Notre Dame survives Navy comeback bid: Instant takeaways

Notre Dame moved to 7-3 with a victory over Navy on Saturday.  That sentence alone feels good to write but the details of this one were a bit of a head-scratcher for the Irish.  Notre Dame came out hotter than a firecracker, scoring touchdowns on five of their six first-half possessions.  There were however another 30 minutes of football that clearly didn’t go Notre Dame’s way.

However, it was a win.

We’ll discuss both sides of that and have all of your postgame reactions to Notre Dame’s most recent victory here.  Here are your instant takeaways from Notre Dame’s 35-32 victory over Navy in Baltimore.

Lenzy's insane catch

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[autotag]Braden Lenzy[/autotag]’s first-quarter touchdown reception that put Notre Dame up 14-0 was one part beauty and another part crazy.  He beat his defender badly but had to come back to the ball which was underthrown.  It didn’t matter for Lenzy who essentially hugged the defender and was able to get both hands on the ball, securing it, and ultimately scoring a touchdown.  It brought back memories of Tyler Prothro’s insane catch for Alabama 17 years ago.

Running Game Struggles

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A week after their incredible showing against Clemson’s highly-regarded defensive line, Notre Dame had brutal troubles establishing the run against Navy.  Yes, yards lost to sacks count against the rushing number in college football which is ridiculous, but consider the following numbers:

  • Notre Dame ran the ball 34 times for 66 yards Saturday, an average of 1.9 yards per carry.

  • Take out [autotag]Audric Estime[/autotag]’s 28-yard dash and Notre Dame ran the ball 33 times for 38 yards, a 1.15 yards per carry clip.

Hot Start

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There was worry about how Notre Dame would come out against the Navy seeing as last week’s victory was the biggest by the Irish in a very long time.  There are issues that we’ll get to but we do have to acknowledge the hot start by Notre Dame’s offense.  The Irish scored touchdowns on five of their six first-half possessions with the other ending via a missed field goal.  We’re about to get into the other half but the start was and remains praise-worthy.

Big Plays Allowed

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Navy’s offense presents a unique challenge, especially this late in the season.  I acknowledge that before getting into too much criticism of how the defense performed.  However, the big plays the Irish essentially eliminated by Clemson a week ago came back in a big way for Navy on Saturday.  A 50-yard touchdown run, a 26-yard touchdown run, and a 23-yard touchdown pass that was the first play after a turnover did anything but eliminate the big play.

Foot Off the Gas

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As much as Notre Dame came out with their hair on fire in the first half, the polar opposite was true in the second.  It seemed clear that Tommy Rees decided to enter the half more conservatively but even at that, Notre Dame couldn’t move the ball to save the world.  After scoring 35 points before halftime the Irish weren’t just shut out in the second half but entirely shut down.

After halftime, Notre Dame had five possessions (another one was two kneel downs which we’re bypassing).  Those five drives went for a combined six yards and resulted in exactly one first down.  Things were called differently but there was no energy on the offense after intermission.

Survive and Advance

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If ever a team’s fans should be aware of how valuable simply winning a game should be, fans of Notre Dame in 2022 should be that group.  We witnessed losses to Marshall and Stanford that remain inexplicable and Saturday was nearly a disaster yet again.

Coming out with their hair on fire proved to be the difference.  That and Brian Mason’s special teams unit again coming up big and recovering an onside kick to keep Navy from having a chance at a Hail Mary.

It was far from a masterpiece but ended in victory.  In other words: welcome to Notre Dame football in 2022.

Punt Block U Strikes Again

When Notre Dame blocked a Syracuse punt two weeks ago, which feels like forever at this point, we declared the Irish “Punt Block U” under Mason.  At this point, it is just getting silly how often Notre Dame is able to block an opposing punt.  They did so again in the second quarter to set up a Drew Pyne touchdown pass.  This time it was Jack Kiser getting his paw on a Navy punt.

Notre Dame has now blocked seven punts on the year and blocked one in each of their last five games.  If I wasn’t witnessing it on a weekly basis I’d be convinced I’m being lied to.  It truly does feel like it’s can’t-miss television when the opposition lines up to punt against Notre Dame.

Check out how Twitter reacted to yet another Notre Dame blocked punt 

Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire