In the week leading up to the Notre Dame versus Navy game, news of the end to Notre Dame Stadium’s iconic sellout streak rippled through campus. For 273 consecutive football games, the Fighting Irish managed to sell every last printed ticket; however, as the Nov. 16 game approached it became clear that the Navy game would not become the 274th.
The players took the field on a cold Saturday afternoon to face Navy for the 93rd time in as many years, soon proving themselves unhindered by the rivalry matchup. With a 1-2 record against nationally-ranked top-25 teams, the Fighting Irish looked to defeat a No. 23 ranked Navy team. With a loss of yardage and a penalty less than five minutes into the opening drive, Book was forced to scramble, regaining yardage to bring the Irish to fourth-and-1. Notre Dame opted to try for the first down, determined to put some points on the scoreboard during their first possession. With a first down and two subsequent rush plays, the Irish reached the Navy 7-yardline and Book completed a pass to senior Chase Claypool for his first of four touchdowns of the day. Five minutes into the game, the Irish took a 7-0 lead, setting the pace for the remainder of the game.
The Midshipmen failed to score on their first possession despite signs of a productive drive, fumbling the ball at the Notre Dame 27-yard line. With the ball back in hand, the Fighting Irish added another touchdown in three plays, with Book completing a 47-yard touchdown pass to Claypool, expanding the lead to 14-0. The Midshipmen took possession again, bringing the first quarter to a close without scoring.
Navy’s quarterback Malcolm Perry fumbled the ball for the second time only a minute into the second quarter, returning possession to the Fighting Irish. In four plays and 39 yards, Book managed to put the ball back into the skilled hands of Claypool, who scored and extended their lead to 21-0. Navy regained possession but again failed to convert for a touchdown, remaining scoreless five minutes into the second quarter.
With the ball back in his possession, Book looked this time to sophomore wide receiver Braden Lenzy who completed a 70-yard play for another Notre Dame touchdown. Up 28-0, Notre Dame held Navy to 18 yards in five plays, again preventing Navy from scoring and taking the ball back with eight minutes remaining in the first half.
Navy was finally able to hold off a Notre Dame touchdown on their next drive, stopping the Irish on the Navy 14-yard line. Junior Jonathan Doerer successfully kicked a 32-yard field goal to take Notre Dame’s lead to 31-0.
Soon Notre Dame had scored again, bringing the score to 38-0, filling the stadium with cheers and the student section with the sight of flailing kids being lifted into the air for touchdown push-ups. The half ended with the first rewarding possession for the Midshipmen, as Bijan Nichols made a 27-yard field goal to give Navy their first points on the day.
The Irish went into the locker room on a high. In the second half, Navy played better, but an Irish victory seemed imminent. The Midshipmen ramped up their defense, holding the Irish to only one touchdown in their three possessions in the third quarter. Navy matched Notre Dame’s seven points, scoring their first touchdown of the game, bringing the score to 45-10 at the close of the third quarter.
Navy started the fourth quarter with a lost fumble, recovered by sophomore Paul Moala who ran it in for the Irish touchdown. However, the Midshipmen quickly redeemed themselves, scoring 10 points and preventing Notre Dame from scoring for the remainder of the game.
Thus, with four touchdowns, Claypool led the Fighting Irish to a commanding 52-20 victory over a No. 23 ranked Navy team late in the season, boosting Notre Dame to 8-2 overall. The Fighting Irish’s commanding win over Navy sets the stage for an exciting battle in Dublin next season.