Oh My God, the whining coming from Notre Dame people has become completely deafening. If it wasn’t so sad, it would be hysterically funny.
Let me say this to start: I honestly didn’t think I would live to see the day Navy beat Notre Dame. Most years, the Midshipmen had no chance to win the game because the Irish were just too big, too strong and too fast for them to compete. On those rare occasions when Navy did keep the game close something always happened: a great play by a future NFL player from Notre Dame; a missed play at a critical moment by a Navy player; a strange call from an official. It was always something.
Then in 2007, in SPITE of a strange call (to put it politely; let me quote NBC’s Pat Haden at that moment: “You can’t make that call.” Except they did) from an official in the third overtime, Navy finally ended its epic 43 game losing streak to Notre Dame. If the Mids had never beaten Notre Dame again I could at least say I saw it happen once. Then it happened again last year and Saturday, it not only happened a third time but it wasn’t even close. Navy beat Notre Dame 35-17 in the new Meadowlands Stadium and the game really wasn’t even THAT close.
This is where the whining comes in.
For years, while Notre Dame was routinely beating the Mids, all you heard from Notre Dame people was how great it was that the two schools played every year and how much they LOVED Navy. After all, Navy had come to Notre Dame’s rescue during World War 2 when the school was in financial crisis. That was why Notre Dame was happy to ‘repay,’ Navy every year by guaranteeing them a big payday. The Irish had so much respect for Navy; for the quality of the players; for the coaches; for the mission they were on; for their work ethic and their sportsmanship. It was just one big love fest.
Now, Navy plays dirty football. The coaches coach dirty football. Navy is dangerous to play against because it ‘chop,’ blocks all the time.
Hmmm. What has happened in the last three years to cause such a change? Let me think about that one for a second. It couldn’t possibly be three losses in four games could it? Notre Dame—Mensch University if you ever watch a game on NBC (or just about anywhere else come to think of it)—couldn’t possibly be, you know, bad losers?
Let’s deal with the ‘chop,’ block issue first. A chop block is, in fact, an illegal block. It is a 15-yard penalty and it is called when an official believes that a second blocker makes contact with a defender below the waist when he is ALREADY ENGAGED with another blocker. This makes sense because if a defender is already being blocked, he has no chance to avoid the second block or to use his hands to prevent the second blocker from getting his legs. It is a dangerous play that should be—and is—illegal.
During Saturday’s game Navy was called for—wait for it—ZERO chop blocks. In fact, it was called for ZERO penalties. Here was one headline in Sunday’s South Bend Tribune: “Chop Blocks a Headache for Irish.” Really?
Here’s what was a headache for the Irish: Being outplayed, outcoached, outworked and outfought by a group of kids who have absolutely no right to not only beat Notre Dame, but hammer Notre Dame.
The block that the Notre Dame people are referring to is a ‘cut,’ block. Cut blocks are legal. They are often difficult to defend against—just like the option offense—because defenses don’t see them that often. Teams that run normal pro-style offenses or spread offenses don’t cut block that often. Teams that run the option—Army, Navy Air Force—all cut block at least in part because their blockers are generally smaller than those of other teams and this is one way to take advantage of quickness, speed and, well, skill.
Navy has run an option offense for 14 of the last 16 seasons, dating back to 1995. Until recently, Notre Dame and its apologists in the media didn’t seem to be bothered by the option or by cut blocking. Now, cut blocks are suddenly dangerous AND dirty. Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly said this last week: “I’m not sure if they’re legal but we have to be ready for them.”
I’m sorry, you’re not sure if they’re legal? Read the rulebook coach. And, while you’re at it, check out the game tape and show me (or anyone else) exactly where and when Navy started running the veer, as you claimed during your halftime interview on CBS. The veer? What were you watching? Navy ran the exact same offense it has run all year, except for going to a heavy alignment on the goal line, adding an extra tackle. Really tough stuff to figure out.
There was nothing—as Kelly claimed—that they’d been ‘holding back.’ As for the adjustments Kelly said he and his coaches had made, um, they didn’t really work that well did they? Navy went 77 yards for a touchdown on its first drive of the second half and 73 for a touchdown on the second drive.
I’m also wondering if these dirty cut blocks had anything to do with the Notre Dame offense scoring 10 points the first 54 minutes of the game before getting a consolation score when the game was over and Navy had gone to a prevent defense. Did Notre Dame move the ball? Sure did. And just like last year—just like Buddy Green’s defense does to teams all the time—they rolled up yards but not points. Navy got a critical stop on the goal line on the game’s first series and Dayne Crist threw two key interceptions. Was that those dirty cut blocks too?
It was completely ludicrous a year ago when Charlie Weis’s defensive coordinator—I forget his name and he’s not worth looking up—whined about dirty play after Navy’s victory. He cited one play in which a Navy player, Nick Henderson, made a STUPID play, going after a Notre Dame defender after the whistle. Then he claimed Kenny Niumatalolo coached his players to try to hurt opponents.
I’m sorry have you ever MET Kenny Niumatalolo? Forget about how good a coach he is (23-12 since taking over for Paul Johnson when a lot of people thought the program would tank without Johnson) you just won’t meet a better man in any walk of life than Niumatalolo. Am I biased? Sure. But the reason I’m biased is I know the guy and I can tell you without any hesitation he would no more coach one of his players to play dirty than he would try to coach someone to hurt his own players. It’s just not who he is.
Here’s the bottom line: Navy should NEVER beat Notre Dame. The advantages Notre Dame has over Navy or any of the academies are uncountable. You can start with the fact that Navy NEVER gets to play Notre Dame at home. They go to South Bend one year; to a ‘neutral,’ site the next year where the majority of the crowd is almost always pro-Notre Dame. (Oh, and please don’t talk to me about how much money Navy makes. The PLAYERS make none of that money and they have to actually PLAY the games).
Notre Dame has been poorly coached most of the time since Lou Holtz left. Holtz is a bad guy—Saturday night on ESPN he literally refused to even discuss Navy’s win when Mark May brought it up; how about giving SOME credit there coach—but he was a superb coach.
That hasn’t been true of Bob Davie, Ty Willingham or Charlie Weis. The jury is still out on Kelly who has a great resume and is clearly a bright guy but was completely overmatched on Saturday. If Kelly does what he should be able to do: go out and get great players (note to Irish fans: Navy’s academic standards are probably tougher than Notre Dame’s and there is also that little matter of military duty after graduating so don’t buy into that excuse from your school) Notre Dame should be able to start beating Navy regularly again.
Whining isn’t going to get it done. All it does is make you look like what you are: bad losers. It’s one thing to complain about Miami when you can’t compete with them but Navy? Seriously, Navy? Give those kids some credit for being tougher, smarter and better prepared. And THEN thank them for what they’re going to do after they graduate.