If any remnants of last year’s season-opening loss still lingered for Notre Dame, a balanced offensive attack, smooth first-time quarterback and a defense that picked up where it left off quickly put them to rest as Notre Dame beat Navy 50 to 10 in Dublin, Ireland to start the 2012 season Saturday.
Everett Golson, taking the first snaps of his career, was 12 of 18 passing with 144 yards and a touchdown. Golson also threw one interception—a red zone error early in the second quarter when the Irish were looking to go up 27-0.
While many of the headlines will feature Golson’s ability to helm Brian Kelly’s offense, it was Notre Dame’s rushing attack that kept the Midshipmen off balance all game long. Theo Riddick ran for 107 yards and two touchdowns while George Atkinson III, seeing extra snaps in Cierre Wood’s absence from suspension, also contributed two scores while amassing 99 yards on the ground. Atkinson broke loose for the game’s long offensive strike--a 56-yard touchdown scamper in the first quarter to give the Irish a 13-0 lead.
While Notre Dame’s 2011 season may have been defined by offensive lapses and turnovers, the 2012 squad took an important step in reversing the trend by forcing three fumbles and intercepting one pass. The Irish ended the game plus-three in turnover ratio.
Linebacker and captain Manti Te’o notched both his first-career fumble recovery and interception while sophomore defensive end Stephon Tuitt returned a fumble 77 yards for a touchdown.
Things weren't all rosy for the Irish defense, however. Navy attacked the young Irish secondary easily at times, throwing for a 192 yards--uncharacteristic of the Midshipmen option-heavy attack.
With a 30-point lead late in the third quarter, Notre Dame played mostly backups, including quarterback Andrew Hendrix, who threw for 53 yards on 4 of 5 passing.
Notre Dame will play Purdue at home next Saturday.