Notre Dame had trouble slowing down the Navy offense all day but held off the Midshipmen on fourth down late in the game to secure a 38-34 win. Navy had a great day against the Irish as they ran for over 300-yards and never punted while committing zero turnovers or penalties.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Brian Kelly explained the Irish can be satisfied with the win knowing how good Navy played saying, "There are no asterisks next to this one. This is a 'W,' and we're excited about it. We're going to have our 24-hour (celebration) rule — we're going to take all 24 hours on this one."
Notre Dame simply couldn't find an answer for Navy’s triple option. Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds kept finding an open pitchman which enabled five different players to run for over 45-yards. Navy and Notre Dame continuously exchanged the lead all the way down to the end when the Midshipmen found themselves down, with the ball and under four minutes to play. Navy drove into Notre Dame territory but a botched pitch set them back a couple yards. After regaining some yardage on a pass, Navy now faced fourth down and four yards to go. Coach Ken Niumatalolo decided to go with a reverse to try and catch the Irish off guard but freshman Jaylon Smith sniffed it out and tackled Shawn Lynch before he could get the first down. The ball was turned over on downs and the Irish ran out the clock.
Notre Dame was kept alive by their rushing attack throughout the game. True-freshman running back Tarean Folston had a breakout performance with over 140-yards. Folston gave the Irish their final lead with his first career touchdown at Notre Dame. George Atkinson III added 74-yards of his own while Cam McDaniel ran for 52-yards and they both had a touchdown. With Folston now pushing the pack, Notre Dame’s running game should continue to improve as the season goes on.
Quarterback Tommy Rees was performing well for Notre Dame but threw two costly interceptions, one of which could be credited to a receiver who fell down. Notre Dame will have no room for turnovers as they move on towards tougher competition. Rees has come along way this season but still has to tighten up his game. He finished with 242-yards and two touchdowns. Senior captain TJ Jones and junior Ben Koyack hauled in the touchdowns passes.
Close call or not, Notre Dame got one step closer to a BCS bowl game with this win. Navy has done a great job of making the rivalry interesting and came very close to handing Notre Dame another loss. The Irish have to get it together on defense and see what they can learn from the poor showing against the Midshipmen. Folston showed some serious potential and should become more apart of the Irish offense. Tommy Rees is still improving but has to focus on taking care of the football. Rees is still the key to how far Notre Dame can make it this year.