Notre Dame 41, Navy 24
Mistakes, injury to Reynolds hamper Navy
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.