Noie: Dude, everything's cool as Notre Dame moves to 8-0

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

SAN DIEGO — Life moves at a different pace out this way, a pace where there never seems to be any worry about what might happen or has happened.

It just happens, so roll with it, whether crawling in traffic on a congested freeway, catching an early wave off the Pacific or wondering why the nation’s third-ranked team couldn’t drop the hammer Saturday night in SDCCU Stadium.

Dude … chill.

That’s the feeling about a 44-22 victory by No.3 Notre Dame over Navy.

“I’m glad this game’s over,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said, for myriad reasons. “Glad to get out of here with a victory.”

Seemingly set to put it on cruise control after building a 27-0 halftime lead, the Irish nearly sputtered and stumbled into a close contest. The Midshipmen kept getting close, then closer, but never really close enough. Not against these guys. Not this year. That means something, but often gets lost in the shuffle of missed tackles and missed opportunities.

When it was over, the Irish again had all the answers. They now sail into the final month of the regular season undefeated for the first time since 2012.

A running clock after halftime would have allowed a rather large contingent of Irish faithful in the sellout crowd to catch a late dinner — fish tacos for everyone — in the Gaslamp Quarter of downtown.

Really, this one couldn’t end soon enough, but a seat in the open-air press box of a former professional baseball/football stadium was a pleasant experience on what began as a 71 degree night with a light breeze. Know what locals call that?

Saturday.

So what if Navy ran it down the field to start the second half. Then did it again. Didn’t matter. Hard to find much wrong with Notre Dame rushing for 254 yards and finishing with 584 total. It limited Navy to 2-of-12 in the all-important third-down conversions. It played like the nation’s No. 3 team. Again.

“They’re ranked No. 3 for a reason,” said Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo. “That’s a really good football team.”

With the potential to be better. The Irish know it. They made some plays. They could have made more. They will.

“If we keep preparing like we have been,” said quarterback Ian Book, “I think we’ll be fine.”

This one had a second-half look of an Irish men’s basketball game when a big Notre Dame lead gets sliced to single digits late, then winds up as a less-than-impressive outcome. Fans fret. Wonder. Worry. But the only outcome that matters is one.

A win.

That it was.

Impressive? Absolutely. Eight wins. No losses.

But, what about ...

But, what about ...

But, what about ...

No buts. Just wins. Especially as November beckons.

Saturday was too nice of a night in too nice of a town to worry about anything else, like going back to the cold and gray of Northern Indiana. Or about Book’s interception, or Miles Boykin’s fumble on the first play from scrimmage. Or Navy’s ability to move the ball in the second half.

No reason to worry about this team and this season. They’re different. We’re seeing it every week. Saw it again Saturday.

For the Irish, it was yet another challenge — we’ve lost track of exactly how many — they answered. Michigan? Check. Virginia Tech? Check. Stanford? Check. Navy? Check.

Center Sam Mustipher said earlier in the week that Notre Dame would have to play perfect to keep the Midshipmen from running the ball down the field, running up chunks of yardage and running down the clock. Notre Dame wasn’t perfect, but still confidently chases perfection as November nears.

Next up is Northwestern, feeling a whole lot full of itself after beating a weird Wisconsin team at Ryan Field earlier Saturday afternoon. After that, who knows? Will Florida State care in the cold of Notre Dame Stadium? At night? Syracuse? Anything can happen in those crazy Shamrock Series uniforms. This year, it’s in pinstripes for the game at Yankee Stadium.

Notre Dame’s right where it wants to be, right where it needs to be. Still believing it can do what it needs to do.

“The next month, we’re going to play some teams (where) we’re going to have to exert our will,” Kelly said. “We’re not there yet.”

Yet moving in the right direction. Still.

So chill.

Notre Dame’s Dexter Williams (2) celebrates scoring one of his three touchdowns during the ND’s 44-22 win over Navy, Saturday at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego.