Instant Observations: Notre Dame starts fast, sails past Navy, 52-20

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Quick observations from Saturday’s lopsided game between No. 16 Notre Dame (8-2) and No. 21 Navy (7-2) at Notre Dame Stadium...

• Offensive explosions over multiple games in one season at Notre Dame Stadium were a long time coming. How long? When Notre Dame eclipsed 50 points in the fourth quarter, it marked the first time since 1996 that Notre Dame has scored at least 50 in at least three home games in a season. The Irish have gone for xx against Navy, 52 against Bowling Green and 66 against New Mexico. In 1996, Notre Dame scored 54 against Washington, 60 against Pittsburgh and 62 against Rutgers — all wins.

• Playing Navy's option offense appeals to Irish linebacker Drew White, who made a game-high 10 tackles Saturday. In his first start against the Midshipmen last season in San Diego, White made a then-career best six stops. To keep the navy option from getting going, opponents need a linebacker to deliver. White delivered.

• Irish wide receiver Chase Claypool's four touchdown catches marked the first time since 2005 that a Notre Dame receiver has caught at least four scores in one game. Maurice Stovall did it against Brigham Young. Claypool has 20 catches for 332 yards and five touchdowns his last three games. Hard to think there's five better receivers in the game right now.

• Quarterback Ian Book called it a day not even halfway through the third quarter. He finished 14-of-20 for 284 yards and five touchdowns along with a passer rating of 271.8. Is that good? His rating in the loss to three weeks earlier at Michigan was 69.7. This was the Book we expected to see all year. We've now seen it two weeks in a row.

• Notre Dame scored points on each of its five first-half drives (four touchdowns, field goal) and six in a row overall. The Irish didn't punt until late in the third quarter.

• Wide receiver Braden Lenzy’s 70-yard touchdown catch early in the second period, which made it 28-0, was the longest Irish play from scrimmage this season. It would have been good from 90-plus yards.

• Navy won the coin toss but deferred its option until the second half. After going three plays and out to start each of the first two games, Notre Dame drove 75 yards in 11 plays, culminating in a Claypool touchdown catch.

Two weeks earlier against Virginia Tech, Notre Dame gained four yards its first three plays. The previous week at Duke, it went for seven yards on three plays before a punt. The Irish needed to start fast Saturday. Once they did, it made it really difficult for Navy to keep up. It never could.

•Saturday marked the first time that Notre Dame scored a touchdown on its opening possession since the Virginia game, the only time prior to Saturday that Notre Dame had beaten a ranked team. The early score set the tone for the entire day. Notre Dame played confident and loose and fast.

•The Irish stretched their home win streak to 17. With Boston College (3-4) set for the home finale, look for that to go to 18 heading into the 2020 season.

• It took only the game’s first 11:49 for Claypool to tie his career high of two touchdown catches. It took only the first 2:28 of the second quarter for Claypool to register the touchdown hat trick, and give the Irish a 21-0 lead. No Navy defender could cover Claypool. He was that good.

• Announced attendance Saturday in 77,622-seat Notre Dame Stadium was 74,080. It marked the end (finally) of Notre Dame's 273-game sellout streak dating back to 1973. Empty seats were obvious in the stadium’s upper corners and the student sections.

• Saturday’s crowd was the "smallest" for an Irish home game since Nov. 23, 1996 when 59,075 witnessed a 62-0 victory over Rutgers. That was the last game for former Irish coach Lou Holtz, and the last game before stadium expansion briefly bumped capacity to 80,225.

• One of the radio broadcast suites on the east side of the stadium’s ninth (press) level was reserved for singer Jon Bon Jovi, whose son, Jesse, graduated from Notre Dame in 2017 and was a walk-on defensive back for the Irish. The suite also included 10 pairs of sunglasses for Bon Jovi’s party, which came in handy.

Which suite was Bon Jovi's? The one with all the ushers huddled around the closed door.

• Wind chill at the start of Saturday’s game was 32 degrees, three degrees colder than temperatures at kickoff the previous week against Duke. It felt arctic in North Carolina. It felt like November in South Bend.

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Notre Dame players react after recovering a fumble during the Notre Dame-Navy NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.