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Irish reign over Navy

Notre Dame wins 37th straight over the Midshipmen 45-14 at the Citrus Bowl.

By JOHN C. COTEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 15, 2000


ORLANDO -- Notre Dame does not have the mystique it once did, no longer resides in the Top 10 and is without a national star or Heisman hopeful, proving that indeed, some things do change.

Other things, however, don't: Notre Dame beats Navy.

Extending its NCAA record for consecutive wins over one opponent, No. 20 Notre Dame had little trouble dispatching the Midshipmen 45-14 for the 37th consecutive time Saturday at the Florida Citrus Bowl.

Converted running back Tony Driver returned two fumbles for touchdowns in the first quarter and Julius Jones rushed for 105 yards as the Irish never were challenged in front of a pro-Notre Dame crowd of 47,291.

The last time Navy beat Notre Dame, John F. Kennedy was president and Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach was quarterback in a 35-14 win in 1963.

Notre Dame holds a 63-9-1 edge in the series, and most of the games have been lopsided, but Irish coach Bob Davie was quick to dismiss the results.

"I cringe when I hear (the streak mentioned)," Davie said. "I don't think it does the series justice. ... I don't really think it's fair to (Navy coach) Charlie Weatherbie or to Navy."

But the results spoke for themselves as Notre Dame (4-2) relied on its defense, particularly Driver's big plays, to get the game in hand and avoid anything similar to last year's rare close encounter, a 28-24 Irish win.

After each team failed to mount a drive on its first two possessions, Navy made the game's first mistake when running back Raheem Lambert fumbled the ball to Driver, who ran it back 24 yards to give Notre Dame a 7-0 lead.

After another Irish score, a 1-yard leap into the end zone by Jones, Navy (0-6) fumbled again. Quarterback Ed Malinowski's pitch hit Terence Coleman in the chest, was bobbled and popped into the air as Driver snatched it in full stride and returned it 22 yards with 2:13 left in the first quarter, making it 21-0.

"My defense put me in position to make those plays," Driver said. "I would have been disappointed in myself if I didn't bring it (the fumbles) to the house."

The returns put Navy in a hole from which it could not get out.

"I felt like we shot ourselves in the foot early in the game," Weatherbie said. "We couldn't get anything going on offense and left our defense out there a lot."

Malinowski, making his second start, was replaced after the second fumble by regular starter Brian Broadwater, but he returned to throw two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

The Irish, who outgained Navy 447-226, were able to move the ball in the first half but were not opportunistic. They settled for a 23-yard field goal after a 19-play drive lasting 7:12 in the second quarter to make it 24-0, and they managed one offensive touchdown on five first-half possessions.

"I was pleased to get ahead early," Davie said. "I don't know that we played great on offense. But as the game went on, we seemed to get more in synch."

Notre Dame rode Jarious Jackson's legs to a quick score to open up the second half. Carrying six times for 55 yards, he set up quarterback Matt LoVecchio's 11-yard touchdown to Dan O'Leary to make it 31-0. LoVecchio threw his second score to Tony Fisher to make it 38-0 a minute into the final quarter.

The Midshipmen, who have totaled 53 points and are off to their worst start since 1992, were held to minus-7 yards in the third quarter. They managed two touchdowns in the fourth quarter against the Irish reserves.

The Navy scores were sandwiched around a season-high third Notre Dame touchdown pass by Gary Godsey. The Tampa Jesuit graduate completed his only attempt for 46 yards to Jay Johnson for the Irish's final score.

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