Navy Looks to Break Streak

If someone tells a fan of a college football team that their squad will score 52 points, most people will assume it'll equal victory. Not the case for the Naval Academy. Last weekend against Delaware, the Midshipmen rolled up over 500 yards of total offense and broke the half century mark. Still, a lackluster defensive performance allowed the Blue Hens to score 59 en route to the road win.

"We didn't do enough little things to win the game," Navy head coach Paul Johnson said. "It doesn't matter how many points you score. The object is to win the game whether it's 6-3 or 59-52. You have to score more points than the other team does. We made some mistakes and some fundamental things. We have to do a better job coaching and they have to do a better job listening."

That'll be put to the test this weekend as Navy (4-4) goes on the road to face 1-7 Notre Dame. Kickoff is set for 2:43 PM and NBC will have the national television broadcast. The Midshipmen, after starting out 4-2, have lost two straight games to hit the .500 mark for the year.

For this contest, everyone with a sense of history knows about the streak. The Irish have won 43 straight games in the rivalry series, the longest streak ever against one opponent in NCAA history. With Notre Dame struggling mightily on offense and Navy able to put a lot of points up on the scoreboard, this could be the first time since 1963 that the Midshipmen will be able to pull the upset. Despite the Irish's problems, Johnson is not taking anything for granted heading into the contest.

"We have a tough assignment on Saturday," Johnson said. "Everybody thinks that Notre Dame is down because they look at their record, but looking at the tape they still have really good players. It's still Notre Dame. They have all kinds of High School All-American's running around and a lot of guys that will be playing in the NFL."

A lot of the focus for the game this weekend will be about Navy's high-powered offense vs. Notre Dame's defense, which has struggled against the run. The Irish are 93rd in the nation in rushing defense. However, the Irish offense, which hasn't topped 21 points once this year, could be looking at Saturday's game at a shot for their best performance of the season.

As evidenced by the 59 points and 581 yards of total offense allowed to Delaware, the Midshipmen defense has been unable to get the job done. Battling through a variety of injuries, Navy is 114th in scoring defense, 105th in total defense, 119th in pass efficiency defense and 118th in sacks. The Irish's offense ranks dead last in total offense, rushing offense and sacks allowed and second-to-last in scoring offense and pass efficiency offense. Something has to give on Saturday afternoon at Notre Dame Stadium.

"They will do whatever they think is in their best interest from an offensive standpoint," Johnson said. "I'm sure after looking at our tape everything looks good. They have a huge offensive line and they will have a big size differential against us. I am sure they will try and get their running back going and I'm sure they will toss it deep a few times as well, everybody we play does."

Navy's best defense might be the team's potent ground attack, ranked first in the land and averaging 342 yards a game. If the Midshipmen get the rushing game going and sustain long drives, it'll keep their defense off the field and wear down Notre Dame. Navy has to be careful, though. In the Midshipmen's four wins, the team has a +3 advantage in the turnover category. In Navy's four losses, the number is -8. Not putting the ball on the ground will be critical to the Midshipmen's hopes of breaking the 43-year drought.

"You aren't going to go through the year without turning the ball over," Johnson said. "It is more noticeable because we aren't getting any turnovers (on defense). When you aren't getting any turnovers and you aren't getting many stops then every time you make a mistake it becomes magnified."

***The Navy Sports Information Department contributed to this report.


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