As soon as Irish runningback Travis Thomas lined up in the backfield on Notre Dame’s two-point conversion attempt in triple overtime, I knew the streak was over. And when Thomas was wrapped up and brought to the turf, Navy players ecstatically and deservedly stormed the field as the Irish stumbled off dejectedly, looking as confused and frustrated as they had all game (and in many ways, all season).
Surprisingly, the streak ended more quietly than expected. Perhaps it was the utter level of futility of Notre Dame’s play this year, or the fact that strong and disciplined teams had come to be the norm under Navy head coach Paul Johnson. In any case, the end of the streak was reported, but not dwelled upon, perhaps owing to the general craziness that was the 2007 college football season.
For Navy, it was the end to 43 years of frustration. Yet Notre Dame-Navy has always been among the classiest (if one-sided) rivalries, and the Midshipmen deserve credit. They were the better team this year, and they deserved to win. Fighting Irish fans should congratulate the Naval Academy on a job well done, and a much deserved victory. 2007 was the end, but it is also a beginning and there are many who are already looking forward to next year’s game.
For Notre Dame, it was the culmination of a season’s worth of disappointment. 2007 can now be listed among the worst years ever for Irish football, ranking right up there with 1956 and 1963 (coincidentally, the last time that Navy beat Notre Dame). Of all the many painful losses – the beatdowns at the hands of Penn State, Michigan and USC, the losses to Air Force, Michigan State and Purdue – this may have been the most meaningful. It represented the one thing that all those mediocre coaches (Gerry Faust, Bob Davie, Ty Willingham) had never failed to do. Losing to Navy has been a Cardinal Sin of Notre Dame since JFK was president, and it remains to be seen if Charlie Weis can pick up the pieces and return the Irish to football glory.
For college football, it was just another historic upset in a season full of historic upsets. Notre Dame’s loss to Navy managed to be overshadowed by Michigan’s loss to Appalachian State, Southern Cal’s loss to Stanford, and all the other crazy games this year. But for better and for worse, the nation’s longest winning streak came to an end, and a chapter of history – for both The Irish and the Midshipmen – came to a memorable close on Nov. 3, 2007.