Navy 23, No. 19 Notre Dame 21
Just another win as far Navy was concerned - though this loss to the Midshipmen was much more costly for Notre Dame.
Craig Schaefer sacked Jimmy Clausen in the end zone with 60 seconds left Saturday and Navy held on for a 23-21 victory, its second in three seasons against the 19th-ranked Fighting Irish.
"I wanted to run on the field and jump up and down, but I was kind of tired," said linebacker Ram Vela, who had an interception and fumble recovery. "We'd done it before and we went into this game not really placing as much emphasis or too much importance on it. We just treated it like another game."
Two years ago when Navy beat Notre Dame, the Irish were in the midst of a 3-9 season. The loss Saturday effectively ends any hope Notre Dame (6-3) had for its first Bowl Championship Series appearance since 2006.
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said he believed media speculation about Notre Dame chasing a BCS berth, along with the Irish playing at No. 14 Pittsburgh (8-1) next week, helped the Midshipmen.
"We kind of felt like we had them in a perfect storm. Just looking to the postseason, a very, very good Pitt team coming next week, and it's us coming," he said.
The last time an unranked Navy team beat a ranked Notre Dame team was 1936, the first year of the poll, when the Midshipmen won 3-0. Ranked Notre Dame teams had beat unranked Navy 41 straight times.
It's the type of loss that will no doubt fire up the critics of Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis.
"That comes with the territory. The sad part of that is that's this job every week," said Weis, who is 35-24 in five season at Notre Dame. "It's a week to week deal."
Notre Dame (6-3) scored with 24 seconds left on a 31-yard pass from Jimmy Clausen to Golden Tate to cut the lead to two, but the ensuing onside kick went out of bounds.
"I love playing in South Bend," safety Wyatt Middleton said. "I love playing here."
The Midshipmen, who now go to the Texas Bowl, said the win two years ago helped them believe they could do it again. Vela said the biggest difference was the defense played better.
"Everyone put their all into it and rose to the occasion," Vela said. "I think that's what separates this game from the last time we best them."
Ricky Dobbs threw a 52-yard touchdown pass and ran for another and fullback Vince Murray added a 25-yard TD run for Navy to lead the Midshipmen to consecutive wins in South Bend for the first time since 1961 and 1963.
Navy outrushed the Irish, playing without leading rusher Armando Allen Jr. because of an ankle injury, 348 yards to 60. Murray ran for 158 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, becoming the first Navy running back to rush for 100 yards for four straight games since Napoleon McCallum in 1983.
Dobbs, who played only seven plays in the last two games because of a knee injury, added 102 yards on 31 carries and completed 2 of 3 for 56 yards.
Clausen was 37 of 57 yards passing for 452 yards, all career highs. The 37 completions are a school record and the yardage is the fourth best in school history. Heisman Trophy-worthy numbers, but with Notre Dame down a touchdown and less than a two minutes left, Clausen was sacked on consecutive plays. The last one gave Navy its final two points and all but sealed the victory.
"It's a heartbreaking loss," Clausen said.
Floyd, playing his first game after breaking his collarbone in September, matched his career high with 10 catches for 141 yards. Tate had nine catches for 132 yards.
The Irish managed to cut the lead to 21-14 when Floyd caught a 12-yard TD pass from Clausen with 4:46 left in the game. The game appeared over when Schaefer sacked Clausen with 60 seconds left. But Tate recovered the onside kick by Nick Tausch to give the Irish once last chance and they converted it for a score, but they will lament the points they left behind.
Tausch, who had made a school-record 14 straight field goals, missed a 41-yard attempt wide left and a 30-yard try wide right. The Irish also had a fumble at the goal line and an interception at the 5.
"It came down to red zone production for us," Weis said. "Getting the ball down into position to score was not the issue; it was scoring that was the issue."