BALTIMORE (AP) — Drew Pyne could see Braden Lenzy had beaten his man, and although his pass was a bit underthrown, that only gave the Notre Dame receiver a chance to make one of the season’s most spectacular touchdown catches.
Lenzy reached around a defender with both arms in a sensational display, securing one of four touchdown passes by Pyne before halftime in No. 20 Notre Dame’s 35-32 win over Navy on Saturday.
Pyne also ran for a touchdown in the first half, and Notre Dame needed all of those TDs to hold off the Midshipmen, who came storming back while shutting out the Irish in the second half.
Notre Dame (7-3) blocked a punt for a fifth straight game. Lenzy’s catch, however, was the most impressive highlight. Navy’s Mbiti Williams Jr. was positioned between Lenzy and the ball on Pyne’s deep pass to the goal line, but Lenzy reached around with both hands and controlled the ball, appearing to pin it against Williams’ back. Then he pulled it around the cornerback with his right hand to complete the catch.
“That was an unbelievable catch,” Pyne said. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my whole life. I’m so happy for him.”
The 38-yard touchdown put the Irish ahead 14-0.
“They throw that ball up 10 times they come down with it once,” Navy linebacker John Marshall said. “That was just that one time.”
The Irish led 35-13 at halftime before going dormant offensively for the final two quarters. Navy closed to within three with 1:21 remaining, but an unsuccessful onside kick ended the rally.
Navy (3-7) had the ball down 21-13 in the second quarter, but an interception on a trick play gave the Irish possession at the Navy 41. Pyne ran for an 11-yard touchdown moments later, and then the blocked punt by Jack Kiser — Notre Dame’s seventh of the season — set up Pyne’s 37-yard TD toss to Jayden Thomas. That was another fine grab.
“I thought there was no way he was going to catch it and he caught the ball,” Marshall said.
Pyne went 17 of 21 for 269 yards with an interception. He opened the scoring with a 30-yard touchdown strike to Audric Estime. After Lenzy’s catch, Navy responded with Daba Fofana’s 36-yard scoring run.
Pyne threw a 5-yard TD pass to Chris Tyree, and then the Midshipmen scored on a 2-yard run by Xavier Arline that made it 21-13.
Arline threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Mark Walker in the fourth, and a 2-point conversion made it 35-24. Then Maasai Maynor’s 20-yard TD pass to Maquel Haywood late in the fourth, along with another 2-point conversion, cut the lead to a field goal.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been more proud of a football team after a game, win or loss,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “I just thought our kids battled to the end.”
Fofana had 133 yards on 15 carries, and Navy rushed for 255 yards as a team.
Notre Dame: The Irish have won four straight, including a victory over Clemson last weekend. After losing to Marshall and Stanford earlier this season, they needed to show they could avoid a letdown against Navy. They did for a half, but their final two quarters left a lot to be desired. Notre Dame had only one first down and 12 total yards after halftime.
“One thing you know about Navy is they’ll never quit,” Irish coach Marcus Freeman said. “We had to match their urgency throughout the entirety of the game. We did the first half. We did not have the urgency and the execution that we needed to finish the game the way we wanted to.”
Navy: The Midshipmen broke through for a few big plays, including a 50-yard run by Fofana, but ultimately they weren’t equipped to stop Notre Dame’s offense from building a big lead before halftime. The pass rush eventually made an impact with five second-half sacks.
Notre Dame has won five straight against Navy and 10 of 11. The Irish have not lost in Baltimore in this series since 1956.
Notre Dame: The Irish host Boston College next Saturday.
Navy: The Midshipmen travel to play Central Florida on Saturday.