Remember the days of the 43-game winning streak the Irish once held over Navy? The days of complete dominance, overpowering and out-matching a service academy known more for their battleships than football trench battles?
A new scene was available this past Saturday: A scoreboard reading 35-17 in favor of Navy and a sea of Midshipmen celebrating in the newly-renovated Meadowlands Stadium.
Being overpowered in nearly every aspect of the game, the Irish fell to Navy for the third time in four years, something that hasn't been accomplished by the service academy in over 40 years.
When Charlie Weis was still manning the sidelines, his first loss to Navy was terrible. The second was even worse, sparking even more cries for his head as the Midshipmen defeated the 2009 Irish, 23-21.
With the acquisition of Brian Kelly as the new and improved leader of the current Fighting Irish, no one expected a similar result as the past two years against the triple-option. Entering the game on an upswing and looking more and more like a complete football team, the Irish, and their head coach, took a giant step back in the eyes of the nation with what could be labeled as one of the worst losses.
What kind of impact will this loss actually have on this Notre Dame team?
At first glance, the overall "success" of the season can already be argued. With games on the slate still left to be played against Utah and USC, the Irish are looking at a 7-5 record if they can manage to beat one of these foes. Two losses would mean at least six losses, assuming wins against poor Tulsa and Army squads.
A 6-6 final record, in the eyes of the Irish faithful, would leave the Irish exactly where they left off in 2009—unsuccessful.
In addition to the overall record, this loss of Navy will have it's impact elsewhere—the recruiting trail.
Kelly won't lose recruits by the dozen, but anything less than six or seven wins would put this class in serious jeopardy, especially with the elite players in this class.
Already, outside linebacker Clay Burton has already dropped the Irish in favor of Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators after this past weekend. Mind you, Burton's big brother, Trey, plays for Meyer and the Burton's unfairly led Kelly and his staff on to believe that they would not flip their commitment in case of a Gator offer. However, after the Navy loss and an offer from the Gators, the younger Burton did just that.
Depending on how tight this class actually is, it may or may not hold together. If the committed stay put with the Irish and trust in Kelly, they will finish with a top five class. However, decommitments only spark questions in other recruits' minds. Kelly and the Irish have plenty of work left to do in holding this class together due to the unsuccessful season on the grass.
This loss isn't the end of the world. After all, Kelly is only eight games into his head coaching career at a big-time school like Notre Dame and transitioning is a part of taking this job—just ask Lou Holtz, who went 5-6 in his first year in South Bend only to lead his team to a national championship in the following years.
The next year-and-a-half will be crucial for Kelly. Leading his team to mediocrity for a prolonged time will only spell disaster for him and the program.
Irish fans are sick to their stomach over losses like Saturday's dominance by Navy. It's too soon to be calling for the head of Brian Kelly, but under the spotlight in South Bend, improvement needs to come quick and often.
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