Irish Ready For Naval Battle

Notre Dame and the U.S. Naval Academy will do battle for the 79th consecutive year on Saturday, making it the longest continuous intersectional rivalry in the country. The Irish hold a 68-9-1 advantage in the series including a 41-game winning streak.

The Irish offense has been the highlight of this season and is currently No. 10 in the country in total offense, averaging 474 yards per game, and seventh in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 38.25 points per game. If the 38.25 average holds up, it would set a Notre Dame single-season record.

Navy also has a potent offense averaging 282.6 yards rushing per game. Their total offensive average per contest is 409.9 yards. When scoring first in games this year, Navy is 3-0; and 2-3 when the opposition scores first. If the Midshipmen [5-3] pull off the upset this weekend, they will be bowl-eligible for the third straight year.

Coach Weis is not taking the Midshipmen lightly and shows a great deal of respect for them. During his Tuesday press conference Weis said, "You have a Catch 22 here because on the one hand you have an opponent that you want to beat badly," Weis said of the Midshipmen. "On the other hand the respect factor for the young men you are going against is higher than anyone else you are going against.

"Because you know they have chosen a path when their college careers are over, they're not going to go play in the NFL. They're not going to take some cushy job. So obviously this is going to be a formidable opponent. They're dynamic on offense."

Offensive line coach John Latina shares Coach Weis's concern about the challenge the Midshipmen will present, but he believes the players will be focused and get the message.

"The message is like any game. We have to go out and execute the game plan and whatever we put in front of them, whatever we think is the best way to attack that defense," Latina said.

"Every week is its own entity so it is a different plan, a different set of plays, a different set of protections, and because it is different, that usually makes them focus in on whatever we are trying to get accomplished. So the biggest challenge always is to understand the plan and to effectively work it in practice so you have the confidence to play the game that Saturday."

The Irish offense is cooking right along and all of us get to see the front-line players do their job on game days, but the team would not be successful without the guys who do the grunt work in daily practice and coach Latina has high praise for these players.

"Obviously all those guys who haven't played much, their role is to go out to the practice field and emulate the team that we are playing," the offensive line coach stated. "And that's a real challenge, especially in a week like this that's a little different style of offense.

"Again, it goes back to the maturity of our kids and whenever we give them a direction, they have usually responded fairly well with it. All those guys on both sides of the ball have done a great job, the scout teams, of preparing us for games and that is one of the many critical things that have allowed us to be a better football team."

Naturally, all of the Irish players know about the "streak" but they too are not taking anything for granted with this 5-3 Navy team.

"Navy is a good team. They could be 8-0, and they are a team again that does not really mirror their record," stated outstanding left tackle Ryan Harris. "They play hard, they play fast and they really have a confusing defense. So we know we have our work cut out for us but, like every week, our goal is to win the game.

"Obviously we are aware of the streak, but obviously we don't want to lose a game, period. This game is no different and, absolutely, we don't want to be the Notre Dame team that loses. We just want to do everything we can in practice this week to make sure we have the best chance to win this weekend."

The Midshipmen, like all academy teams, appear to be undersized when compared to their opponents, including the Irish, and most think that this is a distinct disadvantage—not according to Harris

"Their size really doesn't come into play because of the scheme they run," Harris said. "They run a very successful scheme for their size, so that's something that doesn't really show itself over the course of the game. They are a tough team and play hard. They may be 215 pounds, but they play like they are 260 pounds. So their size is a factor, but it's not a glaring factor in the game."

The high regard the Irish have for their tough and never-say-quit opponent this Saturday is expressed very well by the popular and versatile lineman, Bob Morton.

"I don't want to sit here and jump on the bandwagon by saying these guys are the guys that will be defending our country, but it is true," Morton said. "It's a different mentality they have than we have about everyday life and such. So when they go out there and they compete, this is fun for them and they're going 110 miles per hour, and that is what we are striving to do, but that is their joy to go and do that.

"It doesn't matter how many times they may hit the dirt, they are going to be right back up. That's the kind of personality they bring to the football field. That's something, as a football player, you always think you are going to get that last one hit where they are going to stay down and you're going to be like, that's it the game is over. With these guys it never happens."


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