PHILADELPHIA -- The bitter truth dawned on Navy co-captain Javier Zuluaga as the final minutes ticked away of his fourth and final meeting against Notre Dame.
The senior linebacker had done everything conceivable to avert a fourth straight loss to the Irish. The Indianapolis native was credited with six unassisted tackles and seven assisted ones, but the Irish still rampaged to a 58-27 victory.
"I realized that our chances of going to a bowl game were over," said Zuluaga, aware a Liberty Bowl bid no longer was a possibility.
"But then I started looking on the bright side. If we can win our last three games against Vanderbilt, SMU and Army, we can still finish 7-4, and that would give the Academy its first winning season since 1982 [6-5]."
A number of scoring records in the Notre Dame-Navy rivalry tumbled at Veterans Stadium yesterday. The combined 85-point total was a record for the series, as was Notre Dame's 58 points. No one has scored that many points against the Mids since Michigan pounded them, 70-14, in 1976.
Junior quarterback Jim Kubiak, who already holds Navy season passing records for completions and yardage, had his seventh consecutive game with 200-plus passing yards with 251.
Kubiak will rest his arm for a week before the Mids travel to Nashville, Tenn., Nov. 13 to play Vanderbilt.
Who's laughing now?
"I told you guys that Navy was the most-improved team in the country, and people laughed at me," Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz said. "I told you guys we would struggle against them, and you laughed. Well, you saw that I meant what I said. I only speak from my heart."
Wave bye-bye, Lou
Holtz pointed out yesterday that while his team has a bye next Saturday, Florida State also will breeze into the matchup of the probable No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams. "They had a bye week, Wake Forest [yesterday, a 54-0 victory] and Maryland [Saturday]," Holtz said. "We've been set up."