Ricky Dobbs scored three touchdowns and Alexander Teich ran for 210 yards to lead Navy to its third victory against the Irish in the last four seasons, a 35-17 rout on Saturday at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
The 84-year old series, which Notre Dame (4-4) once owned like no other in college football history, now belongs to Navy (5-2).
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In 2007, the Midshipmen snapped their NCAA record 43-game losing streak to Notre Dame with a 46-44 win in overtime at South Bend, Ind. Last year, Navy did it again, winning 23-21 at Notre Dame Stadium, the first of four straight losses that ended the Charlie Weis era.
Add this one and Dobbs and his fellow seniors are now the third class at Navy to beat Notre Dame three times, joining the 1937 and '64 classes.
"Being able to say my senior class is one of those to beat Notre Dame three times is special right there," safety Wyatt Middleton said. "Notre Dame always had that streak going with us, but recently things have changed."
Have they ever.
These were the types of startling losses Notre Dame faithful figured would stop when Kelly was hired. Instead, it was the Irish's most lopsided loss against Navy since 1963.
Navy tweaked the blocking scheme and emphasized the inside run by the fullback Teich in its triple-option. And Notre Dame looked helpless to stop it.
"We always have new wrinkles," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "We do the same thing over and over but there is subtle stuff. This is what we are, an option team. Yes, we run the triple but we have a ton of different variations on running it. We had to have some wrinkles because they're a good football team."
The Midshipmen ran for 367 yards, the most ever by Navy against Noter Dame, and Teich carried 26 times to become the first fullback in school history to rush for 200 in a game.
"A scheme is one thing, but you still have to win one-on-one matchups," Kelly said. "We got beat today. Navy was the better football team today."
Just figuring out who had the ball seemed a struggle for the Irish.
"They ran things we knew were going to come, they just did some things a little more often than they usually do," Irish linebacker Manti Te'o said. "We didn't execute they way we needed to be executing out there."
Offensively, Dayne Crist and the Irish moved the ball, but the quarterback tossed two key interceptions when the score was still close. Dobbs' third touchdown, a 1-yard plunge, came after Crist threw his second pick, and made the score 35-10 with 4:38 left in the third quarter.
It was a Navy home game at the NFL stadium, but there were plenty of Notre Dame fans in the crowd of 75,614 -- and plenty heading for the exits when the third quarter ended.
The Fighting Irish had won three straight coming in and figured to be in the middle of the easy part of their schedule, coming off Western Michigan and with Tulsa coming to South Bend next week. Sure they were playing without two top receivers - Theo Riddick was out with an ankle injury and Michael Floyd was in uniform but sat out with a sore right hamstring - but the Irish always have a talent advantage against Navy.
Navy made it clear it was done playing the punching bag against the Irish. In fact, it was Notre Dame getting roughed up from the start.
Navy stopped Notre Dame's first possession on a fourth-and-goal from inside the 1, when Crist was stacked up on a quarterback sneak.
"We outman them by 70 pounds on average up front," Kelly said. "If you can't get a foot on the one-half yard line, you get what you deserve."
The Midshipmen flipped the field and grabbed the lead on just a few plays.
Teich got rolling with a 54-yard run up the middle, then the fullback made a one-handed grab on a screen pass and vaulted into the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown.
"It's the biggest stage I've ever been on," Teich said.
David Ruffer kicked a 45-yard field goal for Notre Dame, but Navy came right back with another touchdown drive. Dobbs finished it with a 3-yard score to make it 14-3.
Notre Dame cut the lead to 14-10 with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Crist to TJ Jones and the Irish followed up with their only defensive stop of the half.
But Crist was intercepted throwing into traffic by De'Von Richardson at the Notre Dame 30, setting up Gee Gee Greene's 9-yard TD run to give Navy a 21-10 lead at half.
Dobbs ran for 90 yards on 20 carries and tied the school record for rushing touchdowns with 43, matching Chris McCoy's mark set from 1995-97.
"It was amazing," Dobbs said of the offense. "Very close to perfection."
Notre Dame, meanwhile, was perfectly awful, but Crist vowed this loss to Navy won't send the team into the tank the way last year's did.
"The guys are in there, they're rallying," he said. "They are a real resilient bunch."