Five hidden plays that helped decide Notre Dame’s defeat of Navy

Touchdowns and turnovers don’t always tell the story as there are plenty of smaller plays that help dictate a game. These are those plays for Notre Dame as they escaped with a closer than expected 35-32 victory over Navy.

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First quarter, 13:00 minutes left on the clock

The Irish are faced with a fourth-and-one close to midfield but still in their territory. They went back to the well with a play that has been very successful in short yardage situations, tight end Mitchel Evans sneaking for the first. A short two-yard run gave the Irish a fresh set of downs and they would score a touchdown five plays later to take an early 7-0 lead over Navy.

Second quarter, 7:49 left on the clock

Nov 12, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Navy Midshipmen head coach Ken Niumatalolo stand son the field during a time out during the first half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Mids just scored to close the Irish lead to 21-13 and then took a gamble that didn’t pay off. The sneaky onside kick was recovered by the Irish at the 50 yard line. With a short field and the Navy defense not being able to stop the Irish, it seemed like another touchdown was inevitable. The Mids stood strong and stopped the Irish who brought out Blake Groupe for a 45 yard attempt. The kicker missed and the move was a wash for Navy.

Second quarter, 1:27 left on the clock

The Irish have an opportunity to stop Navy and force a three-and-out, with just 4 yards to go the Mids try to run up the middle but Notre Dame stops them. It might be nominal play, but on the next snap the Irish block their nation leading seventh punt of the season. On their first offensive play quarterback Drew Pyne finds Jayden Thomas for a 37-yard touchdown. The Irish push their lead to 35-13 right before the half.

Third quarter, 5:02 left on the clock

Nov 12, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman stands on the field after a first half touchdown against the Navy Midshipmen at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Irish defense has been on the field for almost 10 minutes and face a third-and-goal from their nine. Navy drop backs to pass, just their fourth attempt of the game, and the pass goes incomplete which forces a 26-yard field goal which was made. The fact that the Irish defense held Navy to just a field goal after that drive, 16 plays and 72 yards, was a win in itself.

Fourth quarter, 0:00 left on the clock

Nov 12, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver Braden Lenzy (0) celebrates with teammates after scoring a first half touchdown against the Navy Midshipmen at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The second half was a massive struggle for the Irish, as they were blanked on offense and allowed Navy to score 19 points and make this game closer than it should have been. It was a big sigh of relief as Pyne took the final snaps to bleed out the clock. This wasn’t how many saw this going going after the first half, but the Irish prevailed and held on to get win number seven and their fourth in-a-row.

Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire