Dublin, Ireland – Irish eyes were smiling all over Dublin on Saturday ... and surely back in South Bend, too.
Despite playing without starting quarterback Tommy Rees and running back Cierre Wood because of suspensions, Notre Dame opened the 2012 season with a 50-10 rout of Navy in the Emerald Isle Classic.
Senior Theo Riddick ran for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, while George Atkinson III added 99 yards and a pair of scores on nine attempts for the Irish (1-0), who will try to improve upon 8-5 marks in each of the first two seasons under head coach Brian Kelly.
Everett Golson got the nod at quarterback for Notre Dame and completed 12- of-18 passes for 144 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Trey Miller threw for 192 yards with a touchdown and an interception on 14- of-19 passing for Navy (0-1), which was 5-7 last season and had a streak of eight straight bowl appearances halted. Miller was kept in check on the ground in the option offense, running for only 16 yards on 20 attempts.
Notre Dame took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown. Riddick did most of the work with five carries for 34 yards and a reception for another 11, capping the series with an 11-yard scoring run for a 6-0 lead after the extra point was missed.
Navy tried to answer immediately, driving to the Notre Dame 30 with its first possession. The Irish, though, stuffed Miller on 4th-and-1 and needed just four plays to increase their lead, as Atkinson broke free for a 56-yard TD jaunt to make it 13-0.
After a Navy punt, Notre Dame extended the lead with a 10-play, 80-yard drive. Riddick had 33 yards on five carries and Golson finished it with a five-yard TD strike to tight end Tyler Eifert with 11:20 left in the first half.
The Midshipmen turned it over on the next play from scrimmage when Miller fumbled, but the Irish gave it right back five plays later when Golson was picked off by Parrish Gaines inside the Navy five.
Miller then methodically drove Navy inside the Notre Dame 20, but again lost the handle as he went to pass. Stephon Tuitt scooped up the loose ball and rumbled 77 yards the other way for a touchdown and a 27-0 cushion with 2:12 to play in the half. A video review upheld the call on the field.
Navy had time and managed to pick up three points on the final play of the half when Nick Sloan drilled a 26-yard field goal, then scored less than a minute into the third quarter when Miller hit Shawn Lynch with a 25-yard pass to finish a quick 75-yard march in three plays.
It was all Irish from there.
Atkinson scored on a 3-yard run to end an 87-yard drive and Riddick added another 3-yard run late in the third for a 40-10 cushion. A Navy fumble early in the fourth led to a 34-yard Nick Tausch field goal before Robby Toma scored on a 9-yard run to account for the final margin.