Irish Ready For Naval Battle

The Notre Dame Football team will be on the road this week as they take on the U.S. Naval Academy in East Rutherford, New Jersey. This will be the 78th meeting between these two rivals and the Irish have come out on top in the last 40 games. Navy is off to a 5-0 start for the first time since 1979 and only for the third time in the last 40 years.

The Irish are fresh off a 23-15, come-from-behind victory over Stanford and will be the visitors after three straight home games. The running game came alive against the Cardinal with senior Ryan Grant scoring two touchdowns and gaining 67 yards on 19 carries in last week's game.

The Notre Dame defense was tough against the Stanford ground game and only gave up 69 yards. This was the fifth time in six games this season that an opponent has been held under 100 yards rushing.

This year's Navy team appears to be different from last year's and the Notre Dame players have a lot of respect for this week's opponent.

"We know they really have a good squad." said senior leader Derek Curry. "Their record definitely shows how good they have been playing this year and they have been doing some things really well, including running the ball well, and they will offer us a good challenge this week.

"Their scheme definitely plays a role in some of the stuff they do, and they also have very good athletes. They are really physically fit, work hard, and their determination is tremendous."

The Midshipmen run an option-style offense and Curry said, "Discipline is the first key and biggest key. How disciplined you are, especially from the defensive standpoint with everything they do, all the misdirection, you have to stay disciplined and focused on what you have to do.

"It's real funny, as football is a team game and this is going to be the most individualized game we're going to play. Every person may be doing a different thing, but in order to execute the defense properly and to win, everybody is going to have to do their own thing."

Senior offensive guard Dan Stevenson knows the Navy defense will play hard but he is confident. "They definitely do a lot of shifting around and things like that and the coaches will have to give us a few good looks," he stated.

"We just have to get familiar with their looks but it isn't anything we haven't seen before. They play an odd front with three down linemen, one head up on the center, and one head up on each tackle; kind of like a 3-4 with four linebackers."

Much of the media focus this week is about the Irish 40-game win streak in this rivalry. Stevenson said the Irish would not be focused on the streak this week.

"It is always good to keep streaks alive, but it isn't something we focus on," Stevenson said. "Our ultimate goal isn't saying we want to keep the 40-year streak alive.

"It's about what we want to do this season, and it's one of the extra benefits you get when you are trying to achieve. We are not setting out to keep a 40-year streak alive; we're setting out to beat Navy and focus on the task at hand, which is looking forward to a great ballgame."

In the last few years the Irish and Midshipmen have had some close games and Stevenson said the Irish respect the effort this Navy team brings to the game.

"They are definitely a tough team, and they bring it, and they don't always get the respect they deserve," the veteran lineman said. "They are a solid team and they are undefeated right now and they play hard. You can't listen to all the hype about how they don't have the talent, because they have the talent and they are a good team. I think the thing they do is never quit playing.

"They will play you to the very end and you can't look at the past and say they are the Naval Academy and they don't have the talent. They are a tough opponent and we have to be prepared to go out there and play our best game."

The Irish will be traveling after playing three consecutive games at home and the Barrington, Illinois, native said, "It's obviously a different mentality, and I guess one of the good things about us traveling is that our fans travel well too. So we always have good fan support and good turnouts for the game. It's always great to play in front of our student body and fans and alumni, but we always say no matter where we are playing we will go play our best game."

Senior running back Ryan Grant was happy to get back on the field against Stanford after seeing limited action due to an injury. When asked how he feels, he replied, "Kind of sore. It tightened up on me during the game. After the game, I felt horrible but the next day I felt pretty good so that is a good sign. I'm just taking it day-to-day, but there is no doubt I will play this week.

"The win Saturday was important for the team, and I was glad to get the opportunity to help the team out, and I'm glad we got the win. We pulled it out and it showed a lot of guts by the team, and we fought to the end."

Coach Willingham was spotted talking adamantly to the offense at one point during Saturday's game. The senior leader said the coach "told them to step it up as it was kind of dead out there. The energy wasn't there and that's one of the things we talked about was getting out there playing fast, playing hard. We were kind of lethargic as a unit out there, and that is not what we expect from our team."

Some players have said Navy is one of the toughest teams to play against, and they come away nicked up. Grant said he looks forward to Saturday's game.

"I look forward to it as another game," he said. "It is a great opportunity for us to do what we do as a team and to get better.

"I know what they are talking about because Navy is a really good team and they play hard. Anytime you play the academy teams they are going to play to the end. They are going to play hard no matter what happens, and they have guys who are going to get after it.

"We know this is going to be a hard week of practice, and we expect a lot from the coaches, but this is why you come to Notre Dame for these types of games. I know the defense hates it because of the option but it is something you have to prepare for."

It will be important for the Irish to get off to a good start and to take control of the game if they plan on extending the Navy losing streak to 41 games. Irish Eyes believes this is just what will happen and the Irish will pick up their fifth win of the season. Top Stories