Is this Navy’s year?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 14, 2004

Special to the News-Herald

Forty years.

That’s how long it has been since the United States Naval Academy football team beat Notre Dame. Forty years. It was legendary quarterback and current NFL Hall of Fame member Roger Staubach who led the Academy in a 35-14 win four decades ago.

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This Saturday, the two teams meet again.

With a national television audience watching

Navy will play host to Notre Dame (4-2) Saturday at Giants Stadium (80,242) in East Rutherford, N.J. Kickoff is set for noon on CBS (WTKR locally).

Navy is off to a 5-0 start for the first time since 1979 (that team started 6-0 and finished 7-4) and for just the third time in 40 years (the 1978 team started 7-0 and finished 9-3).

Could this be the year the streak is broken?

A win by Navy would break Notre Dame’s 40-game winning streak over the Midshipmen (an NCAA record for consecutive wins over one opponent) and would clinch a winning season, marking the first time that Navy has had a winning season in back-to-back years since 1996 and 1997.

Last year’s game should serve as a motivator for Navy. The Midshipmen actually thought they had won the game when Notre Dame placekicker D.J. Fitzpatrick nailed a 40-yard field goal as time expired. It gave the Irish a 27-24 victory in South Bend. The lead changed hands in the game six times and there were two ties as neither team led by more than seven points.

If the 2003 game wasn’t enough motivation what about two years ago? In 2002, a Navy team that was 1-7 nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in major college football history as the Navy led the Irish, 23-15, with a mere five minutes left. The Irish, however, suddenly figured out that they might lose and quickly doubled their score, beating Navy 30-23. It was one of the emotional losses Navy has suffered in the modern era.

So what are the odds of a Navy win? I say at least 50-50. Navy proved they could play even up with top-flight program when they defeated a very good Air Force two weeks ago (last week was a bye week). Notre Dame looked disorganized when they lost to Perdue. The Irish had trouble gaining a good rhythm in a game that should have been a lot closer.

Navy vs. Notre Dame – this could be THE year!

Joe DiRenzon is a regular News-Herald columnist.