Threat(s):Names and faces change over the years, but the triple option remains tough to stop no matter who Navy has on the field. Shun White is one of the most explosive players the Irish defense will see this season. Fullback Eric Kettani compliments White well. The Middies hardly throw it, but when they do, they do it well.
Could Navy begin a streak of their own against the Irish?
With wins against Rutgers and Wake Forest already this season as proof, the Midshipmen certainly have the goods to knock off Notre Dame for a second-straight season. In South Bend last fall, Navy beat the Irish 46-44, snapping the nation's longest losing streak to one team, and putting an exclamation mark on Paul Johnson's successful coaching run in Annapolis.
With Johnson now the head coach at Georgia Tech, Ken Niumatalolo has stepped in and picked up from where his predecessor left off. Navy has already accepted a bid to play in the EagleBank Bowl on Dec. 20th in Washington D.C., where they'll play an opponent from the ACC. In being postseason bound, Niumatalolo is the first coach in program history to go bowling his first year on the job.
The Irish defense knows they'll be facing a tough assignment in Navy's triple-option offense on Saturday. It will be assignment football, and any failure to get a task done on any play, and the defense could be watching Shun White running a long way for a score. Navy ranks second nationally in rushing yards per game behind Nevada.
The speedy White leads the team with 834 yards rushing and six touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 243 pound Eric Kettani gets a lot of carries from his fullback spot, and has 673 yards rushing and two scores.
Who Navy plays at quarterback is up in the air, but whoever plays, has been productive. Starter Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada has battled a hamstring injury all season, has missed a lot of time, and remains week to week. The senior had to leave Navy's 33-27 overtime victory over Temple two weeks ago, and the bye week this past weekend couldn't of come at a better time. On the year, Kaheaku-Enhada has rushed for 169 yards and three touchdowns.
The bye week came at a great time for backup quarterback Jarod Bryant as well. A shoulder injury kept him out of the game against Temple. Filling in for Kaheaku-Enhada, Bryant has run the offense well. He has rushed for 440 yards and six touchdowns.
Third-string quarterback Ricky Dobbs has had to play in Navy's last two games, and has rushed for six touchdowns. He has 342 yards rushing, and the Irish defense will have to be ready for any of these three players in Baltimore.
Navy sprinkles in just enough passing to keep the defense honest. Efficient when they do throw the ball, the Irish will have to be aware of the play action and guys getting behind the defense.
The offensive line isn't very big, but they're quick and do a good job of getting out to the second level. Center Ricky Moore is the line's largest player at 6-foot-4, 295 pounds.
Achilles Heal(s): This offense isn't built to comeback.
Don't let the 20-point fourth quarter comeback against Temple fool you. That was more on bad decision making by the Owls players and coaches than it was on Navy's offense.
Navy is going to move the chains, eat up clock and gain yards. That's what the offense is designed to do. However, if they fall behind a couple scores late to the Irish, they're going to have a tough time coming back without a consistent vertical passing game.
Miscellaneous: Navy is 61-of-126 (48 percent) on third down this season. They're winning the time-of-possession battle, 32:09 to 27:51. The Middies have been good in the red zone, scoring on 30-of-34 opportunities, including 19 touchdowns. Kicker Matt Harmon had previously made 70 extra points, but he's missed one in the last two contests. He has made 14-of-16 field goals with a long of 49 yards. Tyree Barnes leads the team with 15 receptions for 280 yards and two scores. The next best receiver has just four catches. Six players have rushed for over 100 yards on Navy's team. Blake Carter has a 44-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Navy's 3-4 defense is designed to bend but not break. They give up yards, but they try and keep plays in front of them.
Led by Middleton, Johnson and Pospisil, the Middies are solid against the run. Johnson leads the team with 62 tackles, and Middleton has 61 with a team-high five pass breakups. Pospisil has 59 tackles, and is tied for team highs with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
The 6-foot-4, 249-pound Nechak has a team best four sacks from his defensive end spot, and seven-and-a-half tackles for loss.
Achilles Heal(s):Navy is horrendous against the pass, and they don‘t get a lot of negative plays.
Teams have been able to pick Navy apart. They rank near the bottom nationally in pass defense and pass-efficiency defense. The Middies don't generate much of a pass rush, and the secondary is small for the most part, and not very deep.
Navy ranks 104th nationally in tackles for loss, so offenses are generally looking at manageable down and distances against the Middies.
Miscellaneous: Teams are a very good 60-of-117 (51 percent) on third down against Navy. Opponents are 23-of-30 (77 percent) in the red zone against the Middies, including 20 touchdowns. Punter Kyle Delahooke is averaging 40.7 yards per boot. Clint Sovie has a 42-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Game Notes: This is the 82nd-ever meeting between Notre Dame and Navy. The Irish lead the series with a 70-10-1 record. The Vegas line has Notre Dame opening as 4-point favorites. Charlie Weis' record against Navy is 2-1. Ken Niumatalolo's record against Notre Dame is 0-0.
Prediction: Notre Dame 35, Navy 21: Coming off its worst offensive performance of the season, Jimmy Clausen and company look like a completely different unit against the Navy defense. Clausen rebounds to throw three touchdown passes, and freshman receiver Michael Floyd continues to impress. Safety Kyle McCarthy registers over 15 tackles, and is one of the big reasons why the Irish do a decent job of containing the option.
Game Forecast: Navy Week
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