SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Roger Staubach knew he would never
forget Navy's victory over Notre Dame his junior year.
"They had some down years but they still had some great players
in those days and beating Notre Dame was something special,"
Staubach said. "I remember every play of that game. It was a big
Staubach didn't know how big a deal that 35-14 victory in 1963
would turn out to be. That's because the win that helped vault
Staubach to the Heisman Trophy remains the last victory for the
Midshipmen against the Irish -- an NCAA record 39 straight losses to
an opponent going into Saturday's game.
The loss in that streak Staubach remembers best is the first
one, a 40-0 loss the next year to the Irish under new coach Ara
Parseghian in Philadelphia.
"That was worst defeat I've ever had, including professional
football," the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback said. "Who would
have ever thought that would be our last win?"
There was no hint the rivalry would become so lopsided so
quickly. Navy had beaten the Irish three times in four years and
went 30-12 from 1960-63, producing two Heisman winners. Notre Dame
went 14-25 during that span. That all changed after Parseghian
Since then, most of the games haven't been close, and in almost
all of those games the Irish were double-digit favorites. Fans
often questioned why the game was even being played.
Not this season, though.
The Irish are 2-6 for the first time since 1963 and have been
routed three times, including their last two home games against No.
2 USC and No. 3 Florida State. The Irish have been outscored 68-0
at home since scoring in the first quarter against USC and have
lost three straight at home for just the fifth time ever.
Navy (6-3), led by second-year coach Paul Johnson, arrives in
South Bend with the nation's top-ranked ground game, some newfound
confidence and needing just one victory to become bowl eligible.
The Midshipmen are still underdogs, but by just eight points,
and are hoping that the 39-game winning streak is weighing on the
"We hear about it a lot about the streak, so it's in our
minds," Navy quarterback Craig Candeto said. "But I think in a
positive sense it just gives us a great chance to break that and be
the only Navy team to beat Notre Dame in 40 years."
The Irish players admit they don't want to be on the squad that
finally loses to Navy.
"That's a lot of pressure but it's something we're ready to
take head on," safety Lionel Bolen said. "It's not something we
can focus on. We're just looking to get a win."
Irish coach Tyrone Willingham is trying to downplay the
"This won't be the first team at Notre Dame that has faced that
challenge," Willingham said.
The Midshipmen have come close to ending the streak in recent
Six years ago, Irish cornerback Allen Rossum shoved Pat McGrew
out of bounds on the 1 on the final play as time ran out to
preserve Notre Dame's 21-17 victory. Four years ago the Irish got a
favorable spot by officials on fourth-and-10 with 1:20 left,
keeping the game-winning drive alive by an inch or so. Last year,
the Irish scored 10 points in the final 4:23 to pull out a 30-23
"We've been coming close. There are about 10 games in that
streak that probably could have gone either way," Staubach said.
"We still have to have things happen in the right way to win these
kinds of games. But maybe it's our turn."
After 40 years, it may just be.