Notre Dame had too much size, too much speed and too much trickery for Navy today and beat the Midshipmen for the 20th straight time, 28-12, at Notre Dame Stadium.
The Irish (6-2) were expected to simply run over undersized Navy (2-6), but instead they used trick plays to get three of their touchdowns. A fake reverse and pitchout to split end Joe Howard of Washington, D.C., set up their first, and they used the same play, with a pass by Howard, to score the second. A double reverse to flanker Alvin Miller set up the third.
"Our defense played pretty well, but we get fooled too easily," said Navy Coach Gary Tranquill.
Said Notre Dame Coach Gerry Faust, "We'll take a victory any way we can get it."
The game featured two of the nation's premier runners, Allen Pinkett of Notre Dame and Napoleon McCallum of Navy.
Pinkett, a 5-foot-9 sophomore from Sterling Park, Va., had more support than McCallum and had better statistics than the country's leading rusher.
Pinkett gained more than 100 yards for a school record fifth straight time with 121 yards on 29 carries. He also scored two touchdowns. He went into the game as the nation's ninth-leading rusher with a 110.4 yards a game average.
McCallum, who was leading the nation with an average of 159.7 yards a game, had his string of six consecutive games over 100 yards broken as he ran for 92 yards on 24 carries and scored once. He also caught six passes for 38 yards and ran back two punts for eight more.
"We tried a lot of different things today," said Tranquill, "but again, it was our inability to make big plays, other than Nap, that hurt us. We don't throw the ball well enough to take any pressure off him."
Quarterback Ricky Williamson completed 14 of 28 passes for 112 yards and was intercepted once. Navy's longest gain through the air was 16 yards.
Pinkett was impressed with McCallum. "I was watching him," said Pinkett. "He has the credentials and I wanted to see what else he had. He has plenty. I see why he leads the nation in rushing, but our defense showed how good it is by holding him under 100 yards."
On his first play from scrimmage, Notre Dame's 18-year-old freshman quarterback, Steve Beuerlein, rolled left and pitched to Howard, who ran a reverse the other way, good for 30 yards. Eight plays later, Beuerlein threw a five yard touchdown pass to flanker Milt Jackson.
On their next possession, from Navy's 29, the Irish ran the same reverse to Howard, only this time, going to his right, he stopped and threw a perfect pass to Jackson, who scored easily.
It was only the second pass Howard has thrown in his career. The first one was against Penn State two years ago, "and I'd rather forget about it," he said. Howard, an all-Met in both football and basketball at Carroll High School, also caught three passes for 56 yards.
"Sure, we're bigger and stronger than Navy," he said, "but you can't underestimate a team just because you have those advantages. We ran the plays we ran because we felt we had to do everything we could to win."
After taking a 14-0 lead, Notre Dame had trouble. However, the only points Navy could come up with in the half were on a 36-yard field goal by Steve Young.
Young's 48-yarder, the longest of his career, with 9:38 left in the third period, cut the advantage to 14-6 and put a scare into the Irish.
They responded by driving 77 yards in 11 plays, the touchdown coming on a six-yard run by Pinkett. An 18-yard pass to Howard and the double reverse to Miller for 19 yards were the big gainers.
Navy couldn't move on its next possession, but Mark Colby got off a 71 yard punt to back up the Irish to the 20. On first down, Pinkett fumbled a pitchout and Andy Ponsiego recovered for Navy at the Irish 15. Four plays later, McCallum scored from the three. A two-point conversion pass failed and the Irish still led, 21-12, going into the final quarter.
They scored the points that clinched the victory on a three-yard run by Pinkett with 2:56 to play. Pinkett set up the score with a 22-yard run after a 17-yard pass to Howard.
"I don't think this was one of Allen's better days running," said Faust.
Everytime the Midshipmen tried to mount an offense, a Notre Dame defender would squelch it. Williamson was sacked seven times for 52 yards in losses, twice by Eric Dorsey of McLean, Va.
"We played as good and as hard as we could," said Tranquill. "What more could we do?"