|Stephon Tuitt breaks Navy hearts with 77-yard TD
Every now and then a person experiences a moment......a moment whereby they realize that they had just witnessed the most amazing spectacle ever, when it turned out to be above and beyond what they could had ever imagined.
Be it the birth of your child, your marriage to the love of your life, graduating from college with merit or whatever event that could leave a lasting and impenetrable image that no other living being can erase or even touch.
Events such as these were experienced by this avid Notre Dame fan on Saturday, in Dublin Ireland, under perfect football weather in the Aviva Stadium.
The Emerald Isle Classic got under way as the American Ambassador, Dan Rooney, and An Taoiseach , Enda Kenny, present themselves on the field for the coin toss in which Notre Dame won and elected to receive.
Brian Kelly's Fighting Irish were in relentless form early on in its first three possessions of the game on drives of 84 yards, capped off by Riddick's 11 yard scamper, 70 yards, which ended in Atkinsons 56 yard sprint to paydirt and 80 yards, in which Golson hooked up with Eifert for his first career passing touchdown.
In my pre game prediction I envisaged that I felt the Fighting Irish would have multiple backs that reach over 100 yards on the ground and run the ball about 50 times, and that I would be surprised to see Everett Golson pass more than 25 times. Well, I was only a few yards an carries off those predictions from coming through.
Theo Riddick carried for 107 tough yards through only 19 carries and a brace of scores, George Atkinson III rushed for 99 yards on only 9 carries with two more scores, highlighted by a dazzling 56-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter.
Golson, starting his first ever game at the collegiate level, went 12 of 18 for 144 yards and a score to All-American TE, Tyler Eifert. I was more than surprised that Golson did not run more, he only carried the ball once all day!
The turning point of the game came when the Fighting Irish had amassed a 20-0 lead. Navy were driving for a score to stay in the game when Navy QB Trey Miller dropped back to pass, only to be sacked by Ishaq Williams who forced a fumble, the ball hit off the hallowed Lansdowne turf and straight into the hands of Sophomore DE Stephon Tuitt who raced 77-yards untouched (307 lbs) to paydirt.
That score put the Irish up 27-0 mid-way through the 2nd quarter and took the winds out of the sails of Navy.
"It’s a play that I’ll always remember and I’m thankful that it happened to me. I’m truly blessed to be in this position that I was it’s a great experience. ... I didn't look at the review I had no time. I just went back to sideline." said Tuitt.
"My teammates we’re all like brothers when anybody makes a great play they all come up and tap you on the shoulder and tell you good job, but you gotta get ready it’s a job out here. We can talk about after, but now we come back to work."
Emerald Isle Classic Preview - Notre Dame vs Navy - Video
Irish pride and power spill over as Notre Dame triumph over Navy
After struggling it's way to a field goal in the first half, Navy finally got into gear on it's opening possession of the second half when Trey Miller found a wide open Shawn Lynch for a 25-yard touchdown to make the score 27-10.
It was to be their first and last touchdown of the event, as the Fighting Irish defense, led by All-American Senior LB Manti Te'o, stifled Navy's flexbone option attack for the remainder of the game.
Te'o recovered one fumble and intercepted Miller's final pass of the day, an underthrown ball into triple coverage. It was T'eo's first fumble recovery and interception, respectively, of his four year Note Dame career.
Te'o said the pick "felt good. I almost got a 15-yard penalty on the play too. That wouldn't have felt so good."
The Fighting Irish closed out the second half with scores from 3-yard runs from Riddick and Atkinson, their second of the day, a 34-yard field goal from Nick Tausch, and an unlikely 9-yard run from Hawaiian native Robby Toma.
Navy fought hard and brave, as always, but on this day, an overpowering offensive line which pushed Navy's undermanned defense around to the tune of 293 yards rushing, coupled with a swarming defensive display, was just too much for Navy to handle.
Final Score: Notre Dame Fighting Irish 50-10 Navy Midshipmen
Inside the locker room:
Senior tight end Tyler Eifert:
On the week in Dublin...
"It was great. Coming into it we didn't know what to expect and kind of almost dreading the time change and everything, but it was a great time."
On Aviva Stadium...
"The energy was great. Didn't really feel like we were the away team. We had a lot of support. ... We've played in some big stadiums. This one is a little different than any of the other ones we've seen but this was a good time."
Navy headcoach Ken Niumatalolo:
On his teams trip to Ireland...
"We received unbelievable support from the people of Ireland," he said. "Everything that happened outside of the white lines on the field was great. Unfortunately for us, everything that happened inside of the white lines wasn't as great." Niumatalolo added that the three-day trip "was a great experience for our young men," but the team faces "a lot of work to do."
Sophomore running back George Atkinson III:
On cutback during long touchdown run...
"It’s instinct really. It’s just playing football. I’ve been playing since I was a kid and that’s what it comes down to. It’s a high level, it’s faster but the O line really opened some holes and it was a good day. "The hole I saw from the O line. I seen those guys blocking hard so I had to turn it on. ... I just seen green grass really. It's just instinct because you don't want to think when you're out there and I don't do much thinking. I try to control that."
On touchdown celebration...
"I watched a lot of guys in the NFL and I like to see big runs getting broken. I’ve seen Chris Johnson do it. I watch a lot of highlight tapes. I was like I want to do that when I score a big one. "I was just trying to imitate those guys in the pros. Tony Alford said not to do it again. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing."
Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly post game interview:
Jason is owner and author of godcountrynotredame.me and writes for both IrishCentral and domersportsreport You can find Jason on twitter at @jayomahony