DUBLIN (AP) — Navy faced a long flight home from Ireland after the Midshipmen suffered a 50-10 loss to Notre Dame featuring an unstoppable Fighting Irish run game and a desperation Navy move to go airborne.
Coach Ken Niumatalolo, whose record versus Notre Dame fell to 3-3, said he took plenty of positives from the team's three-day trip to Dublin — but few of them from the blowout loss in front of 49,000 fans in a sold-out Aviva Stadium.
"We received unbelievable support from the people of Ireland," he said. "Everything that happened outside of the white lines on the field was great. Unfortunately for us, everything that happened inside of the white lines wasn't as great."
"We have a lot of work to do from a football standpoint," he said as his team faced a 7 a.m. Sunday flight back to Maryland and a home game next Saturday versus VMI.
Navy's triple-option running game, perennially among college football's best, was shut down by the Fighting Irish, and as Notre Dame's touchdowns piled up, quarterback Trey Miller found himself throwing more and more.
Navy ran for 149 yards on 40 attempts, with Miller getting on 16 on 20 carries.
He completed 14 of 19 passes for 192 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown to Shawn Lynch that capped a nifty three-pass, 75-yard drive at the start of the second half that narrowed Navy's deficit to 27-10. That was the high point for Miller, who badly underthrew his last pass for an interception and fumbled the ball four times, losing two.
"We got out of our element early, so we had to pass the ball more today," he said.
One of Miller's spills, under blindside pressure from defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, created the highlight moment for Notre Dame. The other end, Stephon Tuitt, scooped up the ball and rumbled untouched 77 yards to put the Irish up 27-0 with barely 2 minutes left in the first half. It was Notre Dame's longest fumble return since 1985 and third-longest in history.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, outran Navy for the first time since 2008, compiling 293 yards on 46 carries. Theo Riddick and George Atkinson both ran for two scores as Notre Dame showed no signs of missing suspended starter Cierre Wood.
Riddick started the Irish blowout with an 11-yard run to cap an 11-play, nearly six-minute opening drive. Atkinson broke free on the next drive, sweeping right and then cutting back and rampaging untouched through a bevy of Midshipmen for a 56-yard score.
Quarterback Everett Golson, making his first start, put the Fighting Irish up 20-0 with a 5-yard end zone jump ball to 6-foot-6 tight end Tyler Eifert, who beat two smaller Navy defenders.
Golson, who ended 12 of 18 for 144 yards, often looked best on play-action rollouts. But he did make one second-quarter mistake that gave Navy brief momentum when he tried to hit Eifert for a second TD and threw the ball without any touch into double coverage. Cornerback Parrish Gaines stepped in front of the pass at the Navy 4 for an easy interception.
Navy managed a 26-yard field goal on the last play of the first half.
Officially the home team in a stadium dominated by Fighting Irish fans, Navy was left to rue a handful of missed opportunities in the first half that could have kept the contest alive.
Notre Dame's opening drive appeared likely to fizzle out with a field goal attempt after inside linebacker Keegan Wetzel crushed Golson on a blindside blitz. But a penalty on another Navy defender for illegal hands to the face gave the drive new life, and Riddick scored on the next play.
On their own first drive, the Midshipmen moved briskly to the Notre Dame 30, went for it on fourth-and-1, and Miller's run off left tackle was stuffed for no gain.
Down 20-0 in the second, Miller led a 13-play, 7-minute drive to Notre Dame's 16 — but then fumbled the ball to Tuitt.
"Against a team like Notre Dame, you can't miss when you have those opportunities. Trey understands that," Niumatalolo said. "We have to capitalize when given the chance. Doing so has been the blueprint to our success in the past."
In the fourth quarter, Navy's defense held backup Notre Dame quarterback Andrew Hendrix to a quick three-and-out and fielded a punt on Notre Dame's 33. But quarterback Keenan Reynolds, brought in for garbage-time relief of Miller, was hit from the side on his first option play and fumbled the ball away.