This morning, Notre Dame and Navy squared off in Dublin, Ireland in the Emerald Isle Classic. Though the setting was unique, it was business as usual for Notre Dame, as it knocked off Navy, 50-10. It’s still too early to judge just how good the Irish might be, but they were quick to exploit their two biggest advantages over Navy: size and speed.
Notre Dame nearly matched their per game average for rushing yards in the first half alone. Led by Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III, who both scored twice, the Irish rushing attack overwhelmed Navy’s defensive front. Stephon Tuitt also returned a fumble for a score as the Irish rolled.
The Irish did not seem to miss starting running back Cierre Wood, who is suspended for the home opener against Purdue this coming Saturday as well. However, when Wood returns, the Irish could have a three-headed monster of talented backs, which could open up the field for their rookie quarterback, Everett Golson, to explore the studio space.
As for Golson, Brian Kelly thought he did “alright” in the first half of play. Golson finished the game with an effective completion percentage and only one interception, but he looked shaky on a few backfield swing routes and comebackers with his wide receivers. Golson will need to be far more effective in the coming weeks as the Irish are unlikely to enjoy any size and speed advantages the rest of the way.
Either way, Irish fans can breathe a little easier now, because it seems the Irish have done away with the turnover problems that plagued throughout last season. The sole Irish turnover was an interception by Golson, and they finished the day with a plus three margin; a major victory for a squad that finished last year with a ratio of -15, ranked 118 out of 120 teams in the FBS.
Irish standout Manti Te’o recorded a fumble recovery and the first interception of his collegiate career to help lead the Irish D.
The Irish defense looked solid against the run, but Navy finished the game with more passing yards than rushing yards. An interesting figure considering its option threat, and that it averaged 342 yards per game last year.
The President of Notre Dame’s student athletic department, the Leprechaun Legion, was available for a few words after the game. Matthew Cunningham thought there were quite a few takeaways from this game, in particular, the way the Irish seemed to adjust to the option.
“The hardest part about playing Navy is adjusting to the option in 5 days. This year we had 3 months, we needed to put up 50” said Cunningham.
The Irish will now have about a week, and a little jet lag, to gear up for Purdue’s pro-style offense; but right now, spirits are high in South Bend.
Player of the Game: George Atkinson III
Play of the Game: 77 yard fumble recovery for TD by Stephon Tuitt
Need to See More of: Everett Golson
Tweet of the Game: “Classic America, sending their Navy wherever they like and calling it home.” – @eshjjaksclayton