The Irish snuck out of Ravens Stadium last year with a 30-23 win. The Irish were struggling all game against the Midshipmen and found themselves down 23-15 to Navy heading into the fourth quarter. The Irish had to score twice on special teams just to get to 15 points. The Irish exploded for 15 points in the final 4:28 to steal the win.
Navy came close to upsetting Notre Dame in 1997, and 1999. The Irish won 21-17 in 1997, and 28-24 in 1999. One thing you can always count on is the Midshipmen will show up to play this game—something we cannot say for the Irish.
Navy is 6-3 on the year. The teams they've defeated have a combined record of 18-36. The teams they've lost to have a combined record of 21-4. That stat is misleading, however, as they've lost to TCU (8-0), and Delaware (9-0). Both teams have played very easy schedules so far. Rutgers (4-4) beat Navy 48-27 earlier in the year.
The Midshipmen run the football, and the run it well. Navy is the top-ranked rushing team in the country averaging 309 yards per game. They run the wing offense, and they run it very well. They also find the end zone often averaging 29 points per game.
The Midshipmen have rushed for 2,786 yards on the year. Fullback Kyle Eckel leads the team with 808 yards rushing, and is averaging 5.0 yards per carry. The true leader on the team is quarterback, Craig Candeto. Candeto has rushed for 767 yards and 11 touchdowns. Candeto completes about 49 percent of his passes, and has thrown for 901 yards and six touchdowns. He's also thrown four interceptions on the year.
Slot back, Eric Roberts, also gets into the rushing action, rushing for 415 yards (9.9 yards per carry), and 2 touchdowns on the year. The other slot back is Tony Lane. Lane has rushed for 380 yards (12.3 yards per carry), and three touchdowns on the year.
Navy doesn't throw the ball much, but they usually throw the ball some against the Irish. They try to catch teams napping, and throw the ball over the top, usually for big plays. Roberts is their leading receiver with 14 catches for 342 yards (24.4 yards per reception), and 4 touchdowns. Expect Navy to put the ball in the air more against Notre Dame looking for big plays in the passing game.
The Midshipmen have been pretty strong defensively. They are allowing a shade under 20 points per game—a good stat for Navy. They allow 170 yards rushing on the ground, and 151 yards through the air. They have 12 interceptions on the year, and 12 passes defended on the year, so they do have a solid secondary.
Free safety, Josh Smith, leads the team with 73 tackles. He also has three interceptions on the year, and has only played in seven games. The Rover safety, Eli Sanders, is second on the team in tackles with 68. Inside linebacker, Lane Jackson, is third on the team with 63 tackles, and corner, Shalim Brazier, is fourth with 48 tackles.
Having three members in your secondary as the team's top four tacklers is not a good sign for Navy.
The Navy starters along the offensive line are listed as 264, 273, 297, 284, and 250 pounds. Their front three on defense are listed at 249, 273, and 241 pounds.
The Irish should be able to just pound the Midshipmen running the football with a huge size advantage. But, they usually struggle against Navy. The Irish suffered a lot of injuries on the Florida State game along the offensive line. Dan Stevenson, Bob Morton, and Jim Molinaro all left the game with an injury. Molinaro returned, but the status of Morton and Stevenson is not known.
To stop the Wing-T, the Irish must get penetration in the backfield and disrupt the timing of the option. The Midshipmen use the fullback a lot so this can be a very frustrating and effective offense if run properly.
One thing we are certain of, however, is that Navy will show up for this game, and they will play well. Navy has come close to defeating the Irish in many of their recent games. The Midshipmen are 6-3, and having one of their best seasons in recent memory. This will be a battle, and the Irish better show up to play or they will get beat.
I respect the Midshipmen. I really do love their football team. I love their attitude, and how hard they play in this game. This team always plays Notre Dame like it's their last game of their lives. The Irish could learn a few things from the Midshipmen.