After a tumultuous week, a lot of people wondered what type of Notre Dame team we would see this afternoon against Navy. A team divided could fall to the Midshipmen for the fourth time in five years, while a fired up Irish squad might light up the scoreboard like it did three weeks ago against Air Force. Fortunately, we saw the latter, as Notre Dame found the end zone eight times and dominated Navy, 56-14. Navy pushed the Irish around last year at the New Meadowlands Stadium, but today, the 85th meeting in series history belonged to Notre Dame. While the Midshipmen arrived in South Bend ranked third in the nation in rushing yards per game, it was the Irish backfield that turned heads on Saturday. Led by Jonas Gray's three scores, Notre Dame finished with seven touchdowns on the ground, the most for any Irish team since 1992. Cierre Wood added two rushing TDs, and George Atkinson III and Michael Floyd had one apiece. Floyd also caught a 56-yard touchdown from Tommy Rees, the team's longest pass play of the season. Defensively, Notre Dame held Navy's offense to 229 total yards. The Midshipmen were held to 3.9 yards per carry, and nearly half of their rushing attempts were limited to two yards or less. Even without starting defensive ends Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore, the Irish kept the potent triple option in check.
Notre Dame bounced back this week, and the crowd followed suit. Against USC, Notre Dame Stadium was as loud as I have seen it since I began attending Irish games as a freshman in 207. After that difficult loss, I was concerned that we might see an apathetic crowd, but the offensive outburst (and the varied music selection) had the Notre Dame students engaged for sixty minutes.
It has often been said, "winning cures all." Following the setback to the Trojans last week, and the social media firestorm of the past 48 hours, perhaps this is the game that turns things around for the Fighting Irish. Navy will not finish the 2011 season as one of the strongest teams on the Irish schedule, but Notre Dame got the type of win it needed this week. In control from the opening quarter, it was a no-doubt-about-it victory - the kind of game that should hopefully put rumors of locker room controversy to rest. Earlier this week, head coach Brian Kelly's post-practice media comments were received negatively by some of the veteran Irish players, who expressed their feelings on Twitter. Many speculated that a rift was growing within the team between the coaching staff, upperclassmen and younger players.
Kelly addressed the rumors in his post-game press conference, assuring that the Irish have moved forward and put any conflicts behind them. "As a family, we all have good days and bad days. You work through that as a family," he said. "We had to work through some things this week, but at the end, like all families, if there's a disagreement, if there's any kind of need to communicate, it needs to get done and we did that. We communicated with each other as a team and as a family, and you saw it today. You saw a team that played together."The Notre Dame football family seems to be back on track. While the BCS is out of the question, there is a lot of football left to play, and if Notre Dame plays like it did this afternoon, it will be an exciting and enjoyable finish to 2011 for Irish nation. The journey continues under the lights next Saturday in Winston-Salem, N.C. when Notre Dame takes on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. - Josh Flynt ('11)