Head coach Charlie Weis said at his Tuesday press conference that he hoped this was on the players' minds heading into the game. It's safe to say they're aware of it and the tough nature of a Midshipmen team.
"I think you have to take into account anytime a streak like that has been going on for so long," wide receiver Jeff Samardzija said. "Teams that you're playing against that have a streak like that against them are going to be thinking about it. You have to understand that Navy is going to come out and play hard regardless and no matter what the situation is. That's just who they are.
"They are physical and play hard until the last play of the game. I think Navy is a perfect example of that. They're top of the line guys and play hard every snap. That's what they are out there to do. They do their assignments. They're not freelancers. They play hard every snap."
"Obviously we're aware of the streak but you don't want to lose a game period," offensive tackle Ryan Harris said. "This game is no different. We absolutely don't want to be the team that loses. We want to do everything in practice this week to give us the best chance to win this weekend."
*A quick glance over the Navy depth chart sees no starter in the secondary above 5-11. The Midshipmen's shortest defender is 5-8 right cornerback Greg Thrasher, a sophomore who weighs in at 170 pounds. Backup free safety Greg Sudderth is the tallest at 6-2.
Why is this important? Because Notre Dame has the rare luxury of not one tall receiver but two. Both Maurice Stovall and Jeff Samardzija are 6-5 and over 210 pounds. These two just don't cause Navy problems. They have been wreaking havoc in opposing secondaries all season long. Stovall and Samardzija have combined for 93 catches for over 1500 yards and 18 touchdowns. Stovall stood out last weekend for key blocks that were instrumental in two touchdowns. On paper, this weekend should cause some more mismatch problems.
"They have a couple of 6-1, 6-2 guys in there, too," Samardzija said. "They're always rotating around into different positions so you never know who you are going to get and when you're going to get them lined up over you. You have to be aware of when the smaller guys are on you and when the bigger guys are on you. You definitely look at the scouting reports and try to take advantage of them."
*One of Weis's philosophies on offense is take what the defense gives you. It has worked to fantastic success as Notre Dame is averaging almost 40 points and 475 yards per game. There have been a lot of happy faces on that side of the ball.
The past two games (and the Purdue game for that matter), the rushing game wasn't as much a factor as it was earlier in the season. Through the USC game, the Irish were averaging 46 carries for 171 yards. The last two contests have seen these numbers fall dramatically. Notre Dame rushed for 44 yards against BYU and 48 versus Tennessee.
There are good reasons for this slow down of the rushing attack. BYU's defense was selling out on the blitz and left one-on-one matchups with the more talented Notre Dame receivers. Quarterback Brady Quinn and wide receiver Maurice Stovall rewrote the record books that day. Tennessee was only giving up 86 rushing yards a game and hasn't allowed a 100-yard runner the entire season. More importantly, Notre Dame was 2-0 in those game and the offense spearheaded the effort.
"The course of the game sometimes dictates that," Latina said. "There were different games more where we wanted to run the ball more and we just didn't do it because of what defenses gave us. A lot depends upon what you see on film. If they chose to play us differently, we have to able to adapt and adjust in whatever they are going to give us and what we're going to take."
Despite the recent lean towards the pass, running back Darius Walker is still on pace for a 1,000 yard rushing season. The sophomore's numbers have dropped a tad since the Purdue game because of the mismatch advantages the Irish have enjoyed against opposing secondaries and fellow running back Travis Thomas getting some carries. Walker, to his credit, has done well in picking up oncoming blitzers and keeping them off of Quinn's back. This weekend, against an undersized Navy team, could be the weekend Walker and the running game gets back on track.
"Navy is a very good team but at the same time they're a little smaller than the past teams that we've played," Walker said. "For us, that means we want to be very physical with them. We always want to play physical but this particular game we want to out tough them. That has a lot to do with the running game."