Head-to-head: Navy vs. Notre Dame

Navy and Notre Dame travel to the new Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey to meet for the 84th consecutive year. On Saturday Navy overcame a 14-0 first half deficit to defeat SMU 28-21 to improve its record to 4-2. Notre Dame dominated Western Michigan for their third consecutive win to improve their record to 4-3. Last year Navy beat the Irish in South Bend 23-21.

Notre Dame
Navy rushing offense
Notre Dame rushing defense
Navy enters the game ranked ninth in the nation in rushing yards. Navy ran for 259 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry while rushing for three touchdowns against SMU. Quarterback Ricky Dobbs ran 19 times for 67 yards. Alexander Teich replaced the injured Vince Murray at fullback. He ran for 95 yards and scored two touchdowns. Slot back Gee Gee Greene has rushed for 282 yards this year and scored his first touchdown against SMU last week. Slot back Aaron Santiago, after being limited by a hamstring injury most of the season, has impressed the last two weeks with his speed. Notre Dame's 3-4 defense ranks 41st in the nation against the run allowing 130 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 79 tackles. Fellow inside linebacker Carlo Calabrese has posted 54 tackles. Outside linebacker Darius Fleming,who intercepted a pass last week against Western Michigan, has 25 tackles for the year. Nose Guard Ian Williams is very physical and has 30 tackles which is a lot for a nose tackle. Kapron Lewis-Moore is a talented 6-4, 283 defensive end who led the defensive line in tackles last year.  
Navy passing offense
Notre Dame passing defense
Ricky Dobbs had his best passing day this year against SMU. Dobbs completed 6 of 9 pass attempts for 84 yards and a touchdown. Aaron Santiago dropped a sure 37-yard touchdown pass on the game's first drive. Santiago made up for it with a 3-yard touchdown catch and a huge 51-yard reception on the opening possession of second half. Down 14-0 and facing a third-and-17 the Dobbs clutch throw, a 51-yard bomb to Santiago, led to a touchdown and changed the momentum of the game against SMU. Greg Jones leads the Mids this season with 11 catches for 216 yard and a touchdown. Jones scored on a 52-yard touchdown reception against Notre Dame last year. Notre Dame ranks 49th in the nation in pass defense. The Irish secondary has a terrific safety in Harrison Smith who has posted 50 tackles and has two interceptions this year. The Irish do a good job pressuring the passer and ranks 27th in the nation in sacks. Outside linebacker Darius Fleming and defensive end Ethan Johnson are tied for the team lead with 3.5 sacks. Cornerback Darius Walls is a very experienced cornerback and has two interceptions and 28 tackles this year.  
Notre Dame rushing offense
Navy rushing defense
Notre Dame ranks only 97th in the nation in rushing offense averaging only 113 yards a game. Cierre Wood rushed for 99 yards against Western Michigan and brings game breaking speed to the running back spot. Leading rusher Armando Allen has rushed for 448 yards, averaging 4.7 yards a carry and scored two touchdowns but missed last Saturday's game with a hip flexor. He is questionable for the Navy game. Short yardage back Robert Hughes has 79 yards on 13 carries this year. Quarterback Dayne Crist has four rushing touchdowns but is not as mobile as other quarterbacks the Mids have faced that run a spread passing offense. Look for the Irish to run some of the delayed handoffs that SMU used against the Midshipmen successfully. Navy ranks 78th in the nation against the run. The Mids allowed 141 yards rushing against SMU. The Mustangs' Zach Line rushed for 88 yards on 15 carries. Once again the Mids were hurt by a mobile quarterback as Padron ran 8 times for 45 yards. Aaron McCauley had 8 tackles, one for a loss and broke up a pass. Inside linebacker Max Blue recorded 6 tackles. The Mids allowed five yards a carry and had trouble with SMU's delayed handoffs.  
Notre Dame passing offense
Navy passing defense
The Irish offense ranks 18th in the nation in passing averaging over 286 yards a game. Notre Dame is led by Junior quarterback Dayne Crist who is having a good season. Crist has completed 59.4% of his passes for 1,855 yards and 14 touchdowns. Unfortunately for Crist his three key targets are injured. Super star Michael Floyd who has 44 catches for 624 yards and six touchdowns will not practice this week and will be a game-time decision for Saturday's game due to a hamstring injury. Sophomore wide receiver Theo Riddick is out after suffering a severely sprained ankle last week against Western Michigan. Riddick has 38 catches for 406 yards and three touchdowns on the season. Tight end Kyle Rudolph had surgery on his hamstring and is out for the season. His replacement at tight end is Tyler Eifert who caught four passes Saturday including a 39-yard touchdown. The Irish leading wide receiver entering Saturday's game would be freshman T.J. Jones who has 12 catches for 203 yards this season. John Goodman has 10 catches for 93 yards. Notre Dame's offensive line is ranked 70th in sacks allowed.  Navy ranks ninth in the nation in pass yards yielding 160 yards a game. The Mids did a nice job shutting down SMU in the second half last Saturday. After struggling in the first half Navy made changes in second half by rushing four players and not blitzing. The Midshipmen dropped more into coverage and stayed in a two deep zone. Outside linebacker Jerry Hauburger had his finest game as a starter. Hauburger had 8 tackles, three behind the line of scrimmage, forced two fumbles and a sack. Wyatt Middleton had five tackles and a pass defensed. Jabaree Tuani playing hurt is better than most players healthy. Tuani had three tackles, created pressure and had a huge fumble recovery. Inside linebacker Tyler Simmons set up the game winning touchdown with a clutch interception late in the fourth quarter. Navy held SMU 's offense to 157 yards and eight first downs in the second half. With the Irish injuries the Mids will match up better against this unit.  
Special Teams
Notre Dame walk on field goal kicker David Ruffer has hit all 12 field goal attempts this year. Ruffer is automatic as he has hit 17 field goal attempts in a row. Punter Ben Turk has averaged 38.5 yards a punt. Turk gets excellent hang time on his punts forcing 15 fair catches. Turk doesn't allow punt returns. For the season opponents have returned six punts for just three yards. Armando Allen is an excellent punt returner but is questionable for Saturday. John Goodman has returned punts in Allen's absence but averages just 3.5 yards a punt return and doesn't make much happen with the ball in his hands. On kickoff returns Cierre Woods has explosive speed and Bennett Jackson has averaged 23.9 on kick returns. The Irish do a good job covering kickoffs. They are allowing only 19.1 yards on kickoff returns. Navy's coverage teams have struggled allowing 28.9 a return and 11.9 on punt returns. The good news is punter Kyle Delahooke looked to be back on track as he averaged 41.3 yards on his three punts against SMU. After struggling early in the year Delahooke has punted well the last two games. Unfortunately kicker Joe Buckley continues to be inconsistent. Buckley was short on a 39-yard field goal attempt into the wind last Saturday. Gary Myers has done a solid job returning 8 punts for a 7.4 average. With Alexander Teich starting at fullback speedy plebe slot back Marcus Thomas returned kickoffs for the first time last week.  
New Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is a tremendous 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 faced the Navy offense when he coached at Eastern Michigan in 2003 Navy ran for 372 yards that day in a 39-7 win. Navy's offensive coordinator Ivan Jasper made a number of formation changes in the redzone. The Mids has scored touchdowns their last eight trips in the redzone. Buddy Green's halftime adjustments of dropping more in coverage and to not zone blitz in the second half stopped SMU their first three possessions of the second half. It allowed Navy to bounce back from a 14 point deficit. Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo has impressed with his leadership during two comeback wins after the bitter loss to Air Force.  
With the subway alumni at the new Meadowland stadium this will be essentially an Irish home game. The Irish will be looking for revenge against the Mids after dropping two of the last three games in the series. This is always a huge game for the Midshipmen players to prove themselves on a national stage. While Navy is 11-71-1 lifetime against the Irish head coach Ken Niumatalolo's record is 2-1.      

PREDICTION: Navy, 27-24. Notre Dame enters the game off three consecutive wins and is playing well but has been decimated on its receiving corps it so heavily relies upon. I think Navy will put together a complete game this week and the offense is starting to click in the red zone. I like the Mids in an upset.

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