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November 3, 2013
Hardy, Smith team to seal game
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- On 69 previous rushes, Navy had averaged 4.8 yards per carry. With just more than a minute remaining and the game on the line, the Midshipmen needed to gain less than their average, facing a 4th-and-4 on Notre Dame’s 31-yard line.
Thanks to perfect execution from junior safety Eilar Hardy and freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith, Navy receiver Shawn Lynch barely made it back to the line of scrimmage on a reverse, sealing Notre Dame’s 38-34 victory.
“It was the last play, game on the line,” Smith said. “We’ve got to get the last stop, one more stop. We practice it on Thursdays, to take the field and win the game, so it was really just a routine. It was balls to the wall, all we’ve got, and we were fortunate enough.”
For the freshman, finding himself in the “fortunate” spot is certainly becoming routine. But in this instance, it was Hardy who made Smith’s tackle possible. Both defenders were charged with keeping containment on the backside of what appeared to be a usual option around the right end. When Lynch ran counter to the play’s initial direction to receive a reverse pitch, both Hardy and Smith were in decent position to halt the seasonally-appropriate trickery. Combined, their positioning left Lynch with nowhere to go.
“Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the guy coming around on the reverse. I looked back out to my right side and saw a lineman ready to kick me in,” Hardy said. “My instincts were to beat the block and get inside of him. I forced the play wide.”
Instead of having an avenue to a first down, Lynch had to choose between Hardy and trying to find space near the sideline. The time spent running horizontally rather than upfield allowed the speedy Smith -- who had pursued the play’s initial direction more than he was supposed to but not enough to be too costly -- to close the gap and meet Lynch before he could reach the needed yardage.
“My job is actually to stay back and fold, so I really got looking,” Smith said. “I was looking too much, seeing that the ball was initially going away from me, so I continued to fold. Then when I saw the reverse, Eilar did a heck of a job slowing the guy down and I was able to make the tackle.”
Tackle made, game sealed, cue celebration.
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