Irish beat pesky Navy, 27-21

Published 12:05 am Sunday, November 16, 2008

A passing rain storm seemed to be the only thing putting a damper on Charlie Weis’ day.

Notre Dame was a couple of minutes away from giving its coach a drama-free and much-needed victory. Then things got strange, and a tense week for college football’s most storied program culminated with an uneasy ending against Navy.

A year after the Fighting Irish had their record 43-game winning streak against Navy snapped, Notre Dame had to withstand a frenetic rally by the Midshipmen in the final minute and a half to win 27-21 Saturday.

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“We made the game a little too exciting at the end,” Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen said. “But we’re happy to come out with the victory.”

The Midshipmen (6-4) trailed 27-7 when Shun White broke loose for a 24-yard touchdown run that seemed as if it would provide little more than window dressing with 1:39 left.

Then Navy linebacker Corey Johnson recovered an onside kick at the Notre Dame 41 and the Irish sent their first-team defense back in.

It didn’t help. Ricky Dobbs completed a 40-yard pass down the sideline to Tyree Barnes, then ran in from a yard out, and it was 27-21 with 1:21 left and another onside kick coming.

The second worked even better, as Johnson leaped to come up with a high bouncer.

“Once we got the second one I felt in my heart we were going to win,” Johnson said.

Navy again took over at the 41. But this time, Dobbs couldn’t get the ball downfield. Pat Kuntz’s sack keyed the defensive stand, and when Dobbs’ final pass sailed high, Notre Dame (6-4) could finally rest.

“Before we get going, anyone want to be on my hands team next week?” Weis asked reporters after the game. “Any volunteers?”

There would be no repeat of last year’s stunner in South Bend, Ind., nor of Navy’s 20-point, fourth-quarter comeback that helped beat Temple two weeks ago.