six straight from 2001 to 2008.