DUBLIN -- When in doubt, let the line set the tone.
There were several new combinations, including quarterback Everett Golson's first game experience and components that needed to be tried.
Notre Dame faced its share of questions. The guys up front came up with the answers.
The Irish offense rolled and the defense came up stout when necessary. Notre Dame charged to a 50-10 victory over Navy in Saturday's season-opening Emerald Isle football classic.
A solid effort kept the drama off the field.
Irish quarterback Everett Golson's baptism into college football went well until he threw a red-zone interception (from the Navy 20-yard line). What hurt Notre Dame the most on that play was that Tyler Eifert and DaVaris Daniels were both open early in the play. By the time Golson delivered the ball, Parish Gaines made the easy pick.
Stephon Tuitt added an exclamation point for the Irish defense with 2:12 left in the first half. The 6-foot-6, 303-pounder scooped up a fumble by Navy quarterback Trey Miller and ran 77 yards to thwart a Navy drive and expand the lead to 27 points.
Golson completed 12 of 18 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown, to go along with a touchdown and an interception.
"Coming into the game, the coaches said, 'Everyone's going to make mistakes; just relax,' " Golson said.
Irish running backs Theo Riddick (19 carries, 107 yards) and George Atkinson III (9, 99) were dynamic. Riddick had scoring runs of 11 and three yards while Atkinson scored from 56 and three yards.
"The story for me is, the ability to control both lines, offensively and defensively," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "The best thing about Everett is that he picks it up; he's not going to make the same mistake twice."
"Notre Dame played well," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "They didn't line up any different than they did in the past. We fell behind and got out of the nature of who we are as a football team."
Notre Dame rushed for 293 yards, and limited Navy -- annually one of the country's most prolific ground attacks -- to just 149.
"We're just carrying on from where we were last year," Kelly said of his run defense. "Our defense is very stingy against the run. We're blessed with a physical group; a good scheme."
With Notre Dame leading 27-3 at intermission, the game, for all practical purposes was over.
Navy's defensive backs got a first-hand look at what the best tight end in the country is like. Early in the second quarter, with the ball on the Midshipmen 5, Golson made two tries to Tyler Eifert. The first, thrown a little flat, was ruled out of the end zone. The next, with a little more air under it, was ruled a touchdown when he out-leaped and out-fought two Midshipmen for the ball, making it a 20-0 difference.
Notre Dame's defense made a statement in the first quarter.
Fourth-and-1 from the Irish 30, Navy quarterback Trey Miller had a stutter-step at the line of scrimmage, then took off over the left guard. Dan Fox and Kapron Lewis-Moore made sure that wasn't going to work. The play resulted in a first down for the Irish.
The Midshipmen's other series crossed midfield but died at the 46.
Twelve minutes into the first quarter, Atkinson lit up the scoreboard on a 56-yard run across the grain of Navy's defensive flow.
Riddick broke the ice on the 2012 season when he barreled through the Navy defense for an 11-yard touchdown. The burst capped an 11-play, 75-yard march. Riddick ran five times for 32 yards.
Golson handled his first collegiate drive well. A drop by tight end Ben Koyack on a short pass with plenty of open field ahead of him, and an eight-yard sack, represented the most adversity faced in the first march.
Besides Tuitt's highlight, Irish linebacker Manti Te'o made an impact. Along with six tackles, he also collected his first career fumble recovery and first career interception.
"It felt good," said Te'o, who played against his cousin, Niumatalolo, for the last time. "I almost got a 15-yard (celebration) penalty out of it (after the interception). That wouldn't have felt good."
---Al Lesar is a columnist for the South Bend Tribune