"He lookes so nice," Notre Dame linebacker Bob Golic said yesterday of teammate Vagas Ferguson after the Irish back had run through Navy for a school record 219 yards on only 18 carries. "I've never seen anyone's hips slide so much."
The high-stepping Ferguson did a lot of sliding both inside and around end as the big Notre Dame offensive line buried Navy's smaller massive holes for him. The 27-7 Notre Dame victory looked easy.
"It might have looked easy, but it wasn't" said Ferguson. "They were every bit as tough as we thought they were, but they just got some bad breaks early."
Notre Dame Coach Dan Devine said, "we still have a lot to prove." After losing its first two games, Notre Dame now has reeled off six straight victories and, with yesterday's win, practically assured itself of a major bowl bid, probably the Sugar.
Although Navy came into the game as the top defensive team in the nation, Notre Dame players said films indicated they could run on the smaller Mids.
"It reminded me a lot of the Texas game last year," said Notre Dame's 6-foot-5, 260-pound offensive tackle Tim Foley. "Texas's defense was rated real high, too, but we have great size and those smaller people can't keep running up against brick walls. We know that if we got off the ball together they couldn't keep us back."
Quarterback Joe Montana, who completed 14 of 26 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown said, "The line made the holes and got Vagas and Jerome (Heavens) into the accondary. It's very tough to tackle either of them once they get through the line.
"Navy has the type of defenders who are quick and aggressive and we expected them to come out jumping around all over the place and doing a lot of stunting, but our line just shut them down. A team like that that is fast but not big, you just have to muscle them," Montana said.
Center Dave Huffman said the Notre Dame plan was to "go straight ahead. Navy's thing is to come off the primary block and move to the ball carrier. We just concentrated on staying with our blocks longer," he said.
The plan worked. Seldom did the Irish do anything fancy, but Ferguson and Heavens were continually running free in the Navy secondary.
Heavens, who set the old Irish single-game rushing record of 200 yards on 34 carries last year, ran for 100 yards on 21 carries yesterday as the Irish rolled up 375 yards on the ground.
Ferguson, whose previous single-game high was 140 yards set earlier this season, had an 80-yard run for a touchdown yesterday and shorter runs of 29 and 25 yards.
The touchdown run was typical of Notre Dame's offense yesterday. It was a simple off-tackle play and Ferguson was into the secondary without a Mid coming close to him. Sixty yards downfield, the only Navy player with a chance to stop him was rover Gregg Milo.
Just as Ferguson was thinking of what move he could use to elude Milo, he saw his tight end, Kevin Hart, rambling toward him.
"I said, 'Wow, he came all this far to help me The least I can do is wait for his block," Ferguson said.
Ferguson slowed down and after Hart came across and screened Milo, Ferguson cut back to the inside and scored easily.
"That guy probably would have made the tackle if Kevin didn't make the block," Ferguson added.
Golic, who led Notre Dame's defense with 10 tackles said, "We're working our way back up. We were ranked 15th coming in and we know that if we beat these guys 11th-ranked it would be another step back to where we should be."
Devine said his team was "about as ready as a team could be for a football game, both, physically and technically. Week after week we have to rise to unusual heights at Notre Dame because every team we play wants to beat us so bad. Even Tennessee, who we play next week, could turn its program around by beating us."
"We knew we couldn't lose another game this season if we wanted to go to a major bowl. And now I don't care where we go, just so we go somewhere."
The Sugar Bowl (to face the SEC champion, probably either Alabama or Georgia) is the most likely to land the Irish. At 6-2 now, the Irish have games left against Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Southern California. The Southern Cal game isn't until Nov. 24 in Los Angeles, though, and the bowl invitations start going out Nov. 18, so that game should not have any bearing on the invitations.