I was lucky enough to have made the trip to Ireland back in 1996 when Navy played Notre Dame in Dublin. It was a bowl-game type of atmosphere in the week leading up to the game, complete with parade, pep rally, and the usual festivities. My memory of that week is a bit hazy (for various reasons), but there’s one part of the pep rally that sort of struck a chord with me at the time. You know how pep rallies are; bands, cheerleaders, and speakers getting on stage to lead the rah-rah. One speaker was less rah-rah and more matter-of-fact. I can’t remember who it was… Tom Lynch, maybe? He had to be from the class of ’64. He got up on the stage, grabbed the microphone, and said, “You know, we beat Notre Dame three out of four times when I was a Mid.” Of all the things that were said that evening, that’s the only thing that has stuck with me. I desperately wanted to beat Notre Dame just once. I wouldn’t dare dream of anything more than that; seeing more than one win over the Irish just felt like too much to ask for.

That which was unfathomable to me then has now become the reality that the Brigade wakes up to every morning. Navy defeated Notre Dame on Saturday, 23-21, for their second win over the Irish in three years. There was no overtime necessary this time, as the Mids scored on their first drive then led for the rest of the game.

It’s five days later, and I’m still having a hard time organizing my thoughts. Even during the repetitive misery of the losing streak, I knew that I’d eventually see the Mids beat Notre Dame. But twice in three years? No way. Not that karma didn’t owe us one (hundred) in the series. There were certainly a few bounces that went Navy’s way in the game; bounces that, for the last FORTY-FIVE years, had favored Notre Dame. Still, it was up to the Mids to capitalize on those opportunities. They did so in grand fashion, particularly on defense; Navy forced three turnovers for the second straight game. On the other side of the ball, Ricky Dobbs fought for 102 rushing yards and a touchdown. Vince Murray ran for a whopping 158 yards on only 14 carries, and Alex Teich added another 52 yards of his own. Together, the fullbacks averaged a somewhat ridiculous 11 yards per carry. The Mids churned out 348 yards on the ground, which as far as I know is the most they’ve ever had against the Irish. 

It’s not as if Notre Dame had much trouble moving the ball, either. I did get one thing right in my preview; Charlie Weis was going to come out throwing. Not exactly a profound revelation, I know… Still, it was different from the Notre Dame template of Navy games past. And for the most part, it worked. Had the Irish won the game, it might have been a jewel in the “Jimmy Clausen for Heisman” campaign. The talented junior threw for 452 yards and two touchdowns on a school-record 37 completions on 51 attempts. Wide receivers Michael Floyd and Golden Tate lived up to their reputations as well, combining for 19 catches and 141 and 132 yards, respectively. A quick glance at the stat sheet might lead you to believe that Notre Dame scored closer to 51 than 21, but the stats only tell part of the story. The other side of that coin is that the effectiveness of the Notre Dame offense was inversely proportional to its proximity to the Navy goal line. Six times the Irish made their way inside the Navy 20 yard line, coming away with points only twice.

It was classic Buddy Green defense. Navy’s savvy coordinator builds his defenses around two principles: 1) stop the run, and 2) prevent the big play. By not giving up the big play, he forces the offense to make extended drives. And the more snaps that 18, 19, and 20 year-olds take, the more likely it is that they’ll make a mistake. That’s exactly what happened on Saturday, with the mistakes coming in the form of two missed field goals and an interception after Michael Floyd came out of the huddle with the wrong play. After a pride-crushing performance against Temple, the Navy defense rebounded against the Notre Dame rushing attack, holding the home team to only 60 yards on 20 carries. Navy’s run defense was also a big part of Notre Dame’s red zone struggles; the Irish had a stretch of 7 plays inside the Navy 10 yard line before finally punching the ball into the end zone. Now, did Buddy know that Notre Dame would commit all these miscues? Of course not. If Clausen & Company were able to convert on a couple more of these drives, Buddy probably would’ve taken a few more chances. But as things played out, he had no reason to change his approach.

Navy’s team effort was highlighted by several excellent individual performances. Not surprisingly, tops on the list is Ram Vela. Before Charlie Weis goes to sleep, he checks for Ram Vela under his bed. Has any one player been more responsible for the hot seat that Weis currently occupies? In 2007, Vela’s high-flying acrobatics in South Bend led to a 4th-down sack, sending the game into overtime, where the Mids would eventually prevail for the first time in 43 years (you might have heard the story). This year, the senior linebacker just did… well, everything. While tying for the team lead with 9 tackles, Vela also recovered a fumble, tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage, registered 2 QB hurries, and intercepted a pass on the Navy 5 yard line that bounced off Michael Floyd’s back. When Ram was a quarterback at San Antonio’s Taft High School, what do you think Navy’s coaches told him when they recruited him? “Hey Ram, come to the Naval Academy. We’ll try you at 4 different positions before settling on outside linebacker, where you’ll score a touchdown in the Army-Navy game, become the face of the school in its television ads, and almost single-handedly be responsible for the downfall of a Notre Dame head coach!” Fulfill your destiny, indeed. Craig Schaefer and Blake Carter both had 9 tackles of their own, including Schaefer’s game-clinching sack of Clausen in the end zone for a safety. Carter and fellow cornerback Kevin Edwards both played outstanding games themselves. You might not think so based on numbers that Notre Dame’s receivers put up, but with the zone coverage that Navy was playing most of the afternoon, one-on-one matchups weren’t their main focus. Part of preventing the big play is making tackles to keep receivers from gaining yards after the catch, and that’s where both Carter and Edwards stood out. Both players forced fumbles that altered the course of the game; Carter on Notre Dame’s first drive, and Edwards on the goal line. One led to Navy’s first touchdown, while the other kept the Irish from making it a one-score game at the end of the 3rd quarter.

It didn’t seem like the Mids were able to get much pressure on Clausen for most of the game, but when they did, they sure made it count. The margin of victory was provided by the aforementioned safety with a minute left in the game. Clausen simply dropped back too far, and Craig Schaefer was able to bull-rush past the left tackle to make the play. It was the second straight sack for the defense, with Jabaree Tuani getting in on the action on the previous play. Tuani’s sack is particularly impressive. Notre Dame had trips receivers lined up on the wide side of the field. All three of them ran slant patterns. The right tackle was supposed to execute one of those evil cut blocks that Corwin Brown disapproves of (we’ll get to him in a second) in order to create a passing lane. Jabaree used his hands to shed the block, staying on his feet and forcing Clausen to improvise. But Jabaree just didn’t give him the time:

That’s a defensive end that knows what he’s doing. It was also Jabaree’s first sack of the season, which is somewhat surprising until you consider that it’s the linebackers that usually get the sacks in this defense… like Craig Schaefer. Together, Craig and Jabaree put the finishing touches on a defensive performance that might not jump out at you on paper, but won’t soon be forgotten by Navy fans.

The reaction to the game in the national media has been centered around how it affects the future of Charlie Weis at Notre Dame. That comes as no surprise. Other than Navy’s involvement in the matter, I never really cared about the fate of the Notre Dame staff one way or another. I’m no Weis fan, but we’re talking about people’s livelihoods here. My opinion changed last night, though; right around the time I heard Corwin Brown run his mouth. As Notre Dame’s co-defensive coordinator, Brown apparently didn’t like Ken Niumatalolo’s assessment of the game.

“First and foremost, I was very disappointed with what the Navy head coach said after the game. He didn’t want something to be misconstrued, then he said it regarding how we prepared and what we prepared to do. Because I’m going to tell you this, we came out in the second half, minus one mess up, they don’t get anything. Whether you think it’s the right thing to say or not, in this profession, with all the classy guys that I’ve watched and played under and studied, they would never say a thing like that. So to say that we didn’t prepare well or we didn’t have a good game plan, that’s crazy.”

Didn’t prepare well? Didn’t have a good game plan? Harsh words from the Navy camp. The only problem is that Ken Niumatalolo said no such thing.

“I think the one thing that helped us, and I really hope this doesn’t come across wrong, but I think the thing that helped us this year was last year because we knew that they’d line up the same way.  We didn’t execute very well last year, and coming into this year they did a great job against us last year defensively, so we had a pretty good clue that they were going to come back and do the same things as they did last year, and we had a few things.  We were expecting that same defense that we saw last year.

But it was still a grind.  I mean, they’re still a great defense, and we thought we had some alignments in some of our formations.  But it was a grind to get yardage against them even though we thought we had some numbers advantages in certain formations.’

Well, now, it appears that someone’s completely overreacting, and it’s not the guy whose name rhymes with “See who got the polo.” Coach Niumatalolo said that after his offense struggled in last year’s game, he expected Notre Dame to do the same things this year. Is that unreasonable? How does that turn into “didn’t prepare well” or “didn’t have a good game plan?” You think that maybe Niumatalolo figured he’d see the same defense out of Notre Dame because that’s exactly what Jon Tenuta said he was going to do?

Notre Dame had success keeping Navy’s rushing attack in check last season, Tenuta’s first with the Irish.

Notre Dame held Navy to 11 first downs and 178 rushing yards. Tenuta said the Irish can use last year’s success going into this season’s game.

“I think that’s the basis of what you install,” Tenuta said. “You go back to what we did well, and you build from there. That’s your starting point, but obviously, they know that too.”

Brown’s right, though; Notre Dame’s defensive plan was certainly criticized after the game. But it wasn’t by Niumatalolo; it was by Brown’s own players:

After the game, Notre Dame nose guard Ian Williams said that Navy “out-schemed us and I think they just played harder.”

That drew a response Sunday from Weis, who pointed out that safety Kyle McCarthy said after the game that Navy’s success had nothing to do with the scheme.

“There’s a reason why one guy’s a captain and one guy’s not,” Weis said.

But even McCarthy said the Irish defensively “just tried to do the same stuff as we did last year.” That’s what Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said he was counting on.

Hey, Jon Tenuta said he wasn’t even worried about Navy anyway, since he’d “been in this game a long time” and “seen every option known to mankind.” That’s what the “classy” guys say, I guess. Of course, if Brown says that the coaches prepared well and had a good game plan, then guess who he’s blaming for the loss?

Here’s the bottom line. After last year’s game, we saw the mistakes that Navy made. Corwin Brown and Jon Tenuta did not. Despite having seen “every option known to mankind,” Tenuta either didn’t know enough about the Navy offense to recognize when the Mids screwed up, or was so arrogant that he just assumed their struggles were because he and Brown had “solved” the offense. Brown was caught with his pants down on Saturday, and now he’s lashing out at Ken Niumatalolo for saying something that is 1) exactly what Jon Tenuta said, 2) exactly what Brown’s own players said, and 3) the truth, unlike Brown’s accusations.

The funny thing is that Tenuta and Brown’s game plan last year wasn’t some stroke of coaching brilliance, or even unusual. Like several 4-3 teams the Mids have faced over the years, the Irish used a defensive end to pinch the playside tackle, leaving the middle linebacker unblocked and free to move outside to tackle the quarterback.

The pinch gives the quarterback a “keep” read at the mesh, and since the middle linebacker isn’t in the count, it’s likely the QB never even looks at him as he’s reading whether or not to pitch the ball.

This year, Ivin Jasper found ways to take advantage of this, making the middle linebacker run himself out of the play. Sometimes the QB’s motion fooled the MLB into blitzing a gap that the offense was actually running away from. Sometimes the MLB just ran himself into traffic. Most often, the MLB ran outside while the fullback ran right up the middle through the spot he once occupied.

The middle linebacker, the key to the Notre Dame defensive plan, was basically marginalized. CORWIN, WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON THIS?

“What I think is crazy is the lack of imagination for what they do.”


Not that we didn’t see anything a little different. Niumatalolo mentioned having numbers advantages in certain formations. He was referring to what was probably the easiest wrinkle in the Navy offense that fans could identify– the fullback option. With Alex Teich and Vince Murray being smaller and a little more nimble than Navy fullbacks of the past, we talked before the season about how Coach Jasper could take advantage of that by running the fullback outside. He’s called the fullback option here and there all season, but against Notre Dame it was clearly a featured part of the game plan. When the Mids lined up in the trips formation, Notre Dame countered by having a safety cover the middle receiver, with the other safety in the middle of the formation. One linebacker was left to cover the entire weak side. The playside tackle would carry out his block just like he would on a triple option play; cutting inside the defensive end to get to the middle linebacker. By pulling a guard to block the playside DE, it created the numbers advantage Niumatalolo spoke of. That weakside linebacker now has to cover both the QB and the FB.

When the play was run out of the base spread formation, the playside slotback would block the safety. CORWIN, YOUR THOUGHTS?

“What I think is crazy is the lack of imagination for what they do.”


Navy’s third touchdown of the game came on a beautiful 52-yard pass from Ricky Dobbs to Greg Jones in the third quarter. Coach Jasper had been setting up for that play for the whole game. He ran several plays in the first half out of the twins formation, with both wide receivers on the line of scrimmage. As you know, the inside receiver is ineligible in this formation, since he’s covered up by the outside receiver. At first, Notre Dame didn’t realize the inside receiver was ineligible and covered him:

Coming out of halftime, though, the defense figured out the trick, and started ignoring the inside receiver:

On the next drive, it was time for the boomshakalaka. Jasper actually credits wide receivers coach Danny O’Rourke for recognizing the right time to call the play. As far as the corner was concerned, everything looked the same as the last drive; his man, the inside receiver, was on the line of scrimmage. When he looked inside, he saw the slotback lined up off the LOS, just like before. What he didn’t see, though, was the slotback on the other side of the formation moved up in a tight end position. He also didn’t see the receiver behind him backed up off the line. That made his man eligible, but he didn’t realize it. The ball is snapped, he runs inside looking for a run, and the ball is thrown over his head to a player he thought he didn’t have to cover.

The best part is watching the corner try to plead his case while Greg is still running with the ball. CORWIN BROWN? UNIMPRESSED.

“What I think is crazy is the lack of imagination for what they do.”


Perhaps the most satisfying play of the afternoon was Vince Murray’s touchdown run, a 25-yard blast up the middle to open the second quarter. The play is impressive not just because Murray ran into the end zone untouched, but because Ricky put him there. The play is a midline option. Now, on all the videos I’ve already posted, notice how Notre Dame’s linebackers are lined up. There’s one in the middle, and one outside each defensive end, covering the C-gaps. On this play, though, that’s not the case.

Notre Dame called a cornerback blitz. The corner would have the C-gap responsibility, meaning that the linebacker is now lined up over the B-gap. Ricky, recognizing the new linebacker alignment, checked to run the play to the other side. The playside guard, leaving the DT unblocked, is able to get to the middle linebacker. One safety rotates over to cover the ineligible receiver that the cornerback would have covered. The other safety follows the playside A-back and runs in the opposite direction. The defense basically got out of Vince’s way.

This is a great play for two reasons. One, Ricky makes the read on the DT to give to the fullback. That’s a very fast read, and one that he’s struggled with off and on over the season. Two, he recognized the defense and checked to the right play. Ricky has the physical tools to be as good a quarterback as any of us have ever seen in this offense. He’s only a junior, though, and mastering the finer points of the offense takes time. Plays like this are an encouraging sign that the process is on schedule.


“What I think is crazy is the lack of imagination for what they do.”


Navy’s win over Notre Dame is their 7th of the season, securing the Mids’ spot in the Texas Bowl. The win also keeps alive the possibility of a 10-win regular season. Perhaps the biggest impact will be on the recruiting trail; no doubt the comments of “Navy will slide now that Paul Johnson is gone” will fall on deaf ears, not that they shouldn’t have already. It was an important win for this team, for this program, and for the soul.


  1. Wild Bill

    Phenomenal win by Navy. See you next year Coach Brown – or maybe not, since you are likely gone with Coach Weis. The next time you call Coach N, it will probably be for a job.

  2. Knine

    I have watched/attended a lot of Navy football games. The 2007 win over the Irish was the most cathartic. The 1984 win against then #2 South Carolina was a high point in an otherwise bleak season (or decade). Every win against Air Force gives me eternal glee. The Wake Forest victory in 2008 was satisfying… but this will go down in my mind as Navy’s greatest victory in modern times!

  3. usmc53

    The fans need to chant every time Navy runs a play that gets 10+ yards against ND next year:


    Let’s torture this dude.

  4. Wiz

    thanks for writing this blog. I really enjoy reading the breakdowns every week. This week especially. I, like you I’m sure, are constantly annoyed by the fans who criticize without knowing what the hell they are talking about. Why don’t we pass more, why are they only running up the middle. I try to explain that there is a method to the madness. You sir explain it in detail. Thanks.

  5. Navy 93

    Mike, awesome work!

    The pen is mightier than the sword (or at least the “cut-block”)

    If you haven’t noticed already, check out the MSNBC Notre Dame Blog where the writer (arnold) agrees with Brown and says we need to be ready for Notre Dame to “take the gloves off” next year! Ha!

  6. usmc53

    Corwin is getting shredded in the comments section after the article on

    No one is buying what this clown is selling.

    Thanks for the write-up, Mike. I’ve really been looking forward to this one, and it lived up to my anticipation, as always.

  7. Can I send the link to your post to ESPN national reporters? Then I could be playing the respect game with your help! I’d love the irony…and your breakdown of course.

    What I don’t get, and I know I have said this before is how can YOU see this and not the highest paid coaching staff (or one of them) in the country?

  8. newt91

    Great write up! great game.

    And “filed under: e-beef” – Classic!

    New commercial:
    Ram Vela… Fulfilling Weis’ Destiny Since 2007!

  9. 70dave

    Great break down as usual. I’ve been to every Navy/ND game in South Bend since ’76 and many others at various locations (including Dublin and it was Tom Lynch who made the statement) but this was the first one where Navy looked like equals on both sides of the ball. It was a great day in South Bend!!!!

  10. Hey Mike, good writeup. I was wondering if you or Adam were going to break things down. Nice work.

    I do have to wonder why you left out any mention of the cheapshot by Nick Henderson on Robert Blanton, which really was what set Corwin off in the first place. I think it’s fair to criticize what you have included from him, but you conveniently left out the part that reflects quite poorly on Navy.

    Thanks again for the breakdown.

  11. I’m not sure how you can say that’s what set Brown off, since he kicked the whole thing off by saying how disappointed he was with Niumatalolo’s comments. Regardless, Henderson made a stupid play and got flagged for it. No more stupid or malicious than spearing a quarterback with a late hit. I guess we’re all just a lot more used to late hits on the quarterback.

  12. Eric

    I wasn’t aware that style points for imagination on offense factored into what goes up on the scoreboard.

    Wouldn’t it help Brown’s case out a little if he’d said “Yeah, they came out with some looks we weren’t expecting, we were slow to adjust, and they executed very well.” That way at least he’d be acknowledging that we were a respectable team with good athletes and a solid game plan. But with his comments, he’s admitting that he didn’t have any answers for an unimaginative high school offense that ran the same handful of plays over and over. So he deserves his high salary for what reasons?

    Oh wait, forgot about those dastardly cut blocks, they were the difference in the game.

  13. If you read the whole presser, you can see where it all comes from. You’ll know that he’s been stewing on KN since a cheap shot last year on Brian Smith. He mentioned he almost went up to KN before the game to talk to him about it. The cheap shot on Blanton just lit the fuse; without them, Corwin isn’t speaking up and we’re not having this conversation.

    I obviously have a different take on the maliciousness of Henderson’s actions. But I’ll leave it at that.

    I think you could have left out the Corwin hysteria, and it’d be a better post. Instead, you cherry-picked his comments to suit your taste. Otherwise, like I said, good writeup.

  14. Koutetsu Kaigun

    Jay @ BGS, cheap shots happen in every game. If a coach wants to let that fester in his mind for an entire year then that is his problem.

  15. tphuey

    Mike, When you remarked that Corwin’s comments forced you to change (and therefore delay) your post, I was ticked, because I was looking forward to seeing the “breakdown” of the ND defense.

    But you integrated his rant into your comments perfectly! Very nicely done, and it was worth the wait!! It is as if it was meant to be….

    BZ, again.

  16. PJC


    That’s ridiculous. He deliberately took out a player’s knees while the player wasn’t looking. It was as egregious, if not moreso, than Spikes’s eye gouge. He could have ended a player’s career for no reason. It was way more than stupid; it was an intent to injure another player.

  17. Koutetsu Kaigun

    Jay @ BGS, of course it happens at every Navy game. Did you not get the memo that Navy players are vicious animals who seek nothing more than to destroy the legs of every player in college football?
    Get serious, man. I was not speaking of the exact kind of shot that Henderson made, just cheap shots in general. Cheap shots, by their very nature, are dangerous to the victim no matter what the specific attack was.
    Was it bad? Yes. Was it the worst thing in the world? No.

  18. EightyFiver

    Stupid? Absolutely. That’s why there was a flag.
    Intent to injure? I don’t think you can jump to this conclusion any more than one could on the late hit to Dobbs.
    What’s clear is that it had no effect on the outcome of the game and, more importantly, resulted in no injury to Blanton.
    What’s also clear is that this play will be used to fire up ND players and fans next year. It will also be used to support calls on outlawing cut blocking. (Makes no sense, but it will happen.) The drivel on cut blocking is flowing on the UHND site in a piece written by Frank Vitovitch

  19. PJC


    Why can’t we just discuss Henderson’s specific play against Blanton and not cheap shots in general? He intentionally dove at someone’s knees when the player wasn’t looking. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more deliberate attempt to injure someone in a football game before.

  20. usna98

    Bad judgement on Henderson’s part and he got flagged and am sure appropriately reprimanded for it. Seeing how we are the least penalized team in the country, it’s a rare occurrence. Of course, no one on ND had ever laid a dirty hit on someone. Think we would have heard any of this had ND won? I think not. At least Mike quoted Brown correctly, which is more than I can say for Brown.

  21. Koutetsu Kaigun

    PJC, what is there to discuss? He did indeed go after the legs of Blanton. What else is there?
    For a more deliberate attempt how about the recent attempt of one player to turn another player into a cyclops? Or the attempt to break the leg of Adam Ballard (I believe) a couple of years ago?
    Again, is it bad? Yes. Is it the worst thing ever? No.

  22. PJC

    No one is proclaiming some moral high ground and no one claimed that the play had anything to do with the loss. ND lost to a better team. The fact that Navy is better than ND is something for ND fans to discuss.

    Nevertheless, you wrote a post for public consumption(which had a lot of good content) in which you cherry-picked comments made by Corwin Brown without including the comments that make Navy look bad. And then you complain when people try to discuss the parts that were left out? Well, I guess it’s your blog.

  23. EightyFiver

    Actually, PJC, I think the entirety of Browns comments would have made him look worse. There is no proper context for stupidity.

  24. My audience doesn’t need me telling them how ridiculous it is to accuse Navy of being a dirty team. You honestly think that there was an intent to injure on that play, so it’s going to be impossible to achieve whatever resolution you seek.

  25. GoalieLax

    what’s the outrage here?

    ND fans are outraged that a blogger chose comments to highlight from a ND coach that didn’t include one personal foul that was appropriately flagged

    but they’re not outraged that their coach made up blatant lies about what our coach said.

    EAFD ND fans. you and AF should hang out more often. probably have enough sour grapes between you to start a vineyard

    when you d-bags over at BGS write a mea culpa on all the bulls–t calls you’ve gotten over the years and all the times Navy has been wronged in a game against you is the day that I give two s–ts about what you spazzes think about a Navy blog

  26. Goalie,

    Mike and I have had some great exchanges over the years, and thebirddog is one of the few blogs we have a permanent link to on BGS. I understand you taking up for Mike, but I think you’re misreading the spirit of my comments here, which were intended as collegial, constructive criticism, and not a whiny rant. Sorry if it came off that way.

  27. newt91

    great pickup on the (failed) cut block on Tuani. I can’t believe anyone at this level would make such an outrageously cheap block at the line!

    Does this mean KN has to have a chat before next years games with about blocking?

  28. GoalieLax

    ok, my bad then. I know BGS well, and it just seemed like you were saying “forget all that stuff…what about the late hit.”

    I guess i knee-jerked to some of the other comments I’ve read on other ND sites that have been suddenly calling navy dirty and whatnot

  29. In case you’re wondering, the play Brown is complaining about from last year is Bobby Doyle’s “chop” block where he actually went after the wrong assignment.

  30. NavyJoe

    Mike — Nice job of illustrating the ignorance of Brown’s statement about Navy’s unimaginative offense. If he doesn’t recognize the sophisitication of the offense, then he really is unqualified for his job.

  31. jgish92

    I’m sure no Navy player, coach or fan is proud of Henderson’s actions on that play. Haven’t yet seen a replay with sound so don’t know how long after the whistle it occurred. But for the ND coach to bring it up after an upset makes him sound like a baby. And to follow that up by calling the offense that just shredded his defense “unimaginative” simply reinforces many of the stereotypical reasons people dislike ND and the current coaching staff. If he had said, “I’m disappointed by that dirty play, but outside of that, credit Navy they ran all over us” this would be a non-issue. The only guy with nutsack is Ian Washington who was quickly slapped down by Weis. Another swell message to send.

  32. Tim

    Jay –

    “cheapshot” is, to say the least, a subjective and emotionally charged term. In my opinion, it implies no small amount of malicious intent on the player’s part – intent that, except in the most clear cut circumstances, are impossible to divine by observers. Re-watching the play, it looked to me like Henderson whiffed on his initial block, went to recover, and didn’t get in front of the player, hitting him from just behind, almost to the side. Agree with Gish – can’t hear the whistle, but watching the movement of the other players, that play wasn’t long over at all.

    So – illegal play? Yes: after the whistle (I assume, to some degree), and blocking the player from low and behind. Flag thrown. Cheapshot? Ref didn’t think so, or I’m sure Henderson would have been tossed. But using such a charged term (on a Navy blog), and further stating that you have “a different take on the maliciousness of Henderson’s actions” than we do and positing that maybe it happens in every Navy game could, yes, lead one to believe that you are engaged in a whiny rant. You’re just trying to be coy about it.

  33. Navy72


    Great job. I wondered why Navy was doing so well with the FB up the middle and you explained it beautifully.

    You know, it’s interesting. When ND wins and their players line up and listen to Navy Blue & Gold, the ND fans pat themselves on their collective backs for their unmatched sportsmanship. When ND loses, they subject us to apoplectic rants. Amazing.

    The win in ’07 was cathartic. This win was pure inspiration. Greatest Navy win in my lifetime. An ESPN writer compared Navy’s gang tackling to a bunch of hyenas attacking a wildebeests. Very apt. Navy swarmed all day. Pure heart.

  34. Drzlecuti

    That is a great analysis. If CW had gone for the FG instead of the TD on 4th & 3, it would have been an interesting what-if, though…possibly a 24-21 ending with ND on top.

  35. Craig

    Post Navy-ND Game Checklist:

    Calling the option a ‘gimmick’ Check
    Whining about Cut blocks: Check
    Crying about Officiating: Check
    Realizing that Navy belongs
    on the field with you:

    Gents, how come we never seem to get to the end of this checklist?

  36. Ancient Chinese Secret

    From a Notre Dame fan:

    1. Congrats on the win. It was excruciating to watch, but you guys deserved every bit of it, and you may have punched Charlie’s ticket out of South Bend, for which we would all be very grateful.

    2. Fascinating post. I don’t pretend to know much about X’s and O’s (having never played organized football), but it’s unnerving how frequently our defensive coaches were totally baffled by Navy’s use of the ineligible receiver. The numbers advantage created by Navy’s trips formation was also brilliant.

    3. Corwin Brown’s inner Michigan Man has reavealed itself.

  37. Josh

    Talk about parsing words. First, the “lack of imagination” comment portended to Navy’s cut blocking scheme, not the play themselves. Secondly, you left out the most important part of what Corwin had to say, which is that Navy is a dirty team.
    You don’t have the talent to win straight up man-to-man football, so you cutblock. And the sickening late hit on Robert Blanton was inexcusable and shamed the entire team.
    Niumatalolo knew exactly what he was saying, which is why he prefaced it with “I hope this isn’t taken the wrong way.” Note to idiot: if you have to use such a preface for your comments, you probably shouldn’t say it.

  38. Jimbear NJ

    Mike Great work on why FB option worked. I missed the WR was ineligible on Jones TD. Very nice. Like we all noticed during Game Chat the WTF response from ND’s DB was classic. Sort of reminds me of the bitchin we see on this thread. It was late cut block by Henderson . The cut block is what Navy attempts to execute all game long. He was flagged on it. Blanton was knocked down. He got right back up. It was not like we had to send a Seal team out on a recon mission to find his missing knee cap. The fact NBC chose to feature this clip when there were so many big plays and hits during this game is lame.

  39. Lack of imagination in cut blocking? You seriously think that’s what he meant? roffles

    Every team cut blocks to some extent. It has nothing to do with “man-to-man” football, whatever that is.

    Niumatalolo did know exactly what he was saying. And what he was saying was that they expected to see the same gameplan. And he did. Oh noes, the honesty of it all. Gimme more coachspeak, please.

  40. Jdeusna

    I too have a memory of Tom Lynch “64, We played against each other in Fieldball. He was 2 years my senior and held height and weight advantages too. I got knocked down once and he grabbed me by the collar and jerked me to my feet. God I miss that game. Do they still play it?

  41. Eric

    Cut blocking isn’t man to man football? I’m still lost on what that means. So when the ND right tackle whiffed when he tried to cut block Tuani (who he probably outweighs by 40lbs) that wasn’t a manly move? When you can’t recruit 6’5″ 320lb five-star linemen like ND and most other teams stockpile, you’d be stupid to not take advantage of your better speed and mobility by using a scheme that is ALLOWED BY THE RULES. Is Navy supposed to play into the other team’s strengths now?

    What’s next–saying the TO isn’t manly football because it relies on misdirection and deception?

  42. 51 Fan

    Great write up and explanation of everything.

    As for the “cheap shot,” I saw the replay (go to Notre Dame’s nbc website with all the videos; they have it titled under “cheap shot on the field.”) and can clearly see the ref wave his hands to signal the end of the play AFTER Henderson’s block. Additionally, it appears to me that he hits Branton (ND cornerback) on the side of his thigh with his shoulder pad (a close call on whether or not it was illegal). The big reason it looked so late though was the fact that Branton gave up on the play.

    Anyway, thanks for the video breakdown of how we “out-schemed” (those our ND Defensive End, Ian Williams words, not mine) Notre Dame to win for the 2nd time in as many trips to South Bend.

  43. Woody87

    I very much enjoyed the ghosts-of-PJ’s past, but was bummed out that we might not get a break down, given how much of your precious time you would already have spent on that creative endeavor. Wow. Brilliant. Superlative. I feel like Bilbo observing Smaug for the first time. For me at least, it was the finest Navy game I have ever witnessed. I savored your break down of the game almost as much as I enjoyed watching it. Thanks!!!

  44. Koutetsu Kaigun

    Josh, watch any football game and you will see players cut block. Linemen and running backs cut constantly in every level of football as do wide receivers when they are doing exterior blocking.

  45. Two replies:

    To Jdeusna: yes Field ball is still played at two places: USNA on the cold winter fields of Hospital Point and at Attica State Prison.

    To Josh: you are calling the wrong guy idiot…look in the mirror. As a former Navy football player…it is a violent sport, played by men intent on winning …some teams have worse on field reps than others. Navy’s football rep by opponents, I would venture, is much higher than Notre Dame’s.

  46. gonavy81

    I heard a rumor that the team subjected Henderson to the “bar of soap wrapped in a towel” gauntlet beating in the locker room similar to what was seen on “Full Metal Jacket” out of shame and embarrassment. I think they even referred to him as “Midshipman Pyle”. He won’t do it again. I also heard he made a tearful, private apology the Blanton’s mother afterwards.

    Does that satisfy you ND posters?

  47. ND Nick

    Blue Gray Sky continues to represent the “classy” Notre Dame fans that have become like Michigan fans. I am embarrassed that such a sub culture of whining about refs and cheating and thugs has been borne in our fan base. ND fans like Jay and our coaches need to just be quiet. If we spent more time playing these guys like a football game should be played we wouldnt be pointing fingers today. This is exactly why ND loses despite its talent, and why Navy beat us. Leadership and toughness. One team has it, and one team doesn’t.

    Most of the people launching attacks on Navy as being thuggish are the same ones that are upset their irrational defenses of Weis over the years and mockery of those that have criticized Weis has come full circle and they are bitter because they are wrong.

    so never mind them sort of ND fans. We will hire a competent coach and again subdue you and own you again when we get real coaches and then we will sing your songs and sway with you with joy.

    BGS representation here is typical of them, “classy” ND fans.

  48. Dave

    I watched the youtube of Coach Brown and to me he sounded like the ACORN CEO trying to explain an embarassing situation. Coach Brown is embarassed and doesn’t know how to handle it. He has embarassed ND with his comments and that’s too bad because when I attended a Navy-ND game, the fans were the nicest I had ever encountered.

  49. Parks

    I am an ND Alum and I’d like to congratulate the Midshipmen on an excellent victory. I have been reading this foolishness on our boards and I think its demeaning to our program. I think Coach N was the epitome of class in his comments on NBC and I didn’t see his comments after the game as calling out the Irish defensive staff in any way. Unfortunately ND is an undisciplined and fundementally unsound team at this time and while ND may have better athletes, I don’t believe they are better football players or in whole, a better team than Navy right now. While the Irish made several mistakes that led to the loss, Navy didn’t and that’s why they won. Focus by ND or specifically the staff on anything but the utter lack of execution is a coward’s way out. ND was out coached and out executed on Saturday – admit it and move on. Comments like this would never have been made by coaches like Lou or Ara and it is distressing to me that any true Notre Dame man would defend the whining of Coach Brown. If he feels humiliated, he should – he had better raw material but Navy’s staff trained their kids better – its as simple as that. Good luck to the Midshipmen in their bowl, and I hope that followers of the Navy program will not consider all of the supporters of the Irish in one big group.

  50. swoover

    Good write up, Navy had a great game plan and deserved to win. i promise you that you will not win again for awhile after this one, no matter who the coach is.
    Remember this next year!

  51. murph

    I was very proud of the Navy victory and still think it was an outstanding show of character, guts and determination by the Navy team. Coach Brown’s comments are somewhat well founded esp regarding cut blocks, but what does he expect? Navy’s team is far outsized by ND and needs every advantage it can get. There is no way these guys will go one on one with bigger players the whole game–they’ll eventually wear down and get creamed.

    The late hit was….unfortunate. I expect better from these kids but sometimes the heat of battle can affect a teenage mind.

    This post is also unfortunate (kindest word I could think of). Perhaps after 46 years Navy fans have forgotten how to win with class. And please don’t point fingers at Coach Brown–just because he lacks class doesn’t mean that you should, too. I know that idea is taught at the Academy.

  52. sharkey

    as an avid ND fan, I wish to congratulate the Middies on an excellent football game and an even more excellent win. Not all ND fans are idiots. I am embarassed by Corwin Brown’s comments, and am sorry Navy is not getting the credit they deserve. Navy is the most underrated team in the BCS. That being said, if you check comment sections on many of the ND and other sports blogs, Irish fans are as upset as you are at the stupidity of Brown. Again, conrats!!!!!!

  53. t. hagen

    Great win…..Congrats, you earned it but you better screw your helmuts on tight next yr. I think the Irish are angry. I’ll be at Meadowlands to see that collision. Good luck the rest of the season, beat Army and win a good bowl game.

  54. W4ATL

    Thanks for the writeup Mike. This is a great Web site for learning this offense. I can tell you the Tech fans were very interested in the updates of the Navy score as it was updated during the Wake Forest game.

    During his weekly radio show, Coach Johnson said he exchanged some texts with Coach Ken after the game. Coach Johnson also wondered what the guys that rank recruits thought when a team with no 3 star and higher recruits beat a team full of 5 star recruits.

  55. CoroNavy

    Your post is quite educational to the watcher, who never wore the pads, and I thank you greatly.
    Am I the only one to feel that Navy will be honored by ND wearing their green uniform shirts next year?

  56. Hey Mike, I was wondering if there was a slight change to the blocking scheme on the midline option. It seemed that Ricky didn’t follow the fullback right away, instead the motion slot back went through the hole next, followed by Ricky (when he kept the ball). I noticed that wrinkle on the first or second time they did it. I wonder if that was to nullify any attempt at getting back into the play by the MLB?

  57. Am I the only one to feel that Navy will be honored by ND wearing their green uniform shirts next year?

    Navy is the “home” team next year and will wear dark jerseys. ND will wear white.

  58. pills91


    That is the way the mid-line is usually run, with the motioning slot back the lead blocker.

    Great write-up Mike. Corwin Brown is an idiot. Yes, Henderson’s block was a cheap shot, and, he was penalized for it. It really was indefenseable. However, it’s not much different than Clausen’s late shot after the pick.

    And LOL at all the ND fans who believe Navy is a dirty team. Really. I guess the bully has finally been stood up to, only to realize they’re not much of a bully.

  59. DJ

    Why will the Irish be “angry” next year? If they had any fire this year they might have had a chance. This sounds like something Weis would say, like 2 years ago when ND was awful and he told the media to get all of their laughs in then. Well, two years and two mediocre teams later, everyone is still laughing. But they are not laughing at Clausen and Tate and the 85k who show up strong, they are laughing at Weis, Corwin, and the rest of those coaching clowns. I am sure that this whiny rant is the last we hear from Corwin in his soon to be finished coaching career.

  60. Geoff

    Wow, Josh, those are quite some words. I am not sure if you are affiliated with the military. Regardless, any inference that Navy is a dirty team is nothing short of shocking. As a long time Navy fan, and veteran, I have often questioned why Navy plays teams like Notre Dame, a top notch football program. You are absolutely right. Navy struggles to compete with the vast majority of Division 1 schools on talent. I used to wonder if it was good for national morale (or at least the morale of those of us that do and have worn a uniform) to often see our Navy, Army and Air Force teams struggling on the football field. But over the years, I realized that this is what makes our young guys strong. You play like you practice. The football field is practice for what really matters, and that’s performance on the battle field. None of the Academy players are going to college to get to the NFL. They are going to college to get into a plane, ship, or tank. Fighting it out on the football field and overcoming adversity makes them stronger to face must harsher realities after graduation. Navy never gives up. They play to the end. And I believe this is exactly why its important to play teams like Notre Dame. What is our Navy gave up after Pearl Harbor…or what if our Army gave up after initial combat in North Africa.

    To all Notre Dame fans, regardless of what a few people say about either Navy or Notre Dame, I share the same admiration for Notre Dame as I do for Navy. Your school is a tremendous institution. I am very appreciative that Notre Dame continues to play Navy when you have absolutely nothing to gain. I have a lot of pride seeing two quality programs, and players that represent the utmost in integrity and honor that our country has to offer on the field together every year.

    Would be nice to not have another 40 year streak though :)

  61. Witt94

    Ok, I am now convinced even more that Weis was accurate when he said that there were a lot of players who screwed up and film would show it.

    Now, whether or not he should have said that in a press conference … probably not unless he’s REALLY concerned about his job.

    Regardless, Weis is a genius and terrific coach who should stay at ND for the next several decades!!! (or at least for all the odd numbered years)

  62. tman

    For three quarters it seemed that the TO was run almost to perfection. There were times when it was obvious that the same play was run and then the next time the next option was taken. Beautiful. (noticable as I am an avid student of this site) Did not see 4Q as attended Jeff Long’s ’77 induction into the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame. About 40 alumni showed up. Great time. D looked solid again! Bend dont break.

    Questions: Although knew ND could pass anytime they wanted, Temple had just gashed us with zone blocking and cut backs. Why didnt Charlie and the boys do that?

    Many coaches complaining about GT and Navy cut blocking. Any chance it gets eliminated by rules committee?

    When will AF and now ND admit the better team that day won?

  63. Navy79

    Hey, its football……..

    Guys who outweigh you by 50 lbs but still hold to protect the QB, bad calls, bad bounces, cut blocking and getting outplayed by a team whose better preparation and focus sometimes wins out over better talent on paper has always been and always will be part of the deal.

  64. Quisty

    I think “dag nabbit” is the closest that Coach Ken has ever come to cussing. Like every good coach every strand of DNA in his system is geared towards winning but to suggest that he orchestrates dirty play within the team is laughable. All you have to do is listen to him speak. He’s the most soft spoken coach I think I’ve ever heard.

    The number of academic review boards I’ve been to and times I visited the Commandant are testimony that I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer so perhaps I’m missing something so please help me out.

    If Navy is so dirty why didn’t the other 9 teams they played this year complain about it? Just curious.

  65. JP73


    Great post as usual. Your breakdown really makes me appreciate the command of the TO that IJ and staff have. The various combinations, blocking schemes and nuancesof this offense are amazing. Corwin Brown did you even look at the game film? Lack of imagination, are you kidding. We out schemed the the ND staff on both sides of the ball.

    BZ to BG for solid game plan and for a defensive team that played as well as we could ever expect.

  66. GoatParent

    Two Cents- Anyone else think it is curious that a Defensive Coordinator and an Associate Head Coach and staff couldn’t firgure out that they were covering an ineligible receiver for more than half the game? Defensive football 101, count the number of guys on the line and line up accordingly.

    For the record, every team in football cut blocks. I guess Ram Vela could give out lesson on how to avoid the cut block if you just refer to the 2007 game film.

    Blanton, hey guy keep your head on a swivel. My old high school coach said it was a dangerous place out there. Quit spectating and you won’t lose your feet.

  67. kevin

    Navy being dirty is obsurd. Did you know Navy is the least penalized team in the nation? If the block was illegal then flag it, but its hard to make the comparison between that and trying to gouge someone’s eyes out.

    I have respect for ND in the fact that they have some academic standards for their players and the tradition of their school. I hope they beat Pitt.

    Charlie Weis checks under his bed for Ram Vela…. Classic!

  68. Hubie01

    Thanks for a great blog. I’m going to read every week and pass on to all the guys out here in China Lake who watch Navy football together on Saturdays. Keep up the good work.

  69. gonavy81

    @ Many coaches complaining about GT and Navy cut blocking. Any chance it gets eliminated by rules committee?

    If they eliminate cut blocking then then have to eliminate all non-arm tackles below the waist too. What’s the difference between a cut block and a DB hitting a FB at the ankles to bring him down?

  70. Anonymous

    Great write up
    Coach Brown ……Man up and move on (Good luck against Pitt)
    Navy just plain beat ND, out coached and out played
    Go Navy Beat Army!

  71. gonavy921

    swoover better look at his returning players for next years game. I would expect bailout to the NFL for some and they lose their o-line. Good recipe for us. I can’t imagine Brown after we beat them again next year!

  72. usmc53

    Offensively, we are loaded going into next year; almost all of our starters will be back. ND is (probably) losing a lot of their best offensive talent.

    Defensively, we’re losing a lot of our LB corps, but we’re keeping 2/3 of our starting DL, 3/4 of our starting secondary.

    ND will have its hands full again next year in Baltimore.

    GO NAVY!

  73. 89inthehouse

    Yup– Joisey. You from Joisey?

    Should be quite an experience with the new stadium. Christening it with a Navy win would be even more pleasing.

    Beat Delaware!


  74. Chris

    I like this blog too and like to see the X’s and O’s from the opponent point of view, very insightful. Who cares about “the lack of imagination for what they do.” That’s what makes college football great….create system, execute with that system, win game. Crying about lack of imagination is for losers. Hope you win 10 games, see you next year, Go Irish!

  75. Armchairsailor79

    After a fun week of listening to the ND whiners like Corwin Brown here’s what I think they really deserve. I hope they win out to go 9-3. And because they are ND they become the first 9-3 team to get an at large BCS bid. And they head to the Orange Bowl to play ….. Georgia Tech. Let’s see how the self proclaimed masters of X’s and O’s do against the triple option being run by really big, really fast NFL draft quality players. Goliath taking on David’s really big brother!

  76. Irishjh2

    I haven`t seen such a complete game run down in my life.Although an Irish fan,I respect anyone who goes to a service institution.Thanks for the info and good mluck the rest of the way.

  77. hardtack

    A great game and Navy win that could have added further to the great rivalry and respect shared between Navy and Notre Dame if not for Brown’s bottom-feeding excuses, accusations, and insults. As for Brown and some of the other more nauseating Notre Damers we’ve heard from; you can, on any given Saturday, criticize Navy’s game plan, lack of execution, dropped passes and inopportune turnovers, but when you maliciously attack our sportsmanship, integrity, and honor you show an ugly side of your institution and yourself that is not worthy of respect. And just for the record, we’ve “played” and won in far tougher venues than Southbend – just read some of them prominently displayed in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium! Even Ara thought and said so! One more thing: Notre Dame “angry” next year?? “Angry” doesn’t begin to describe the resolve Brown and his enablers have instilled in us to embarrass you even worse next time! Beat Army! (It’s not always about you, ND!)

  78. Moose '95

    Great write up Mike, I thought the ND defender blew the coverage (which he did) but I didn’t realize it was a set-up. I really don’t understand the complaining about the cutblocking it’s a risky move because if you don’t do it right you are on your face and you ball carrier is usually on his back. Look at the Eagles vs Cowboys game where the rookie RB tried to cut block the DB in the A gap. The DB jumped over him and McNabb had to scramble for his life. If a Defensive player knows what he is doing, the cut block is an easy route to the QB as evidenced by the sack Mike posted above, so everyone needs to stop complaining and pretending it’s some cheap trick.

  79. Stephen

    95 comments? Man, it’s going to seem lonely without all the Domers around next week.

    Hopefully, this year the Blue Hens don’t do to us what we just did to Notre Dame.

    Until next year, Big Sean …

  80. Irish Observer

    Wow. great breakdown of the schematics and execution. Quite a learning lesson for me; this makes watching football more enjoyable.

    I’m thinking this is what coach Charlie Weis meant by a “schematic advantage” upon being hired by ND.

    Unfortunately, Navy was the that that used said advantage.


    We all know what a terrible coach he is and its coach Brown,he is a sore loser and he will have to type up his resume after PITT destroys his defense,just a classless idiot.

  82. Tom Rychlik '79

    As someone that watched full replays of every ND game on Sunday mornings before going to Mass I have always held a high opinion of them. After attending several ND-Navy games their fans are some of the most rabid, yet quality fans. (However 9 out of 10 fans that I have talked to at the games actually never attended ND, they are fans because of ND’s winning tradition and reputation.) I think the ND greats that I used to watch would be very unhappy to hear about the way that the ND coaching staff and some of their fans have acted since the game. Although I am from Pittsburgh I was still rooting for their players last night against Pitt. I think a lot of CB’s comments were motivated by the difficult position the current staff is in. Good luck ND the rest of the way and go Navy beat Hawaii, Army, and Big 12 Bowl opponent!

Leave a Reply to gonavy81 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s