Notre Dame is a national name. The school is considered one of the best programs ever in college football because of its multiple national championships and Heisman Trophy awards. According to head coach Charlie Weis, the winning tradition puts a target on the Irish as a team that opponents get up for each and every contest.
"Unfortunately, every week we play, it's a statement game for the other team," Weis said on Tuesday. "Beat Notre Dame. Beating Notre Dame is a statement game. UCLA, that would have been a statement game. Navy, that would be a statement game. The week after that, it'll be North Carolina, Air Force, Army and USC. Sometimes people think we act arrogant but beating Notre Dame is national. It's not local news. It's national news. Navy isn't going into this game talking about losing a hundred times in a row. That's the last thing there are worried about. They're thinking about winning one in a row."
*It's pretty tough to nitpick a passing attack that rates 12th in the nation. The Irish average 277 yards per game through the air. Some of this might be attributed to Notre Dame's deficient ground attack. Brady Quinn has been lighting it up, throwing 18 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
The one area that might be lacking is a deep threat. The longest pass on the season: a 62-yard touchdown from Quinn to John Carlson in the Michigan State contest. The Spartans did have broken coverage on the play but a tight end, not a wide receiver, is the leader in this category. Jeff Samardzjia'a long was the game-winning 45-yard touchdown last weekend vs. UCLA. Rhema McKnight's deepest pass reception was a 44-yarder. The lack of 80-yard bombs is further proof of Quinn taking what the defense gives the Irish.
"When you get a lot more Cover 2, that means they are rolling up on the wide receivers," Weis said. "Now your deep throws are down the middle of the field. That's why a lot of our long plays have been to John (Carlson) deep down the middle because that's what's open. You can't just sit there and throw it deep against a Cover 2. When deep throws become a lot more vulnerable is when people are playing press man-to-man coverage."
*Defensive end Victor Abiamiri was named to the mid-season watch list for the 2006 Hendricks Award. The honor is bestowed to the best defensive end in Division 1A and the Irish senior is one of 28 still alive to win. The list will be shortened to five or six finalists in November with a final vote on December 4th and the winner announced on December 6th.
Abiamiri, constantly being double teamed by opposing offenses, still has managed to accumulate 26 tackles, six sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. A sidebar to this: Notre Dame has faced four players on this list. Michigan's LaMarr Woodley, Purdue's Anthony Spencer and UCLA's Justin Hickman and Bruce Davis all made the final 28. Hickman, who racked up three sacks last weekend vs. the Irish, leads all defensive ends with 10.5 sacks while Spencer is tops in the TFL category.
*Since 1986, Notre Dame has averaged 38.8 points per game vs. Navy. This includes five 50-point outputs. To go along with this stat, the Irish have scored more points against the Midshipmen (2,140) than any other of the 134 opponents in school history. Maybe that help explains why Notre Dame is 32-1 vs. the service academies since 1986. The only loss: a 20-17 overtime defeat to Air Force in 1996.
*By now, everyone knows that Navy's starting quarterback, Brian Hampton, injured his left knee in the 34-0 loss to Rutgers two Saturdays ago. Hampton was the team's leading rusher with 646 yards and 10 touchdowns and passed for another two scores. In his place, Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada will get to start his first career game at quarterback.
The last time a Navy signal caller got his first start vs. Notre Dame: Brian Madden in 1999. If Irish fans can remember, that was the game where the Midshipmen held a late 24-21 lead and had Notre Dame in a 4th-and-10 situation. But an extremely favorable spot allowed the drive to continue and the Irish scored a few plays later to win 28-24. For the contest, the first-time starter Madden rushed for 168 yards and threw for another 86.
*The Midshipmen have scored on its first drive of the second half in 14 of the past 18 games. 11 of those have gone for touchdowns. This season, the mark is five of seven contests.
*On the injury front for Navy, safety DuJuan Price is questionable with a pulled right groin while junior kicker Joey Bullen is also questionable but with a strained groin. On the year, Price has 12 tackles and an interception and Bullen is 2-for-3 in field goal kicks.
*Don't expect this Navy team to beat themselves. The Midshipmen are 10th in Division 1A in fewest penalties committed. They average just 4.43 a contest. On the flip side, Notre Dame commits 7.29 penalties per game. The high figure has the Irish 97th in this category.
*Navy is always known for having undersized but tough lines. The Midshipmen average 6-1, 278 pounds on the offensive line and 6-2, 250 pounds on the defensive line.
*CBS will carry the contest live on national television at noon. The play-by-play man is Craig Bolerjack while former Irish quarterback Steve Beuerlein will provide analysis.
*Flyover fans, prepare yourselves: Navy will have the jets soaring over Baltimore on Saturday. The fly-by will feature four EA-6B Prowlers and two Navy jets.