Notre Dame 41, Navy 24

Mis­takes, in­jury to Reynolds ham­per Navy

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY GENE WANG­

Mid­ship­men suf­fer first loss af­ter Reynolds is slowed by in­jury.

south bend, ind. — Keenan Reynolds said this past week that the Navy football team needed to play a “per­fect game” to have any shot at beat­ing 15th-ranked Notre Dame.

The se­nior quar­ter­back did his part even though he missed sig­nif­i­cant por­tions of the pro­ceed­ings with a sore shin, but the Mid­ship­men’s over­all per­for­mance was far from clean. Turnovers, penal­ties and de­fen­sive break­downs in­stead con­spired to send the Mid­ship­men into a bye week with their first loss, 41-24, on a sun-swept Satur­day af­ter­noon at Notre Dame Sta­dium.

Reynolds had 110 yards on 15 car­ries for his fourth con­sec­u­tive game with at least 100 yards be­fore ex­it­ing for good af­ter the third quar­ter for pre­cau­tion­ary rea­sons. The sec­ond-lead­ing touch­down scorer in ma­jor col­lege football history de­parted with the Mid­ship­men trail­ing by 17 points and spent the fourth quar­ter on the side­line wear­ing a head­set in front of an an­nounced crowd of 80,795.

Reynolds said af­ter­ward that he has no doubts he’ll be on the field when Navy plays Tu­lane on Oct. 24. Coach Ken Ni­u­mat­alolo in­di­cated the same fol­low­ing the Mid­ship­men’s fifth straight loss to Notre Dame in the long­est con­tin­u­ous in­ter­sec­tional ri­valry in col­lege football.

“We knew had to play per­fect against these guys, and it was prob­a­bly our worst game this sea­son,” Ni­u­mat­alolo said. “We’d been tak­ing care of the ball, and we had three turnovers. Against this team you bet­ter not turn the ball over.”

A fum­ble by the Mid­ship­men (4-1) on the open­ing kick­off of the sec­ond half was par­tic­u­larly crip­pling. Dis­han Romine lost the ball when Nyles Mor­gan tack­led Navy’s kick re­turner, and Notre Dame’s Devin But­ler re­cov­ered at the Navy 26-yard line. C. J. Pro­sise (129 yards, three touch­downs on 21 car­ries) scored on a 22-yard carry two plays later to ex­tend the Fight­ing Ir­ish’s lead to 31-21 just 44 sec­onds into the third quar­ter.

Mid­ship­men place kicker Austin Grebe missed a 44-yard field goal try on the en­su­ing se­ries, giv­ing Notre Dame the ball at its 27. On third and 11, quar­ter­back DeShone Kizer com­pleted a 16yard pass to wide re­ceiver Corey Robin­son to the Navy 21. Pro­sise was in the end zone again shortly there­after, break­ing tack­les and elud­ing mul­ti­ple de­fend­ers on an 11-yard carry for a 38-21 ad­van­tage.

The first turnover of the game came deep in Navy ter­ri­tory when full­back Chris Swain muffed a pitch. Notre Dame (5-1) fell on the loose ball at the Mid­ship­men 7-yard line, and on the next play Pro­sise ran for a touch­down to give the Fight­ing Ir­ish a 14-7 lead. The turnover was Navy’s sec­ond of the sea­son and first since the first se­ries of the first game.

On the next pos­ses­sion, Reynolds ab­sorbed the hit that tem­po­rar­ily sent him from the game when line­backer James On­walu made a hel­met-to-hel­met tackle with 9 min­utes 28 sec­onds left un­til half­time. The co-cap­tain re­mained on the ground be­fore he was es­corted to the side­line, with train­ers ex­am­in­ing his left leg, and then went to the locker room for fur­ther ob­ser­va­tion.

“It’s sore, but luck­ily noth­ing ma­jor is wrong,” said Reynolds, who had X-rays in a fa­cil­ity ad­ja­cent to the sta­dium. “Just got to re­hab it, and I’ll be fine.”

Reynolds re-en­tered in the third quar­ter, but dur­ing his ab­sence, ju­nior Tago Smith took over and con­trib­uted to a pair of scor­ing drives. On Smith’s first se­ries, his 22-yard run got the Mid­ship­men to the Notre Dame 47, and on sec­ond and eight, Quentin Ezell rum­bled 45 yards for his third touch­down of the sea­son. It was the long­est run of the se­nior’s ca­reer and came with 4:56 re­main­ing un­til half­time.

Cor­ner­back Bren­don Cle­ments in­ter­cepted Kizer mo­ments later, and Navy took pos­ses­sion at the Notre Dame 41-yard line. Swain rushed for eight yards to the 26 on fourth and three, and Ezell fin­ished the drive with a 22-yard scor­ing run on which he went un­touched down the left side­line to draw theMid­ship­men even at 21 with 24 sec­onds to go in the half.

Notre Dame took a 24-21 lead as the half ex­pired thanks to fresh­man place kicker Justin Yoon’s 52-yard field goal, the third long­est in pro­gram history.

“We knew we had to play great to­day,” Navy se­nior nose guard and co-cap­tain Bernie Sarra said. “Any missed align­ment, missed as­sign­ment, any­time we didn’t use good fun­da­men­tals, we knew it would get ex­posed, and they did that on a cou­ple big plays. We just didn’t them off the field. You just add all that up, we had turnovers, that’s a recipe for dis­as­ter against these guys.”


Notre Dame line­backer Jay­lon Smith, left,eyes a fum­ble by full­back Chris Swain of Navy. TheMids fum­bled twice and yielded 459 to­tal yards.

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