Unless you’ve been living under a rock, devoid of internet connection to this website, or do not possess the ability to appreciate Schadenfreude, you’re aware how poorly Notre Dame’s season is going.
Now it’s gone from bad to worse as Navy has knocked off Notre Dame, 28-27, beating the Fighting Irish for the fourth time in 52 years.
A moment to backhandedly compliment Notre Dame’s defense.
A team that is insanely young on defense struggled with an option squad, but that’s to be expected. Defending the option is something that takes discipline and focus. You can’t be unsound with any of your defensive principles, or you’ll get torched. And that goes double if you don’t face the system often, which the Irish don’t.
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo has built something, and he knows it’s here to stay. He told our Alex Kirshner in October:
“We’re not a one-hit wonder program,” Niumatalolo says. “We’ve been winning for a long time. We’re kind of used to it. We’re kind of used to, like, 'There’s the nice kids that wear their uniforms.’ That’s fine, however people see us, but we feel like we have a really good football program.”
Navy rushed for over 300 yards for the fifth time this season as the nation’s No. 5 rushing attack did what it does.
Notre Dame had six total possessions against Navy. Four in the first half, two in the second half.— Brian Fremeau (@bcfremeau) November 5, 2016
Brian Kelly showed faith in his defense by kicking a field goal with 7:28 left to make the score 28-24, but they didn’t come through.
And in a moment of sweet irony, Navy iced the game with a pass, converting on fourth down with around one minute left in the game. Read carefully, please, because Navy held the ball for 7:28 to salt this game away, and it wasn’t even the longest drive of the day. The Midshipmen also had a nine-minute drive bridging the third and fourth quarter, and had a total time of posession of 20:20 in the second half.
Unfortunately, Notre Dame’s special teams did what it does as well.
And that’s damning the Fighting Irish at the worst time. Last week against Miami, four critical blunders nearly gave away a double-digit lead.
This week, Navy went the entire game without punting. But the one time it almost did, the Irish committed a blunder.
Is there anything Notre Dame has not done on special teams this year? 12-men on the field, reviewed, now Navy gets 4th-and-1.— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) November 5, 2016
The Midshipmen would convert the ensuing fourth-and-1, then score a touchdown to take a 28-24 lead. But not until the defense followed suit with a 12-men penalty of its own near the goal line. Stopping the option is hard, but you can’t just use extra players willy nilly whenever you’d like.
So where does this leave Brian Kelly?
The seat’s been hot under Mr. Kelly’s posterior. This team had talent returning and was supposed to be good, if not elite. It is most certainly not either of those things. Last week, he got the dreaded vote of confidence from Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick.
Cool, right? Your boss is happy with you even though you’re not doing a good job! But Kelly told ESPN’s Matt Fortuna this week that he actually wasn’t too happy with his athletic director’s vote of confidence given this week.
“Well I was disappointed actually. But anytime that your athletic director has to come out and say that, as a head coach you're disappointed that any kind of comments like that have to be made. So I didn't ask him, that was his decision, but I clearly understand what he was doing. He was probably sick and tired of being sick and tired, too. But for me it's disappointing, certainly, that you have to make those comments.”
It’s OK because no matter what Swarbrick says, if the Irish keep losing games, that vote of confidence will eventually be replaced by a pink slip and a boot straight out of South Bend, even if it’s next year.