Navy meets Notre Dame on Saturday at Fedex Field. GoMids.com's Jim Lawler compares the two teams in several critical areas. We also make a prediction on the game's final score.
Midshipmen meet the Notre Dame
Fighting Irish at FedEx Field in nationally televised night game. Last week Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds
returned to the lineup after two weeks off and led the Mids to a 41-31 victory over the San Jose Spartans. The Fighting Irish were off last week after their near upset of No. 2 ranked Florida State
. The Irish scored an apparent go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left but it was correctly called back on an offensive pass interference penalty. Everett Golson
's last pass fell incomplete and the Irish lost 31-27. This is the 88h meeting between the two teams. The Navy Midshipmen fell just short of upsetting Notre Dame in South Bend last year as Navy's wide receiver Shawn Lynch
was stopped on fourth down on an end-around. The Fighting Irish prevailed 38-34 in a back and forth game that saw nine lead changes.
NAVY PASSING OFFENSE
NOTRE DAME PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
REMARKS: Keenan Reynolds completed 4-of-7 passes for 56 yards against the nation's best pass defense. He
had a pass completion down the seam to DeBrandon Sanders
for a 27 yard gain as the Spartans were loading the box against the run. Reynolds threw the ball a lot better without the knee brace. Sophomore Jamir Tillman
has emerge as the Mids new primary receiver. He has 16 receptions for 303 receiving yards, a 18.9 average and a touchdown. Reynolds threw the ball well last year against Notre Dame when he completed 6 of 9 passes for 88 passing yards with one touchdown. Navy didn't allow a sack against San Jose State
but have struggled in pass protection. This is not a good match up for the Mids when they have to pass protect against Notre Dame talented defensive front line.
The Notre Dame passing defense ranks 76th in the nation allowing opponents an average of 241yards per game. Safety Elijah Shumate
leads the secondary with 40 tackles, a sack, an interception and three passes defensed. Cornerback Cole Luke
has played well this year. Luke has 27 tackles, a team leading three interception with eight passes defensed. Former Florida
transfer Cody Riggs
was a safety for the Gators but starts at cornerback for Notre Dame. Riggs has 26 tackles, an interception and has knocked down four passes. New defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder scheme is very aggressive and he likes to blitz often on passing downs. Notre Dame has 13 sacks with defensive end Romeo Okwara
leading the Irish with 3 1/2 sacks for 37 yards lost.
NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE
NOTRE DAME RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Navy's spread option offense is ranked first in the nation in rushing. They are averaging over 352 rushing yards per game. Navy fans were glad to see quarterback Keenan Reynolds running at top speed without a knee brace against San Jose State. Reynolds ran for a career high 251 yards on 39 carries while he scored three times. Navy’s fullback Noah Copeland
(602 yards, 8.7, 3 TDs) is having the best season of his career. Noah has ripped off runs of 31 or more yards in six of his eight starts. DeBrandon Sanders (186 yards, 9.3 avg., 3 TDs) is also now playing without a knee brace after being injured initially against Texas State
. Both Sanders and Dishan Romine
(7 for 89, 12.7) are finally healthy and provide the Mids excellent speed on the edge. Last year Navy ran for 423 rushing yards, 6.2 per carry and five touchdowns against Notre Dame. The offensive line did a tremendous job grinding out 28 first downs. It was the most first downs that Navy ever produced in the rivalry against Notre Dame.
Notre Dame's new 4-3 defense is an impressive 12th in the nation in run defense and is allowing just 102 rushing yards a game. Former walk- on senior Joe Schmidt
has been very productive at middle linebacker. He has excellent instincts, is a sure tackler and leads the Irish in tackles with 57 stops, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. Fellow linebacker Jaylon Smith
, unlike the under the radar Schmidt, was a coveted five star recruit who was the hero last year when he dropped navy's Shawn Lynch short on fourth down on the final end around play. Smith (53 tackles, 6.5 for loss) is an explosive hitter with great speed and range. Huge junior defensive tackle Jarrett Jones
(6-5, 315) has 26 tackles, five tackles for a loss, a sack and seven quarterback pressures. Jones is strong and athletic and really comes off the ball. Both Jones and Issac Rochell (16 tackles, 3 1/2 TFL, 1/2 sack, 8 QBH) are strong, athletic and can stuff the run. The Irish are allowing only 19.1 points per game.
NOTRE DAME PASSING OFFENSE
NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson’s return to the lineup, after missing last year, has been impressive. Golson has completed 166 of his 268 pass attempts (61.9%) for 1,996 yards with 19 touchdowns and six interceptions. The Heisman Trophy candidate completed 31-of-52 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns against Florida State. His top targets are wide receiver Will Fuller
(43 rec., 583 yards and eight touchdowns) and Corey Robinson
(27 rec., 359 yards and four touchdowns). Robinson had a break out game against FSU with 8 receptions for 99 yards and two scores. Robinson is the son of Navy basketball great David Robinson. Robinson considered Navy before he was offered by Notre Dame. Chris Brown is a quick possession receiver with 21 catches for 221 yards and has scored. Big Ben Koyack
(18 rec, 179 yards, TD) is a huge target at tight end who gave the Mids trouble last fall. Koyack had two catches for 34 yards and a touchdown against Navy last year.
Navy's pass defense is ranked 74th in the nation and are allowing over 240 passing yards per game.
Last week the Mids secondary allowed three touchdowns as San Jose State's quarterback Joe Gray completed 33-of-46 passes for 322 yards. Rover Kwazel Bertrand
was named Independent defensive player of the week for his play against the Spartans. Bertrand recorded seven solo tackles and his first career interception. His interception occurred in the first quarter at the Navy two-yard line to end an early Spartan scoring opportunity. This will be a difficult match up for the Mids secondary against Notre Dame's speed at receiver and the accuracy of Golson. Navy's secondary had a rough time matching up with Irish at times last year but they battled all game and produced two turnovers. Free safety Parrish Gaines
(24 tackles, 3 INT, 2 PD) ended a promising Irish drive when he jumped the route and intercepted a pass last fall.
NOTRE DAME RUSHING OFFENSE
NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
REMARKS: The Fighting Irish running game is ranked 65th in the nation and averaging 162 yards per game. The Irish use a running back by committee approach. Tarean Folston (383 yards, 4.7 avg. 2 TDs) has emerged as the lead running back after his 120 yard rushing performance against Florida State. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly had been unhappy with the running game the first month of the season. Sophomore Greg Bryant
(203 yards, 4.6 avg., 2 TDs) has good speed and can make people miss. Senior Cam McDaniel is a tough, undersized between the tackle runner who has lost carries to the two sophomores after running for 705 yards last year. McDaniel has run for 184 yards, 3.5 avg. and two scores. Navy will also have to deal with the athletic Golston at quarterback. He is probably the most dangerous running threat in the backfield. He has rushed for 239 yards, a 3.5 average. and a team leading four scores.
The Mids are ranked 75th in the nation in run defense and allowing 170 rushing yards a game. The Mids did a good job against the San Jose Spartans running game last week. They allowed 100 rushing yards, 4.0 yards a carry and a touchdown. Obi Uzoma (32 tackles, 2 TFL) tackled Tyler Irvin for a three yard loss last game to force the Spartans to settle for a field goal. Last fall the Mids allowed the Irish 264 rushing yards, 7.3 yards a carry and three touchdowns. The Mids were dominated at the point of attack and unable to maintain their gaps against the Irish's zone running plays. Junior nose guard Bernie Sarra
(16 tackles) missed last year's game. The 303-pound Sarra is strong and hopefully help free up the inside linebackers to slow down the Irish running game.
REMARKS: Specialist Kyle Brindza handles both the kicking and punting for the Irish. Brindza has hit 10-of-14 field goal attempts this year. Except for his rare poor game against Stanford
he has been a rock. During his career he has made more field goals than any Irish kicker and is 53-of-71 in field goal attempts (746%) overall. He's ' hit at least one fifty yard field goal every year of his career. As a punter Brindza is averaging 41.7 yards per punt, with 12 fair catches and 10 placed inside the twenty yard line. He's boomed seven punts over 50 yards. Cody Riggs is averaging 8.6 per punt return. Amir Carlisle and Cam McDaniel are pedestrian on kickoff returns. Notre Dame's coverage teams are just average but they did block a punt this year.
The new Navy kicker Austin Grebe
has hit both his field goal attempts since replacing Nick Sloan
Austin Grebe has 17 touchbacks on his 43 kickoffs. Pablo Beltran
is the best punter in Navy history. He is averaging 44.5 yards per punt with ten punts placed inside the 20 yard line. The Mids has averaged just 18.4 per kickoff returns and DeBrandon Sanders is averaging 4.8 on punt returns. Navy's coverage teams have been excellent the last two years.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has a 214-73-2 all-time record. Since 2006, Kelly has won the fourth-most games of any head coach in the FBS, going 86-26 during those seasons. Kelly is 18-2 with Everett Golson as his quarterback. Kelly has done an excellent job rebuilding the Irish into a legitimate FBS contender again. Kelly is 3-1 against Navy.
Head coach Ken Niumatalolo
joined Eddie Erdelatz (1956-57) and Wayne Hardin (1960-61) as the only Navy coaches to beat Notre Dame in consecutive years. Last season Niumatalolo and his staff had a tremendous plan and executed it well on offense against the Irish. Niumatalolo managed the clock well and ran it down before the end of the first half. Ivin Jasper
called a masterful game against ND with his use of misdirection, counter option and heavy formations. He had the Fighting Irish on their heels all day. His final play call an end around by wide receiver Shawn Lynch was stopped only because left tackle Bradlyn Heap missed all three players he could have blocked. Buddy Green's defensive scheme was sound but the Mids were overmatched at the point of attack.
REMARKS: Notre Dame had the week off with a chance to practice against the option. Notre Dame has won 27 of its last 33 games and is 18-2 with Golson at quarterback. Navy's defense can't stop the Irish. Notre Dame has punted more than two times just once in the last eight meetings with Navy. In fact, the Irish have totaled only seven punts since 2005, including four meetings without a single punt. The Irish hold a 74-12-1 (.855) edge in the series. Navy nearly pulled the upset last year after allowing over fifty points a game in two routs the previous years. This Navy team will not be intimidated by the Irish after nearly beating them last year. Navy has won three of the last seven outright. Notre Dame is always the Everest on Navy's schedule and the players will be pumped up for the challenge.
NOTRE DAME 42, NAVY 31. Notre Dame is obviously the better team but Navy enters the contest off their best performance of the season against an FBS opponent. With Reynolds and Sanders healthy the Mids are more explosive. The offense will have to stay on schedule like last year if it hopes to pull the upset. Notre Dame has a lot of talent and speed but I don't believe they will destroy Navy in the trenches. The Mids should hang around before the Irish take control in the fourth quarter.
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