Sunday, November 16, 2008

Notre Dame 27, Navy 21

Quarterback: Jimmy Clausen finished a very deceiving 15-of-18, as almost all of his passes were screens or dumpoffs over the middle. When he did throw downfield, he added two more interceptions to his total. In his defense, though, he was playing most of the game without Michael Floyd. Clausen did rush three times for five yards, including a headstrong head-first dive that almost resulted in a knee injury.

Running Back: The gameplan called for Notre Dame to pound the ball at Navy's undersized 3-4. James Aldridge was the feature back, recording 80 yards on 16 carries. Robert Hughes added 64 yards on 13 carries, while Armando Allen had 60 on eight carries. Freshman Jonas Gray had seven carries for 16 yards, and his struggles were partially due to Navy crowding the box in obvious run situations.

Allen also had a big day in the passing game, recording team highs in catches (seven) and yards (60). Aldridge and Hughes also had one catch apiece.

Fullback: Asaph Schwapp didn't record a touch in this game, but he did have several key block to aid the Irish ground game. Steve Paskorz made an appearance at fullback as well.

Receiver: Michael Floyd left early in the game after Aldridge and a tackler rolled into his left knee. With Floyd out, the Midshipmen were able to key on Golden Tate and hold him to zero catches. Tate did lose three yards on a "wildcat" formation direct snap. I was wondering just the other day if Coach Weis, with his NFL ties, would ever give a wildcat look. He did, but the timing was bad. Since it was the first play of the second quarter, it gave Navy time to react and align themselves properly before the snap.

David Grimes lead all receivers with three catches, plus one 10-yard gain that was credited as a run on a swing pass. Robby Parris, playing in Floyd's absence, and Duval Kamara each had one reception.

Tight End: Kyle Rudolph had one catch for eight yards.

Offensive Line: The line wasn't perfect - Clausen was hurried a few times, sacked once, and had the ball knocked out of his hands for a fumble. But overall the Notre Dame offensive line played well, especially the left side, on the way to an efficient 340 yard performance.

Defensive Line: As a whole, the defense played well for a second straight week. But the line especially played well in this one. Ian Williams had seven tackles, which is outstanding for a nose tackle. Justin Brown had five tackles, one for a loss, and recovered a fumble. Pat Kuntz had four tackles, including a half-sack.

Linebacker: Toryan Smith has had at best an up-and-down career at Notre Dame, but he had the game of his life on Saturday. Smith led the team with 10 tackles and returned a blocked punt for a touchdown. Unfortunately, Toryan's production came from increased playing time after Brian Smith went down with a right knee injury after being chop blocked.

After being shut out in the Boston College game, something you never want to see from your fifth year middle linebacker, Mo Crum rebounded with seven tackles and a forced fumble.

Safety: Thanks to the play of Toryan Smith and the Irish line, David Bruton and Kyle McCarthy didn't have to be heroes in this game. Bruton and McCarthy did finish with six and five tackles, respectively, and Bruton did come close to picking off both of Navy's first two pass attempts.

Cornerback: Not surprisingly, playing Navy's triple option offense, no Irish corner recorded more than two tackles. Still, freshman Robert Blanton always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, recording a huge stop in the backfield early on, and breaking up a pass to the end zone on Navy's second-to-last play of the game.

Kicker: Don't look now, but Brandon Walker has made nine of his last 10 attempts, including field goals from 28 and 36 yards in this game.

Punter: Sure, Eric Maust's three punts were the first for Notre Dame against Navy in the Charlie Weis era. But I'm sure the team will take a win over a silly record any day, especially when their punter averages 44 yards per kick.

Kick Returner: Golden Tate returned two kickoffs in this game, one for 18 yards and one for 20.

Special Teams: Well, the Irish will definitely be working on recovering onside kicks this week. That being said, this was a win, so let's finish with the positives:

From what I can tell, batting a kick out of bounds is legal as long as you don't bat it forward. So Robby Parris did make a heads-up play, if only he had batted it in the right direction.

Mike Anello continues to inspire special teamers everywhere, as this week he blocked the punt that resulted in Notre Dame's first touchdown. He also proved, at least to some, that the "secondary line of defense" punt formation that so many college teams use isn't perfectly impenetrable.