former bearsfanContributor INovember 11, 2009

ANNAPOLIS, MD - SEPTEMBER 20: Coach Ken Niumataldo of the Navy Midshipmen directs play against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Jack Stephens Field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on September 20, 2008 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Ken Niumatololo, Navy's football coach, had a lot to cheer about.

The Midshipman from Navy were the underdog against a clearly superior Notre Dame football team on Saturday, but heart won the day.  Jimmy Clausen is a Heisman trophy candidate and both of his wide receivers are expected to play in the NFL.  Backed by an offensive running game through its triple option that generated 348 yards, the Navy defense continually stopped Notre Dame charges, including four out of six times in the red zone. 

Navy made the first big play against the Irish when cornerback Blake Carter hit wide receiver Robby Parris on the 49 yard line, and Ram Vela recovered the ensuing fumble.  Vela was the Navy linebacker who had leaped over a blocker and sacked the quarterback two years earlier to key Navy's first victory over Notre Dame since Roger Staubach's 1963 Heisman trophy year.  12 plays after Vela's fumble recovery, Ricky Dobbs ran it in for his 17th rushing TD of the year.

After Notre Dame missed a field goal, Dobbs drove the team down to the 25 yard line.  Junior Fullback Vince Murray raced up the middle for Navy's second first half score, and after Notre Dame missed another field goal, the Mids led at halftime 14-0. 

Following a Navy punt into the end zone, Clausen, with pin point passing to Floyd and to Tate, drove the Irish to the 1 yard line with five minutes to go in the 3rd quarter when Robert Hughes, a Junior halfback from Chicago, ran it into the end zone.

Following the kick-off, Dobbs drove navy 72 yards in three plays, capping the drive with a 52 yard pass to Greg Jones, his fourth TD pass of the year.

As the third quarter drew to a close, Clausen tried to run the ball in from the ten yard line but was met with a ferocious hit by Edwards, forcing another fumble. 

Clausen returned in the fourth quarter and drove Notre Dame down the field again, only to have a pass bounce off Floyd's back at the two yard line, right into the waiting arms of Ram Vela.

When Navy was forced to punt, Notre Dame started on their own ten yard line.  Clausen drove them down the field for ninety yards in nine plays, culminating with a 12 yard TD pass to Floyd.

Following another Navy punt, Clausen started out from his own 13 yard line.  Sophomore defensive end Jubari Tuani sacked him at the two yard line.  On the very next play, senior Craig Schaefer put Clausen to the ground deep in the end zone for the game-winning sack.

With a minute to go, Clausen drove the Irish in for another score, hitting Golden Tate for a 31 yard score.  For the first time in the game, Tate bounced off the Navy tacklers like a bowling ball.  But it was too late, as the ensuing kick-off went out of bounds, giving Navy the much deserved and unexpected win, 23-21.  Clausen threw for a fourth time best, 452 yards, but when they got close to the end zone, either they missed field goals, fumbled the ball, were intercepted, or could not find a way past Navy's swarming defense.

Afterwards, Navy received the first invitation to a bowl, the Texas Bowl, while they knocked Notre Dame out of any chance at a BCS invitation.