SOUTH BEND, IND., OCT. 31 -- There have been worse days in Naval Academy football history. But make no mistake, Navy's 56-13 loss to Notre Dame today before 59,075 at Notre Dame Stadium will occupy its own dark little corner in the record books.
The ninth-ranked Fighting Irish (6-1) scored touchdowns the first six times they had the ball, needing the ball for more than two minutes only once. They totaled 630 yards, 406 of it rushing. They averaged 8.1 yards on each of their 78 plays, 32 of which were first downs. In short, they did whatever they wanted to do.
The Midshipmen (1-7) moved the ball into Notre Dame's half of the field four of the first five times they had the ball. The first time, they punted. The second time, they fumbled it away on a poor option pitch. The third and fourth times, Ted Fundoukos kicked field goals -- not that they mattered.
Notre Dame led, 21-3, 28-6 and 56-6. Navy's last touchdown, a four-yard run by Deric Sims, was scored with 37 seconds left and was set up by a pass interference penalty on third down and eight at the Fighting Irish's 19.
Had it not been for that touchdown, the margin of victory would have been the 61-game series' largest. As it was, Notre Dame's point total tied the series high of 1970, when it beat the Midshipmen, 56-7. It was Navy's largest margin of defeat since a 70-14 loss to Michigan in 1976.
Notre Dame leads the series, 51-9-1. It has not lost to the Midshipmen since 1963 and has allowed them to score more than 20 points only three times since 1959.
Nevertheless, Naval Academy officials from Athletic Director J.O. (Bo) Coppedge to Superintendent Rear Adm. Ronald F. Marryott indicated they have no intention of canceling what has become college football's longest continuous intersectional rivalry.
"I don't think so," Coppedge said. "We've had them like this before."
"Never," Marryott said. "We would never consider dropping them. We like playing Notre Dame. They're awfully good to us. They're awfully kind to us. They beat us up sometimes on the football field, but it's a great rivalry."
Not today it wasn't.
"What can I say?" Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz asked. "It was a game that was over with 13 minutes to go in the third quarter. I thought we played well."
"We stunk," said Navy Coach Elliot Uzelac, who closed his locker room after the game. "Defensively, the effort wasn't there. You play like that and you're going to get killed -- and we did. Individually, we can't compete against this caliber of team, but collectively, we can. We didn't play as a team. I think some players are afraid to achieve success because they're afraid they might make a mistake along the way. They didn't attack Notre Dame. They waited for Notre Dame to attack them."
Despite being without do-everything flanker Tim Brown from their third play until 3:07 remained in the first quarter, the Fighting Irish were happy to do just that.
While Brown was having a torn fingernail on his left hand repaired (he took three stitches and had it "numbed to the nth degree," he said), Notre Dame completed a 15-play, 77-yard drive that ended in the first of fullback Anthony Johnson's four rushing touchdowns.
After Navy quarterback Alton Grizzard's pitch to halfback Paul Parker arrived at the same time as outside linebacker Cedric Figaro, and middle linebacker Wes Pritchett fell on the loose ball at Notre Dame's 48, Brown returned to a standing ovation.
On first down, he went long but was overthrown by Tony Rice, the first of four Fighting Irish quarterbacks to play today. It didn't matter.
Six plays and 1:56 later, Johnson scored on a nine-yard run that started up the middle, went right and then through and over four would-be tacklers. Brown did get his turn on Notre Dame's next three possessions. His 44-yard catch/run on a post pattern set up Mark Green's 21-yard touchdown run. His 31-yard gain on a reverse set up Johnson's one-yard run.
And his catch of a 51-yard touchdown pass from Kent Graham in between three defenders as the half ended defied explanation.
"I don't know how he caught the ball with that finger," Holtz said. "I guess it's because he's Tim Brown."
Uzelac said that everybody in the stadium knew the pass was going to be to Brown, except three Navy defenders. "If they were going to throw it to anyone else," he said, "I'd like to know who it was."
He also would like to know what happened to the defense that last week held Pittsburgh to 206 total yards.
Uzelac said he felt sorry for his defensive coordinator, Milan Vooletich. "He was trying everything he could," Uzelac said. "Our defense just wouldn't play."
"I think whenever things go wrong, you look at yourself," Vooletich said. "I could have done a better job; the players could have done a better job. Personally, I just think that Notre Dame is better than Pitt. It's not even close."
The big difference there, of course, is Brown. He had 173 all-purpose yards today in nine attempts and an unbelievable 50-yard punt return in the third quarter that was nullified by a clipping penalty.
In any case, this promises to be an interesting week in Annapolis as the Midshipmen prepare for a game at home against undefeated Syracuse.
"We're going to make some changes in personnel," said Uzelac, who sometime during the game -- he couldn't remember when -- got bowled over and came up with a sore knee. "And we're going to work. Boy, I'll guarantee we're going to work." Navy 0 6 0 7 13 Notre Dame 14 21 14 7 56
ND -- Johnson 6 run (Gradel kick)
ND -- Johnson 9 run (Gradel kick)
ND -- Green 21 run (Gradel kick)
N -- FG Fundoukos 48
ND -- Johnson 1 run (Gradel kick)
N -- FG Fundoukos 31
ND -- Brown 51 pass from K. Graham (Gradel kick)
ND -- Johnson 2 run (Gradel kick)
ND -- Watters 6 run (Ho kick)
ND -- Brooks 4 run (Nidell kick)
N -- Sims 4 run (Fundoukos kick)
A -- 59,075
Navy Notre Dame First downs 16 32 Rushes-yards 49-130 65-406 Passing yards 103 224 Return yards 13 32 Passing 7-18-1 9-13-1 Punts-average 7-269 3-100 Fumbles-lost 2-1 0-0 Penalties-yards 2-20 7-76 Tim
RUSHING -- Navy: Grizzard 18-31, C. Brown 13-52, Bradley 4-17, Sims 4-13, Parker 6-8, Pangrazio 2-5, Hughes
PASSING -- Navy: Grizzard 5-13-1, 70 yards, Bowman 2-4-0, 33, Nobers 0-1-0, 0. Notre Dame: Rice 3-6-0, 104,
RECEIVING -- Navy: Hughes 4-64, Bradley 1-17, Voss 1-17, Parker 1-5. Notre Dame: Brown 3-105, Robb 2-21, Wa