- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 29, 2006

BALTIMORE — For one half yesterday, Navy’s offense marched the ball down the field against Notre Dame and may have put any fears that the Midshipmen would struggle with new quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada to rest.

Eventually the Fighting Irish defense stiffened however, and Navy had no answers for Brady Quinn, Darius Walker and a patient but potent Notre Dame offensive assault.

Quinn completed 18 of 25 passes for 295 yards and three scores, Walker carried 20 times for 103 yards and Notre Dame bullied its way a 38-14 victory, its NCAA-record 43rd consecutive win against the Midshipmen.

“It seemed like every mistake we made today they took advantage of,” senior linebacker Tyler Tidwell said. “The bottom line is, yeah, they’ve got some great athletes and we’re physically mismatched, but that is not an excuse for us. The bottom line is for us to have a chance, we have to play mistake-free football, and we certainly didn’t do that.”

The Irish scored on all four possessions in the first half and six of their first seven in front of 71,851 at M&T; Bank Stadium. The one time Notre Dame did not come away with points in that span Walker was stopped on fourth down a yard short of the goal line.

Navy certainly had chances to stop the Irish. The Mids forced a third-and-18 on Notre Dame’s second drive, but Quinn eluded the rush and lofted a 36-yard touchdown pass to wideout David Grimes. In the third quarter Quinn had to dump the ball off to Walker on third-and-19, and he was stopped well short of the first down marker, but senior linebacker Rob Caldwell hit him out of bounds and was assessed a personal foul.

On Notre Dame’s final touchdown march, the Irish faced a third-and-13, but Quinn connected with Grimes on a crossing route for 26 yards.

“We had them in some third-and-long situations but they converted them,” Navy coach Paul Johnson said. “We got some fourth-down stops in the fourth quarter, but in the first half they pretty much scored at will.”

Pressuring Quinn was the big problem last season in South Bend, Ind., when he dissected Navy for 284 yards and four touchdowns. The Mids sacked Quinn once and flushed him out of the pocket on a few other occasions yesterday, but the potential No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft next April showed off his agility and improvisational skills.

Quinn scrambled four times for 36 yards, including a nifty 19-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter.

“Last year we didn’t even get close to him. He could have played the game in a lawn chair back there,” Tidwell said. “We did a better job of getting up field and getting off of our blocks, but when we did he would scramble for 10 yards.”

Kaheaku-Enhada, starting in place of injured senior Brian Hampton, piloted the spread option offense with precision, and the Mids pieced together long drives on each of their first three possessions. The first ended in a missed 32-yard field goal after Victor Abiamiri sacked Kaheaku-Enhada on third down.

The next two drives resulted in touchdowns — both coming on Kaheaku-Enhada keepers. The marches went 13 plays for 63 yards, nine for 80 and 13 for 65, and with 2:43 left in the first half Notre Dame led by only the missed field goal at 17-14.

“I thought [Kaheaku-Enhada] did some good things,” Johnson said. “In the first half he was executing pretty good. He did a good job of getting the pitch out.”

Because of Notre Dame’s stout defensive line, the Mids did not test the middle with fullback Adam Ballard much, but Kaheaku-Enhada and the slotbacks worked the perimeter quite well. Reggie Campbell, Shun White, Zerbin Singleton and Trey Hines took advantage of the extra touches, combining for 181 yards on 25 attempts.

Kaheaku-Enhada finished with 58 yards on 19 carries. He completed his first two passes of the game, including a 19-yarder to senior Jason Tomlinson to set up a touchdown, but misfired on his final three attempts.

“I’d give myself an ‘F’. As the quarterback you want to go out there and lead our team to a win, and I didn’t do that,” Kaheaku-Enhada said. “I felt great. It was just a matter of settling down after that first snap.”

Two weeks after absorbing a 34-0 beating from Rutgers, the Mids took a step forward with Kaheaku-Enhada at the controls of Johnson’s offense. Navy’s next three games (at winless Duke, home against one-win Temple and at one-win Eastern Michigan) should provide an opportunity for the Hawaiian native to establish himself before the season finale with rival Army.

“We’ve got to get the ship righted, so to speak,” Johnson said. “We’ve got four games left, and that is a third of the schedule. This team can still have an outstanding record.”

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