Notre Dame Football: Concerns Exposed in Blowout Win over Navy
The end result of the Notre Dame versus Navy contest in Dublin, Ireland was little doubt as the Irish dominated the Midshipmen from the outset.
Notre Dame rather easily controlled the line of scrimmage both offensively and defensively en route to a 50-10 victory.
The size advantage carried in by Notre Dame was exploited early and often as the offensive line opened massive running lanes for Irish backs who chewed up the Navy defense for 293 yards and five touchdowns.
First time starting quarterback Everett Golson also played well, hitting on 12 of 18 passes for 188 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
The offense was rather vanilla, looking more like a Lou Holtz designed game than a Brian Kelly called offense. The team often lined up under center, with two down tight ends, and ran power pulling-guard running plays.
Golson also showed flashes of the player he could become using his feet as well as his arm. Probably his best play was a play action boot to the left where he found tight end Ben Koyak on a crossing route that could have gone for a touchdown.
Instead the 18 yard gain set up George Atkinson's second score on the day.
The tandem of Theo Riddick and Atkinson together showed no signs of missing usual starter Cierre Wood, showing both great field vision and championship level speed and strength.
The highlight play came early, on Notre Dame's second possession when Atkinson took a stretch play off right tackle, read the front side safety who had over-run the play and cut back to the left blowing by the back side safety for an easy 58-yard touchdown.
In truth, Navy never had a chance.
Notre Dame's front seven swallowed up the dive man on every play, effectively turning the triple option into a standard option and making it very one-dimensional.
Add in four Navy turnovers, one of which became a season highlight reel lock 77-yard touchdown return by Stephon Tuitt, the rout was on.
The news of the game was not all rosy, however.
Only six of Notre Dame's 16 pass receptions went to a wide receiver. Against a very undersized secondary, no one was getting open.
Instead Golson and Hendrix targeted tight ends an equal amount.
It is necessary for the receivers to hold their own on the outside to keep safeties from doubling tight ends or stationing themselves in the box in run support.
Secondly, Everett Golson was not given the keys to the offense as we know it.
Rarely was the offense set in the base spread package, few were the snaps from an empty look, and only a few throws were made down field.
This is more than likely due to Golson being a first time starter, however in Tommy Rees' first significant action against Tulsa two years ago he slung the ball all over the field.
Hopefully this was more an indication of Kelly wanting to establish a physical tone, rather than because he was limiting Golson's looks.
Third, Andrew Hendrix looked a little lost on his first two possessions.
Missed reads, unsure in alignment, and slow reaction at the snap of the ball led to Notre Dame's first punts of the game.
Fourth, the kicking game started a mess. A bad miss on the first extra point attempt and a fumbled snap on the fourth didn't do much to quell the notion that the Irish don't spend enough practice time on kicking.
A fumbled punt return added to woes before things straightened out in the second half.
Lastly, and most concerning is the secondary.
Navy is not a passing team. The wide receivers that the Midshipmen have will be the least talented that Notre Dame sees all season.
As a group they caught 14 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown. They were open all day.
On Navy's opening drive of the second half, quarterback Trey Miller needed only three plays to move Navy 78 yards for their only touchdown, beating a very confused KieVarae Russell with a single move to break free for a touchdown.
If the Navy receivers can find so much open room, what will Miami's receivers look like? Or BYU's? Let alone Oklahoma or USC.
Maybe it was because the safeties were pulled up for run support, maybe it was because the game plan didn't call for a lot of post pattern coverage. But there had better be an excuse, or there will be a lot of shoot outs in Notre Dame's immediate future.
Still, it's hard to feel too negative after a 50-10 beating of a Navy team that had won three of the last five meetings.
Notre Dame simply cannot lose to Navy. Today's game is how the contest should look. Entirely lop-sided and over by halftime.
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