Notre Dame vs. Navy; A Running Diary

11:58 AM

This running diary starts with a confession. I’ve never before attended a Navy football game. Shameful as that may be, it’s tough to get to Annapolis for a 1:00 kickoff then return to the station for a 6:00 broadcast. The logistics just don’t work. But a noon kickoff in Baltimore, and now we’re in business.

Let’s set the scene at M&T Bank Stadium. After a cold, rainy Friday we are blessed with a surprisingly balmy Saturday. A Saturday dominated by Irish fans. Walking in to the stadium they outnumber Navy fans 4 to 1. There may be no greater nationwide fan base than that of Notre Dame. However, as with any group of fans this rule remains. If you’re more than 30 years old, don’t bring a sign to the game unless it says Fire Matt Millen (that’s appropriate at any event). The guy in his mid 50’s with the homemade Go Irish placard just needs to stop.

As for the game itself, can you think of a more one sided series that remains a rivalry than Notre Dame & Navy? The Irish own an NCAA record 42 game win streak over the Midshipmen yet every year it’s a big deal.

A 43rd straight appears imminent. 11th ranked Notre Dame (6-1) possesses enough first round talent to give the Oakland Raiders a good game while Navy (5-2) comes to a season ending injury. Brady Quinn starts at QB for the Irish. Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku Enhada starts at QB for Navy. They both wear number 10 but the similarities end there.

12:11 PM

I don’t know how the 50,000 Notre Dame fans in attendance will cheer against Navy today. Watching the Midshipmen in uniform on the field for the flyover and national anthem reminds us that they have bigger things going than a football game. When Navy sprinted onto the field, carrying the American flag chills and goose bumps engulfed the press box.

12:17 PM

Notre Dame’s first possession reminded me of the movie Rudy. Remember when the tutor screached during the final game when Rudy took the field “he’s so little” change he to they and refer to the entire Navy team compared to the Irish and that’s how it looks. But credit the Mids they got tough in the red zone, forcing Notre Dame to a 40 yard field goal from Carl Gioia. 3-0 Irish

12:31 PM

Navy may be little, but the Mids are also very, very fast. Reggie Campbell leading Navy back down the field with 23 of 63 yards rushing to respond to the Irish score. However, Matt Harmon missed a 32 yard field goal that would have tied. Former Gilman star Victor Abiamiri sacked Kaipo-Noa on 3rd down in the red zone forcing the field goal attempt. More on the Gilman connection to come. 3-0 Irish

12:45 PM

Brady Quinn helps his Heisman candidacy again. On 3rd and 18 from the Navy 36 Quinn lofts a perfect pass to David Grimes. Quinn is now 5-8, 102 yds, and a TD. Now it seemed that Grimes might have interfered with the Navy defender, instead interference is called on the Mids. TD Notre Dame with 1:32 left in the first quarter. 10-0 Irish. And it really does feel like a home game for Notre Dame. The stadium completely erupted with the score.

1:00 PM

Navy responds as you’d hope a group of men that will one day fight for our country would. 9 plays, 80 yards including a 4th down conversion at their own 29 by penalty. Kaipo-Noa scores on a QB keeper from the one. A writer for IrishEyes.com just commented to me how much fun it is to watch the option. When done properly, it sure is. I doubt however that Charlie Weis right now agrees. 10-7 Notre Dame 2nd quarter, 11:30 remaining.

1:11 PM

If Notre Dame fails to score 50 points today it’s only because Navy runs enough clock with its own possessions. The Irish can do what they want on offense. Travis Thomas just ripped off a 16 yard touchdown and I don’t think he was touched. Notre Dame seems dead set on establishing the run after last week’s dismal effort of just 41 yards against UCLA. 8:00 left in the 2nd quarter, 17-7 Notre Dame.

1:25 PM

What a debut. The Mids roar right back, marching (and when you say marching with Navy it means a little more) right through the Irish defense. 13 plays, 65 yards and again it’s Kaipo-Noa finding the end zone. The first start of his career one not only he’ll never forget, one he wants to remember. A one yard touchdown puts the Mids within a field goal (I hope for Matt Harmon’s sake it doesn’t come down to a 3 point loss) Notre Dame 17-143 with 2:38 to play in the first half.

1:34 PM

The shootout lives on. Notre Dame responds, 6 plays 80 yards in about 3.4 seconds. Quinn again went deep, threw a perfect ball even though Rhema McKnight was thoroughly covered by Keenan Little. That’s knowing your personnel. In a one on one battle between those two, serious advantage McKnight. Quinn also had a 12 yard scramble on the play. He looks every bit like an NFL quarterback. Oakland Raider fans are now hoping to lose out and grab Quinn number one overall. Still in the 2nd quarter, 24-14 Notre Dame.

2:05 PM

The 3rd quarter’s just underway, still 24-14 Irish. I spent a few minutes at halftime talking with Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta. On Irish receiver Jeff Samardzija “he’s sneaky fast. I think he’ll run in the high 4.4’s (40 yard dash) and be a very good vertical receiver in the NFL. The question is whether or not he’ll play baseball instead of football.” And on Brady Quinn, “he’s big, strong, and fast although this isn’t a great game to judge him because of Navy’s physical limitations. The questions are his accuracy and decision making under pressure against really good teams.”

2:15 PM

Back to the Gilman connection. A pair of former Greyhounds, Victor Abiamiri and Ambrose Wooden play defense for the Irish. Returning to Baltimore is not doubt a thrill for them, but even more so for the current Gilman team. I talked with Greyhound head coach Biff Poggi this week and he could hardly contain his excitment about today’s game. He even had his game with Loyola moved to Friday to ensure he and his team could watch. “We’ve never gotten to see them play in person so this is awesome.” Made even more awesome by the fact that on Friday Gilman knocked off Loyola, likely locking up the MIAA A crown.

2:39 PM

Did I mention the Irish scored again? Sorry, Brady Quinn on a 19 yard scramble. Although the word scramble implies something out of control. That does no justice to his galloping touchdown. He directed traffic as if it was a designed QB draw and Notre Dame now leads 31-14 as the 3rd quarter winds down. Quinn’s stats so far, 14-19 passing, 249 yds, 2 td passing and one rushing.

2:56 PM

Okay, I don’t think they’ll hit 50 but, with 9:36 left in the game the Irish now lead 38-14. That’s 21 unanswered points and the certainty of a 43rd consecutive win over Navy. Brady Quinn with another TD pass to McKnight. Quinn is now 19th all time with career passing TD’s. The fans have started to tile out. Unfortunately not the drunk ones. Several Irish constituents have found it fun to bang on the press box glass with each Notre Dame first down. The game started out so regal with the fly-over and Navy Glee Club beautifully performing the Star Spangled Banner. And now wobbling fans are drooling out the Notre Dame fight song. So on that note, I’m headed down to the press conference area. Hope you enjoyed the diary and feel free to send some feed back. E-mail me at gilbertsarena@thewbalchannel.com.

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