Notre Dame 21, Navy 17
November 1, 1997 – Notre Dame Stadium

by Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Somewhere among confusion, relief and ecstasy, Notre Dame won a football game.

Irish quarterback Ron Powlus finally had a fourth quarter worth remembering, Autry Denson recovered from an injury to score the winning touchdown and Allen Rossum saved a last-second bit of desperation on the 1-yard line as Notre Dame survived against Navy, 21-17.

Powlus may have come close to finally finding a signature defining moment that has eluded him up until now. He completed four passes for 49 yards, including a 14-yarder to Bobby Brown on fourth-and-10 from the Navy 32, in a 17-play, 93-yard drive that won the game.

Denson, who rushed for 125 yards on 19 carries, scored his second touchdown of the game, capping the drive from five yards out.

“That play is the biggest play of the season so far,” Irish coach Bob Davie said.

“I don’t necessarily get any personal satisfaction,” Powlus said. “I’m a member of this team and we as a team are really thrilled that things worked out nicely at the end. Everything happened the way we wanted it to in the fourth quarter.”

It almost didn’t turn out that way.

Trailing 21-17, Navy had the ball at the Notre Dame 29 with three seconds and one prayer left. Quarterback Chris McCoy, who confounded the Irish defense all day by rushing for 147 yards in the Wishbone, heaved a long pass that banged off the helmet of Irish free safety Deke Cooper and fell in the hands of Pat McGrew at the 18. The Navy receiver dashed toward the end zone and was beaten there by Rossum, who knocked McGrew out of bounds just shy of the 1. McGrew tried to flip the ball to the trailing runner, but was unsuccessful and the game ended.

“We showed a lot of composure by staying in the game and coming back like that,” Davie said. “Our defense played exceptionally well and they improved as the game went on.”

Notre Dame came back from deficits three times to improve to 4-5 on the season, while the Midshipmen slipped to 3-4. Navy got the first score of the game, led 10-7 at halftime and enjoyed a 17-14 advantage after three quarters before Notre Dame snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat – sort of.

Navy led in almost every statistical department. The Midshipmen rushed for 277 yards, compared to 160 for the Irish. They compiled 399 total offensive yards, compared to 283 for Notre Dame, and held onto the ball for 33 minutes while the Irish had it for 27.

Navy had three passes picked off, compared with two for the Irish – one each by Jarious Jackson and Powlus.

Each of Navy’s interceptions, by Russ Tate and Rashad Smith, led to points.

On the first possession of the game, Navy’s Wishbone was too much for the Irish to handle. McCoy’s first carry went for 27 yards and it took less than three minutes for him to score from nine yards out.

An interception by Notre Dame’s Kory Minor gave the Irish the ball on the Navy 16 on the Middies’ second series. Powlus found Brown for a 14-yard TD pass two plays later.

Early in the second quarter, Navy capitalized on a bad throw by Jackson, who was involved in just five plays. While in the grasp for a sack, he tried to flip the ball and Tate made the pick. After getting the ball on the Irish 35, Navy went 30 yards before Tom Vanderhorst connected on a 22-yard field goal for a lead it took into intermission.

Denson came to life in the third quarter, racing 48 yards for a touchdown on Notre Dame’s first possession, only the second touchdown all season scored after halftime. Smith’s interception on Notre Dame’s second series of the second half gave the Middies the ball at the Irish 48. A 25-yard hookup with McGrew gave McCoy the opportunity to run the ball in from the 2 with 2:59 left in the third quarter.

Navy drove the ball deep in Irish territory early in the fourth quarter. The Midshipmen got the ball to the Notre Dame 18 when Benny Guilbeaux picked off a pass in the end zone, allowing the Irish to start their game-winning drive.

“We should never have thrown that pass,” Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie said. The play was originally designed as a screen but the short man was covered.

“We have to be smart,” Weatherbie added. “We should have never thrown it.”

Had McCoy not thrown the pass, it might have been just another mundane ending.

Scoring Summary

Navy 7 3 7 0 – 17Notre Dame 7 0 7 7 – 21

First Quarter
NAVY: Chris McCOY 9 run (Tom VANDERHORST PAT), 12:02 left. Drive: 61 yards, 6 plays, 2:58 elapsed after ND kickoff. Key play: McCoy 27 run on option on 1st and 10 from the Navy 39. Score: Navy 7, Notre Dame 0.

ND: Bobby BROWN 14 pass from Ron POWLUS (Scott CENGIA PAT), 4:37 left. Drive: 16 yards, 2 plays, 0:43 elapsed after Notre Dame interception. Key play: Kory Minor 13 interception return to Navy 16. Score: Notre Dame 7, Navy 7.

Second Quarter
NAVY: VANDERHORST 22 FG, 8:07 left. Drive: 30 yards, 8 plays, 3:52 elapsed after Navy interception. Key play: Russ Tate 9 return of interception to the ND 35. Score: Navy 10, Notre Dame 7.

Third Quarter
ND: Autry DENSON 48 run (CENGIA PAT), 13:36 left. Drive: 61 yards, 4 plays, 1:24 elapsed after Navy kickoff. Key play: Powlus to Brown for 9 on 3rd and 6 from the ND 43. Score: Notre Dame 14, Navy 10.

NAVY: McCOY 2 run (VANDERHORST PAT), 2:59 left. Drive: 48 yards, 7 plays, 3:28 elapsed after Navy interception. Key play: Rashad Smith interception of Ron Powlus pass at ND 48. Score: Navy 17, Notre Dame 14.

Fourth Quarter
ND: DENSON 5 run (CENGIA PAT), 5:48 left. Drive: 93 yards, 17 plays, 7:41 elapsed after Notre Dame interception. Key play: Powlus to Brown for 14 on 4th and 10 from the ND 32. Score: Notre Dame 21, Navy 17.

Attendance – 80,225 (sellout)


NAVY NDFirst Downs 19 18Rushing 15 9Passing 4 8Penalty 0 1Rushing Attempts 52 44Yards Rushing 284 193Yards Lost Rushing 7 33Net Yards Rushing 277 160Net Yards Passing 122 123Passes Attempted 17 21Passes Completed 6 8Had Intercepted 3 2Total Offensive Plays 69 65Total Net Yards 399 283Average Gain Per Play 5.8 4.4Fumbles: Number-Lost 0-0 3-1Penalties: Number-Yards 5-40 1-5Interceptions: Number-Yards 2-9 3-20Number of Punts-Yards 2-87 3-119Average Per Punt 43.5 39.7Punt Returns: Number-Yards 0-0 0-0Kickoff Returns: Number-Yards 4-95 3-34Possession Time 33:01 26:59Third Down Conversions 5-14 6-14Fourth Down Conversions 1-2 1-2Sacks by: Number-Yards 3-18 0-0


RUSHING ATT GAIN LOST NET TD LGChris McCoy 23 149 2 147 2 27Tim Cannada 18 61 3 58 0 15Manny Metcalf 5 24 2 22 0 9Irv Dingle 3 20 0 20 0 15Gervy Alota 1 15 0 15 0 15Pat McGrew 1 12 0 12 0 12Jason Wolf 1 3 0 3 0 3

PASSING ATT COMP INT YDS TD LGChris McCoy 16 6 3 122 0 69Pat McGrew 1 0 0 0 0 0

RECEIVING RECPT YDS TD LGPat McGrew 3 97 0 69Manny Metcalf 1 16 0 16LeBron Butts 1 8 0 8Tim Cannada 1 1 0 1

PUNTING NUM YARDS AVG LGJason Covarrubias 2 87 43.5 46

RETURNS PR KO INTSPat McGrew – 2-49 -Rashad Smith – – 1-0Russ Tate – – 1-9John Vereen – 2-46 –

Notre Dame

RUSHING ATT GAIN LOST NET TD LGAutry Denson 19 126 1 125 2 48Clement Stokes 12 44 3 41 0 7Jamie Spencer 2 11 0 11 0 9Ken Barry 4 12 1 11 0 6Ron Powlus 7 0 28 -28 0 0

PASSING ATT COMP INT YDS TD LGRon Powlus 17 7 1 99 1 21Jarious Jackson 4 1 1 24 0 24

RECEIVING RECPT YARDS TD LGRaki Nelson 3 59 0 24Bobby Brown 3 37 1 14Jay Johnson 1 17 0 17Joey Getherall 1 10 0 10

PUNTING NUM YARDS AVG LGHunter Smith 3 119 39.7 52

RETURNS PR KO INTSBenny Guilbeaux – – 1-7Kory Minor – – 1-13Ivory Covington – – 1-0Tony Driver – 1-12 -Allen Rossum – 2-22 –