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Schaefer's big day against the Fighting Irish

When Navy beat Notre Dame in 2007, Craig Schaefer was just a sophomore and was only playing on special teams. He was credited with one tackle on kickoff coverage in the Midshipmen's historic 46-44 triple-overtime victory.

In the return trip to Notre Dame this year, Schaefer was one of Navy's stars in its 23-21 win. The Robinson High graduate earned a starting nod at outside linebacker because of his strong play in practice, and he responded with a career-high nine tackles, including the sack that led to a safety in the final minutes.

"We gave him an opportunity to start and he did a heck of a job," defensive coordinator Buddy Green said. "He had a heck of a game."

"Coach said I kind of set the bar for myself" with his performance, Schaefer said. "I kind of want to go above it. You build that confidence that yeah, you can do it, and now you just want to do more."

At 6 feet 2 and 220 pounds, Schaefer is Navy's biggest outside linebacker, and he usually rotates with senior Clint Sovie at what Green calls the "raider" position. (Senior Ram Vela plays on the opposite side, at "striker.") Schaefer leads the team with four sacks after coming into the season with zero in his career.

Late in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Navy defensive end Jabaree Tuani sacked Jimmy Clausen, which backed the Fighting Irish up to their 3-yard line. On the very next play, Schaefer simply blew past left tackle Paul Duncan — a 6-7, 315-pound redshirt senior — and tackled Clausen in the back of the end zone.

Schaefer said he had been trying to use an up-and-under move against Duncan throughout the game, but on that particular play, he decided to not use any fakes "and just hit it wide." The play ended up being one of ESPN's top 10 plays of the day, and he credited Tuani's sack with giving him the chance to make a big play.

"You definitely build off of when one of the guys gets a big play," Schaefer said. "You get that energy going, especially having them backed up deep there. You start smelling blood and want to take advantage of it."

Schaefer's whole family was at Notre Dame Stadium, and he met up with them after the game to give his younger brother, who's a huge Fighting Irish fan, a piece of the field. Schaefer shook his head when asked if his brother wore a Notre Dame shirt to the game.

"Obviously not," Schaefer said. "I couldn't let him do that. He wouldn't have gotten a piece of the field if he had done that."

By Camille Powell  |  November 12, 2009; 10:44 AM ET
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