By Pete Byrne, WSBT-TV Reporter
NOTRE DAME - Notre Dame rallied from a 4th quarter deficit to beat Navy 38-34, and improve to 7-2 on the season, keeping their BCS bowl hopes alive.
Trailing 34-31 in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame put together a game-winning drive, capped off when freshman Tarean Folston dove into the endzone from a yard out with what turned out to be the game-winning score with 3:47 remaining.
Notre Dame opened the game with an impressive ground attack. George Atkinson got the Irish on the board first, when he carried for a 41 yard touchdown on the game's opening drive to put Notre Dame up 7-0.
Navy answered on it's opening possession. The Midshipmen put together a 9 play scoring drive, totaling 56 yards and aided by a 15-yard personal foul penalty by Stephon Tuitt. A short TD run by quarterback Keenan Reynolds tied the game at 7.
Notre Dame had two chances to go back up by a touchdown or more, and faltered both times. Tommy Rees overthrew a wide open Troy Niklas in the endzone late in the 1st quarter, leading to a short field goal by Kyle Brindza which put the Irish up 10-7.
Then, following a stop on defense, Notre Dame appeared poise to go up two scores. However, a 16-yard touchdown run by Cam McDaniel was wiped out by a holding penalty, and two plays later, Rees was intercepted when a pass intended for TJ Jones was instead caught by Navy's Parrish Gaines. Jones fell down on the play, slipping on the wet grass at Notre Dame Stadium, likely causing the turnover.
Navy used the turnover to take the lead. The Midshipmen marched 77 yards in ten plays. Chris Swain ran the final 11 yards right through the middle of the Irish defense to give Navy their first lead of the game, 14-10 with 8:04 remaining in the 1st half.
Facing their first deficit of the game, Notre Dame needed just four plays to answer. Tommy Rees capped off a 4 play, 73 yard drive by hitting Jones over the middle with a 36 yard touchdown strike, putting Notre Dame back in front 17-14. Cam McDaniel carried twice on the drive for 34 yards.
For the second time in the first half, Navy scores, assisted by an Irish penalty. Notre Dame had the drive stopped near midfield, by an unnecessary roughness penalty by Justin Utupo gave Navy an automatic first down, and the Midshipmen used it to their advantage. The drive continued and eight plays later, Reynolds carried for his second touchdown of the game. Navy missed the extra point and led 20-17 at halftime.
Notre Dame regained the lead in the 3rd quarter. After stopping the Navy rushing attack, the Irish answered with an impressive 84 yard drive, capped off when Rees found tight end Ben Koyack for a 17 yard go-ahead touchdown. The score is Koyack's 3rd in the last four games, and put the Irish back in front by a score of 24-20, heading to the 4th quarter.
The lead was short lived. Navy answers on the very first play of the 4th quarter, with Reynolds carrying for his third touchdown of the game to put Navy up 27-24.
Notre Dame's ground attack was impressive on Saturday. They answer with a six play, 76 yard scoring drive. Freshman Tarean Folston was responsible for 44 yards on three impressive carries, and Cam McDaniel carried the final four to all Notre Dame to retake the lead, 31-24.
On a day where they rushed for 331 yards, Navy's passing game came up big in the 4th quarter. A long third down pass from Reynolds to Marcus Thomas kept the next Navy drive alive, and four plays later, Reynolds hit Matt Aiken for a 34-yard go-ahead score. Navy led Notre Dame 34-31.
Notre Dame answered one final time, by executing a drive that not only led to the game winning score, but ate up 5:08 of time as well. Folston capped off a career day (140 rushing yards) with the go-ahead score, and Notre Dame turned over a 34-30 lead to the defense.
Notre Dame then turned Navy over on downs in the waning minutes, securing the victory.The win improves Notre Dame to 7-2 this season, and improves Brian Kelly's record at Notre Dame to 11-1 overall in the month of November.