Navy comes up short in 38-34 loss to Notre Dame

It looked as if Navy had Notre Dame right where the Midshipmen

wanted.

Navy was in Notre Dame territory with time ticking away in the

fourth and the Irish having little success stopping the Middies’

triple-option offense.

But a bad pitch and a fourth-down play that looked good for a

moment but then was shut down by the Irish left Navy with a 38-34

loss on Saturday.

Notre Dame went ahead 38-34 with 3:47 left in the game when

Tarean Folston scored on a 1-yard plunge.

Marcus Turner returned the kickoff 49 yards to the 50 for Navy,

which had all three timeouts. Navy ran the ball four straight plays

for 18 yards and had it second-and-5 from the Notre Dame 32.

”It’s a scenario you want. On the road at Notre Dame, driving

to win the game. It doesn’t get any better than that,” Navy

quarterback Keenan Reynolds said. ”It’s a dream come true.”

But Reynolds, who had run for three touchdowns and thrown for

another, tossed a pitch just out of reach of DeBrandon Sanders.

Sanders fell on the ball at the 41 for a 9-yard loss. Reynolds

completed a 10-yard pass to Casey Bolena to set up a

fourth-and-four. Notre Dame freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith came

up with a big play with help from Eilar Hardy.

Reynolds pitched the ball to Shawn Lynch on a reverse and for a

moment it appeared he had room, but Smith quickly closed the gap

and tackled Lynch for no gain.

”Luckily, Eilar was there to slow the guy down initially, and

then I was there to make the play,” Smith said.

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said Navy was a step too slow on the

play.

”We were maybe a step too slow on our mechanics of it,” he

said. ”Normally it should have been a fraction of a second

sooner.”

The Midshipmen ran for 331 yards, 207 in the first half. Navy

had no turnovers, no penalties and held the ball for 37:36 while

the Irish had it just 22:24.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said the Irish were fortunate to

pull out the victory.

”They executed flawlessly today,” Kelly said. ”They really

put us in a position where we had to play great in the second

half.”

Kelly said he wasn’t disappointed in the win.

”There’s no asterisk next to this one. This is a W. We’re

excited about it,” he said.

Notre Dame (7-2) improved to 11-1 in November in four seasons

under Kelly and clinched its fourth consecutive winning season, the

first time that’s happened since 1995-98. The Irish also keep alive

their hopes for a BCS bowl berth. Navy lost for the third time in

the past four games.

Notre Dame has won its past 10 games decided by a touchdown or

less, tying Kelly with Knute Rockne for the second-longest such

streak in school history. Elmer Layden holds the record with

12.

The bright spot for Notre Dame was the play of freshman running

back Tarean Folston, who scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard

plunge and rushed for 144 yards on 18 carries, with 116 yards in

the second half. He had rushed for only 116 yards on 22 carries

before Saturday.

”There was just a big mess, so I just jumped over,” Folston

said of his TD run.

Notre Dame finished with 506 yards total offense, averaging 9

yards per play, the most for the Irish since 1998. Tommy Rees threw

touchdown passes to TJ Jones and Ben Koyack, George Atkinson III

scored on a 41-yard run and Cam McDaniel added a TD. Rees was

12-of-20 passing for 242 yards with two interceptions. It was the

third time this season Rees has thrown at least two interceptions.

The Irish lost the other two against Michigan and against

Oklahoma.

Reynolds completed six of nine passes for 88 yards, including

two key passes that gave Navy its final lead. First he threw an

18-yard pass to Marcus Thomas to the Notre Dame 49. After three

running plays, Reynolds then found a wide open Matt Aiken for a

34-yard score.

The Midshipmen finished with 419 yards total offense and had 27

first downs, the most ever by a Navy team against Notre dame.

”Coach put together a brilliant game plan. We were able to

execute it on the field and move the ball,” Reynolds said

Chris Swain led Navy with 85 yards Quinton Singleton had 77

yards.

Swain said he thought the reverse play would work.

”We were just so close,” he said. ”I thought it was going to

go for a touchdown. I wasn’t thinking they were expecting it.”