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Mids pull off win over rival Notre Dame

Will Worth (left) led Navy with 175 yards rushing with two touchdowns on the ground.

Will Worth (left) led Navy with 175 yards rushing with two touchdowns on the ground.

Despite clearly showing they have been the better team all year long the Navy Midshipmen were still the underdogs heading into their rivalry matchup against Notre Dame, but in Jacksonville, Florida the Mids proved head-to-head that they were indeed the better team with a 28-27 victory over the Fighting Irish. At the same time as clinching their own bowl eligibility, Navy ensured Notre Dame would not be participating in the postseason. The Mids already had a contractual agreement to play in The Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Forth Worth, Texas on Friday, Dec. 23 against a Big 12 opponent set before they even joined the American Athletic Conference and the victory secured their place in the game.

Navy totaled 320 yards on the ground with four rushing touchdowns against Notre Dame as they ended a five-year drought against the Fighting Irish. Quarterback Will Worth finished the game with 175 yards on the ground with two of the touchdowns. Calvin Cass Jr. and Darryl Bonner had the other two.

But as any rivalry game is, it was truly a battle. The Fighting Irish had one more scoring drive than Navy, but they had to settle for field goals twice, leading to the one-point differential.

Notre Dame opened the game with an 11-play scoring drive with DeShone Kizer hitting Torii Hunter Jr for a 26-yard touchdown; Kizer’s first of three touchdowns in the game. Navy had a response drive right after, getting 73 yards down the field in nine plays. Bonner broke loose at the end for a 16-yard touchdown run to even the game.

The Fighting Irish were able to mount an 11-play drive their next time out, but it stalled out after 48 yards. They had to settle for a 39-yard field goal by Justin Yoon. And Notre Dame couldn’t capitalize on a turnover on downs that gave them the ball eight yards away from midfield.

Notre Dame gained only six yards before punting. Aside from short drives at the end of the two halves, those were the only two drives in the game that did not end in a score.

Navy took the lead midway through the second half. Worth had a 60-yard run to get to the Notre Dame 20 yard line on the first play of the drive. Navy continued to grind forward with solid runs. Worth converted a fourth-and-one this time with a four-yard gain. Three plays later he got in the endzone from three yards out to put the Mids ahead 14-10 with 7:43 remaining.

Navy couldn’t keep the lead at halftime, though. Notre Dame still showed their power and talent, despite the down season, with a 14-play, 75-yard drive. They converted three third downs on that drive. Kizer scrambled to pick up the first down on two of them, including an 11-yard run on third-and-10. The next play he completed an eight-yard touchdown pass to Durham Smythe with 30 seconds left before halftime to give the Fighting Irish a 17-14 lead at the break.

In the second half the back-and-forth battle continued. But this time it was Navy that scored on the opening drive and took the lead. Worth opened the second half with a 12-yard run. Chris High had a gain of 17 just two plays later. But just as it seemed like Notre Dame was going to cut Navy’s drive short, Cass ripped through the Fighting Irish defense for a 37-yard touchdown run that gave the Mis a 21-17 lead.

Still, it was a battle. Notre Dame responded with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that went over five minutes to re-take the lead in the third quarter. A 26-yard pass from Kizer to Equanimeous St. Brown was what really but Notre Dame in business on the drive. He then hit Hunter for a 10-yard gain on third down to move the chains. Facing another third down from the 13-yard line, Kizer hit St. Brown again for a touchdown that put Notre Dame back up 24-21.

One of the beauties of Navy’s triple option is their ability to take significant amounts of time off the clock. Their next drive lasted nine minutes. It was full of mostly sort gains, just long enough to constantly move the chains. By the end of it, Notre Dame’s defense was dead tired and Worth got the Mids on huge gain of the drive when facing a third-and-seven. Worth broke loose for a 27-yard gain. The next play, Worth punched it into the endzone from one yard out to give his team the lead.

More than just tiring out the defense, it kept their defense on the sidelines rested up and kept the Notre Dame offense off the field.

When the Fighting Irish got back on the field, Navy was able to come up with huge stops after giving up 68 yards. Kizer had to settle for a six-yard pass for Kevin Stepherson on a third-and-10. With over seven minutes left on the clock, Notre Dame took the three points to cut Navy’s lead down to one point, but Navy was able to run it all the way down until the final whistle with a 14-play drive, full of runs against a tired defense.

Worth saved the game on a fourth-and-six at the very end with a 15-yard pass to Jamir Tillman. After that completion, they just took a knee and celebrated their victory.

Navy will return home next weekend when they host Tulsa at noon. A win over the Golden Hurricans would keep the Mids ahead in the AAC west division and in line for a spot in the conference championship game.

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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