Throughout the season, whether it was a win or a loss, fans and Brian Kelly alike could at least point to the fact that something Notre Dame was doing was in a positive direction.
Saturday’s game against Navy exposed holes all over the place for the Fighting Irish and put a very large exclamation point on the fact that Notre Dame is not ‘back’ as many fans liked to think as the team came into the Meadowlands on a three-game winning streak.
Defensively, Notre Dame not only looked slow, but not nearly physical enough, right from the get-go when they allowed a 99-yard drive for a touchdown on Navy’s first drive of the game. They did not get off blocks and were undisciplined against the triple option. Granted, the Mids run that offense like they invented it, but Notre Dame, who had moved up to 44th nationally in run defense, gave up 367 yards, more than SMU, Wake Forest, Air Force, Louisiana Tech and Georgia Southern.
Offensively, Notre Dame was able to move the ball well to start the first half, but, like the rest of his Irish teammates, was not able to put together a consistent, 60-minute game.
Notre Dame drove on the first possession of the game 71 yards on 13 plays, ate up nearly six minutes, but produced no points, as Notre Dame was stuffed on the one-yard line. Still, the Irish had to feel pretty good about their ability to move the football and keep it out of Ricky Dobbs’ hands.
On their next two drives, Notre Dame scored and were keeping pace with the Mids. Then everything started to unravel. After finding T.J. Jones for a touchdown to make the score 14-10 in the second, Crist completed just one of his next five passes, including two bad interceptions and on a critical third quarter drive, while down by three scores, Crist brought the Irish to the Navy 24-yard line, failed to come up with another first down. Granted, that one wasn’t all his fault, as Jones dropped a pass that would have gotten him past the marker on second down.
You can blame the fact that he didn’t have Kyle Rudolph and Michael Floyd if you’d like, but this was more just a matter of inconsistency. After starting the game for 11-for-16 passing for 112 yards and a touchdown through a quarter and a half, Crist went 8-for-15 for 66 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Kelly has not been happy with the play of Crist and it’s not all Crist’s fault. However, stupid interceptions, such as the ones that he threw on Saturday surely have to have his coach wondering how much he can trust his junior signal caller. Regardless, he’s stuck with him for at least one season.
After playing teams like Michigan (who has come back down to earth) and Michigan State tough, it appeared the Irish could at least compete with any team on their schedule. Now fans have to be wondering if that’s the case.