Nov. 15, 2008
BALTIMORE, Md. (AP) - A year after the Fighting Irish had their record 43-game winning streak against Navy snapped, Notre Dame had to withstand a frenetic rally by the Midshipmen in the final minute and a half to win 27-21.
It seemed appropriate, though, that a tense week for college football's most storied program would culminate with a tense ending against Navy (6-4).
"We made the game a little too exciting at the end," Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen said. "But we're happy to come out with the victory."
The Midshipmen trailed 27-7 when Shun White broke loose for a 24-yard touchdown run that seemed as if it would provide little more than window dressing with 1:39 left.
Then Corey Johnson recovered an onside kick at the Notre Dame 41 and the Irish sent their first-team defense back in.
It didn't help. Ricky Dobbs completed a 40-yard pass down the sideline to Tyree Barnes, then ran in from a yard out, and it was 27-21 with 1:21 left with another onside kick coming.
The second worked even better than the first, as Johnson leaped high to come up with a high bouncer.
Navy again took over at the 41. But this time, Dobbs couldn't get the ball downfield. Pat Kuntz's sack keyed the defensive stand, and when Dobbs' final pass sailed high, Notre Dame (6-4) could finally rest.
There would be no repeat of last year's stunner in South Bend, Ind., nor of Navy's 20-point, fourth-quarter comeback that helped beat Temple two weeks ago.
With Weis calling plays for the first time this season, the Irish played it safe offensively against Navy, clamped down on the Middies' option attack and got a big play from their special teams.
In a game that started in windy, overcast conditions at M&T Bank Stadium - the home of the Baltimore Ravens - Notre Dame took control in the third quarter before the rains came and drove much of the crowd of 70,932 to the exits.
Allen ran 11 yards for a touchdown with 9:31 left in the third and Robert Hughes had a 7-yard TD run six minutes later to make it 24-7.
Notre Dame is bowl eligible heading into another very winnable game against Syracuse, before it finishes the season against Southern California.
Written on a grease board in the Navy locker room before the game was BELIEVE!! and ACHEIVE!!
And why not. For the first time in more than four decades, the Midshipmen could draw from a winning experience against Notre Dame. Navy celebrated wildly last year after beating the Irish 46-44 in triple overtime.
A two-game winning streak for Navy in the series, its first since 1960-61, was just too much to ask for.
Navy ran for 257 yards last year, but the Irish weren't fooled this time around. Led by linebacker Toryan Smith, Notre Dame held the country's second-ranked rushing offense to 178 yards.
Instead it was Notre Dame that piled up the yards on the ground. The Irish ran 51 times for 230 yards. James Aldridge had 80 yards on 16 carries. Allen ran for 60 yards and caught seven passes for 60 more.
Clausen rarely went downfield, completing 15 of 18 passes for 110 yards with two interceptions and a fumble.
Weis scanned an oversized white card as he limped up and down the sideline on his injured left knee. He decided to try to push around Navy's undersized defense, instead of letting Clausen test the 104th-ranked pass defense.
Mike Anello helped make up for two early turnovers by Clausen, blocking a punt that Smith caught on a high bounce at the Navy 14. Smith did a swan dive into the end zone that earned him a 15-yard penalty and an earful from special teams coach Brian Polian, but made the score 7-0 in the first quarter.
Cory Finnerty's 22-yard touchdown run for Navy tied it 7-all with 2:39 left in the half. But Notre Dame took advantage of Eric Kettani's fumble near midfield with 1:09 left to take a 10-7 lead on Brandon Walker's 28-yard field goal as time expired.