Special teams gaffe helps Navy sink Notre Dame

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Whenever Navy’s football team needed a big play, quarterback Will Worth made it happen one way or another.

Worth rushed for more than 170 yards and two touchdowns, then also orchestrated a triple-option offense that gained more than 320 yards on the ground, to lead the Midshipmen (6-2) to a 28-27 victory over Notre Dame (3-6), Saturday at EverBank Field.

Once again, it was a special teams blunder that hurt the Irish. Having forced Navy to punt for the first time, late in the third quarter, the Irish were flagged for too many men on the field. The five yards helped Navy continue its drive and score the go-ahead TD.

Trailing by four in the third quarter, Notre Dame made its bid. ND quarterback DeShone Kizer hit Kevin Stepherson with three passes for 40 yards, but Navy’s defense stiffened on its own 14. The Midshipmen forced Justin Yoon to try a 31-yard field goal and cut Navy’s lead to 28-27.

Navy almost punted for the first time with 2:31 to play in the third quarter. On fourth-and-six from its own 40, long after the Navy punt, officials ruled that Notre Dame was guilty as a substitution infraction, with a 12th player not able to get off the field before the punt. That gave the Midshipmen fourth-and-and-one from the 45. Worth gained two yards and Navy kept rolling.

A little later, after his 27-yard run to the 2-yard line, Worth scored from the 1 for a 28-24 advantage. The Irish special teams mistake allowed Navy to extend the drive to its longest of the season, 9:00.

Notre Dame’s first possession of the second half regained the lead. Trailing 21-17, the Irish kept pounding away at Navy. Slow but sure, 5:13 in all, they went 75 yards on 10 plays, finally reaching the end zone on a 13-yard pass from Kizer to Equanimeous St. Brown, who cartwheeled across the plane.

It didn’t take the Midshipmen long to wipe out their three-point halftime deficit.

After taking the second half kickoff, they marched 75 yards in seven plays, culminated by a 37-yard scoring run by Calvin Cass, Jr.

Notre Dame led 17-14 at intermission. Probably the most unusual stat from the back-and-forth battle was that the Irish led the time of possession by three minutes.

Kizer completed 10 of 16 passes for 114 yards and TDs to Torii Hunter (26 yards) and Durham Smythe (8).

Worth was Navy’s dynamic player. He had 110 yards on 14 rushes, including a 60-yard burst that set up his three-yard touchdown run.

Navy quarterback Will Worth (15) runs past Notre Dame defensive lineman Andrew Trumbetti (98) and linebacker James Onwualu (17) for a 60-yard gain during the first half of Navy's 28-27 victory, Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/JOHN RAOUX)