Head-to-head: Army vs. Notre Dame

The Army Black Knights will face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Yankee Stadium on Saturday. Both teams are coming off impressive wins. In their last game Army defeated Kent State 45-28 on the road. Notre Dame dominated No. 14 ranked Utah 28-3 in their most impressive win this year. The Irish lead the series with Army, 37-8-4.

The old Yankee Stadium played host to many Army-Notre Dame battles including the legendary 0-0 battle in 1946. That was Army's most recent national championship team.

Notre Dame
Army rushing offense
Notre Dame rushing defense
Army ran for 233 yards and scored six rushing touchdowns against Kent State's 3-4 defense that entered the game leading the nation in rushing defense. The Golden Flashes had allowed only 69 rushing yards a game. Fullback Jared Hassin produced 75 yards on 23 carries and scored a touchdown. Hassin, who has 858 yards and 9 touchdowns this year, had rushed for over 100 yards the previous four games. Jared does need to protect the ball better as he's fumbled too many times this season. Quarterback Trent Steelman had a terrific game reading the defense against Kent State. Trent gained 37 yards on 13 carries and scored two touchdowns. On the season Steelman has rushed for 596 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. The Black Knights currently are ranked eighth in the country in rushing. Brian Cobbs had his best game in weeks as he rushed for 64 yards and scored his fifth touchdown. Cobbs broke off a season long 45-yard run. He had a nice run when he reversed field and gained 14 yards on the first play after Travis' interception. Army's offensive line did a great job against Kent State's strong defensive front. Notre Dame's 3-4 defense ranks 66th in the nation against the run allowing 155 yards a game. The strength of the Irish is their linebackers. Inside linebacker Te'o Manri is a tackling machine. He is active, runs well and leads team with 109 tackles. Fellow inside linebacker Carlo Calabrese has posted 59 tackles. The Irish lost star nose guard Ian Williams in the Navy game. He was replaced by Sean Cwynar who had a career high six tackles against Navy. The Notre Dame defensive plan against Navy's option was a disaster as they crashed their inside linebackers into the A gaps only to have Navy's fullback run pass them in B gaps. Navy was able to generate over 300 yards rushing between their fullbacks and quarterbacks.  
Army passing offense
Notre Dame passing defense
Trent Steelman on the season has completed 56.6 percent of his passes for 798 yards with 5 touchdowns and only one interception. Trent Steelman was nearly perfect against Kent State as he completed 9-of-10 passes for a season high 149 yards. Wide receiver Austin Barr caught a 39-yard pass to set up a touchdown Saturday. Barr leads the team with 13 catches for 202 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver George Jordan had a career high four catches for 46 yards against Kent State. Wide receiver Davyd Brooks, who has 10 catches for 162 yards and one touchdown, made a career long 41-yard reception on a great throw by Steelman. The offensive lines' pass blocking was outstanding against Kent State which entered the game ranked 11th in the country in sacks. The Black Knights do not pass often but do lead the nation in sack percentage which is rare for an option team that usually struggles in pass protection. ND ranks 76th in the nation in pass defense. ND's secondary is led by Harrison Smith. Smith has posted 73 tackles and has three interceptions this year. Outside linebacker Darius Fleming leads the team with 5 1/2 sacks. Defensive end Ethan Johnson has.5 sacks this year and leads all Irish players with 12.5 career sacks. Cornerback Darius Walls is a very experienced cornerback and has two interceptions and 31 tackles this year. Kapron Lewis-Moore is a talented 6-4, 283 defensive end who led the defensive line in tackles last year. This year he has 44 tackles and recorded two sacks.  
Notre Dame rushing offense
Army rushing defense
Notre Dame ranks only 100th in the nation in rushing offense averaging just 114 yards a game. Cierre Wood rushed for 71 yards in the win over Utah and brings game breaking speed to the running back spot. Leading rusher Armando Allen is out with an injury. Short yardage back Robert Hughes has 111 yards on 21 carries this year Quarterback Tommy Rees is not as mobile as Dayne Crist who had rushed for 4 touchdowns. The Irish can run the ball but the nature of the spread passing scheme causes them to abandon the run too often. Army ranks 45th in the country in rush defense allowing 140 yards a game. Army didn't tackle well against the Golden Flashes as Kent State almost doubled their usual rushing output with 185 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Mike linebacker Stephen Anderson leads the team with 72 tackles and had a huge forced fumble against Kent State. Army can have some problems stopping spread teams that use multiple wide receiver sets to create running room. Notre Dame will have a size advantage to run at the Black Knights but their offensive temperament is still pass first. I do think that the Irish game plan will be more conservative this week similar to the way they played against Utah.  
Notre Dame passing offense
Army passing defense
The Irish offense ranks 21st in the nation in passing, averaging over 272 yards a game. Notre Dame is led by sophomore quarterback Tommy Rees who replaced the injured Dayne Crist three games ago. Rees has played well completing 62.2 percent of his passes for 542 yards with 7 touchdowns against four interceptions. After throwing 54 times against Tulsa, the Irish dialed it down as Rees attempted just 20 passes against Utah but threw 3 touchdown passes. Rees threw three interceptions in the loss to Tulsa but none in the victory over the Utes. Notre Dame has lost much of its receiving corps to injury. Super star junior Michael Floyd, 59 catches for 767yards and 9 touchdowns, is back from a hamstring injury. Floyd presents a matchup nightmare for the Black Knights. Floyd has 25 receiving touchdowns in 27 games played during his career at Notre Dame. Sophomore wide receiver Theo Riddick and tight end Kyle Rudolph are out. Freshman wide receiver T.J. Jones, who has 22 catches for 287 yards and three touchdowns, has played well the last two weeks. Seldom used senior wide receiver Duval Kamara caught two touchdowns passes against Utah. Kamara at 6-4, 225 has the type of size that has given the Black knights secondary trouble this season. Notre Dame's offensive line is ranked 58th in sacks allowed. Rees has a quick release and has done a better job than Crist in getting rid of the football and not taking sacks.  
Special Teams
ND walk on field goal kicker David Ruffer has hit all 13 field goal attempts this season. Ruffer is automatic as he has hit an amazing 18 field goal attempts in a row over the last two years. Punter Ben Turk has averaged 38.6 yards a punt. For the season opponents haven't returned many punts. The Irish did allow one punt return for a touchdown. Other than that breakdown Notre Dame has given up only 10 yards on 10 returns. Notre Dame's punt returners have been ineffective since Armando Allen was hurt. On kickoff returns speedy Cierre Woods and Bennett Jackson has averaged 21.2 on kick returns. The Irish do a good job covering kickoffs. They are allowing only 19.1 yards on kickoff returns. Notre Dame had two big special teams plays in their win over Utah. Robert Blanton blocked a punt and returned it 6 yards for a touchdown. The Irish also forced a fumble on the opening kickoff of second half which led to a touchdown. Alex Carlton hit a clutch season long 49 yard-field goal attempt in the fourth quarter to make it a three score game against Kent State. Carlton, after struggling earlier in season, has now hit eight field goal attempts in a row. Jonathan Bulls has averaged 39.6 yards per punt. Bulls has done an exceptional job limiting punt returns. Before last week's 36-yard return the longest punt return the Black Knights had allowed this year was just 6 yards. Stephen Anderson made a heads up tackle in stopping a Golden Flashes fake field goal attempt. Kent State had a kickoff return for a touchdown called back because of a penalty. Matt Campbell took advantage of a strong wind to hit two kickoffs for rare touch backs last Saturday. Josh Jackson has averaged 7.3 yards on punt returns this year.  
New Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is a tremendous offensive coach. He's producing winning programs at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan and Cincinnati with his spread passing game. Kelly has won six various Coach of the Year honors, a couple of Division II national championships and nine conference titles. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco's defense had a good day against a shell shocked Utah team but has struggled against option running teams. In two games matched against Navy's spread option offense his teams have yielded an average of 370 rushing yards per game. Diaco seemed at a total lost to explain his defensive scheme after Navy hammered them. Listen HERE. Ian Shields did a nice job on preparing the offense which took it to a physical Kent State team. Shields offense run veer type plays out of a halfbone look. Notre Dame struggled with Navy's "heavy" formation where they couldn't tackle the fullback. Army should be able to run inside. On the first two drives against Kent State, Rich Ellerson went for it on fourth-and-one against and scored touchdowns instead of kicking field goals like he chose to do against Air Force. You could feel the difference in confidence of the team. Payam Saadat and Chris Smeland used the flex front to confuse the KSU quarterbacks and create pressure forcing three interceptions.  
With the subway alumni at the new Yankee Stadium this will be essentially an Irish home game. The Irish are motivated to become bowl eligible. Army will be motivated in its highest profile game of the season. Irish quarterback Tommy Rees has never started on the road. All the endless Irish complaints by coaches and fans about option team's cut blocking may have crept into Notre Dame's sub conscience.  

PREDICTION: Army, 31-28. While I gave Notre Dame the advantage in a lot of categories I think Army will pull the upset. I expect Army's defense will struggle with the Irish passing game. If they can stop the Irish on the ground I think they can unleash the flex front to force Rees in a few turnovers and punts. I love Army's offense against Bob Diaco's Irish defense. The Irish have lost to every decent rushing team they've faced. The Fighting Irish looked lost and unsound defensively against Navy. Notre Dame, despite their fine performance last Saturday in their win over Utah, isn't a very good defensive team against the option. Bob Diaco has more talent at his disposal but, until proven otherwise, Ian Shields against him is a mismatch for Army. If Trent Steelman can hit a few passes and Army, especially Hassin, can avoid turnovers the Black Knights can defeat Notre Dame for the first time since 1958.

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