Oct. 14, 2000
By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer
ORLANDO, Fla. — Bob Davie didn’t take Navy for granted, and neither did Notre Dame’s players.
“You’re always paranoid, but I always believe that players follow the coach’s lead,” Davie said Saturday after the Irish beat Navy 45-14 for their 37th straight victory in college football’s longest continuous intersectional rivalry.
“We as coaches worked harder, if that’s possible, and spent more hours (preparing) than we did for Nebraska. In no way was I looking at this as something where we were going to win this game automatically by showing up in Orlando.”
Matt LoVecchio threw for 183 yards and two touchdowns and Tony Driver scored twice on fumble returns for the No. 20 Irish (4-2), who extended their NCAA record for consecutive victories over an opponent and also stopped the longest road losing streak in school history.
“I know it’s going to be written every year about the Notre Dame winning streak, but I don’t really thikn it’s fair to Charlie Weatherbie and to the Naval Academy because those games have been so competitive.”
LoVecchio threw TD passes of 11 yards to Dan O’Leary and 32 yards to Tony Fisher before being replaced by Gary Godsey, whose 46-yard scoring pass to Jay Johnson finished the rout at the Florida Citrus Bowl.
Julius Jones rushed for 105 yards and scored one touchdown as the Irish, who began the day ranked 109th in offense, gained a season-high 447 yards against the winless Midshipmen, who are 0-6 for the first time since 1992 when Navy lost its first seven en route to a 1-10 record.
But it was the Irish defense that set the tone for the day with Driver returning first-quarter fumbles 24 and 22 yards for touchdowns to help build a 21-0 lead. Navy avoided a shutout when Ed Malinowski threw fourth-quarter TD passes of 46 yards to Brandon Rampani and 9 yards to Brian Williams.
“The defense put me in the position to make those plays … I would have been upset with myself if I didn’t take it back to the house,” said Driver, a former running back who scored two touchdowns for the second time in his career. “The guys are playing out there every play. You can see it in their eyes that they’ve got big hearts.”
Navy wore black anchors on the back of their helmets in memory of the sailors who were killed, and in support of those injured, aboard the USS Cole in the Arabian Peninsula on Thursday. The coaching staff wore black ribbons to show their support, and a moment of silence was observed before the game.
“It puts the game in perspective,” Navy safety Chris Lepore said. “It’s not as important as two days ago.”
Despite Notre Dame’s domination of the series, the Midshipmen have had their chances to break the streak, including last year when they led 24-21 before the Irish rallied in the closing minutes for a 28-24 victory.
Take away the fumbles Driver returned for touchdowns, and Saturday’s game may have wound up being a lot more competitive. Navy held the Irish to one offensive TD in the opening half and also forced Notre Dame to settle for Nick Setta’s 23-yard field goal on an 18-play, 76-yard march that consumed more than seven minutes of the second quarter.
Raheem Lambert’s fumble squirted through a pile in the middle of the line on Driver’s first TD. On the second, the Notre Dame safety had a clear patch up the right sideline after Terence Coleman couldn’t handle Malinowski’s option pitch and deflected the ball into Driver’s hands.
LoVecchio completed 13 of 20 passes and was intercepted once in his second start for the Irish, who beat Stanford 20-14 in his debut last week. O’Leary’s touchdown reception boosted the lead to 31-0 and Fisher’s TD made it 38-0 before Malinowski threw Navy’s first TD pass of the season.
Notre Dame won a road or neutral-site game for the first time since beating Navy 30-0 at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, outside Washington, in 1998. The Irish lead the series 64-9-1, including a 41-6-1 edge in games played at nine neutral sites.
“I don’t have anything to do with 34 or 35 of the losses. I had something to do with today and last year,” Lepore said.
“It’s disappointing. But I’d go out there and play them every single game of the year because I think we can go out and beat them.”