Rules and Assignments

If there is one thing Navy is known for, it has to be its potent rushing offense. Coming into this week, the Midshipmen have the second-ranked running attack in the nation with 308 yards per game good enough for a 5.44 yards per carry average. So how exactly do the Irish go about neutralizing a team that earlier this season won a contest without attempting a pass?

According to Kerry Neal, it's all about sticking to one's responsibilities and assignments.

"It's assignment football," he said. "Everybody's got to do their job. You can't worry about anybody else's job, you've just got to do your job and then everybody else is going to be in the right spot."

His teammate, Kyle McCarthy, wasn't about to disagree regarding the preferred method of halting the Midshipmen.

"It's definitely an unconventional offense," McCarthy said. "It's not a traditional offense, a lot of misdirection and they run their offense very well and fast paced, so you can't get caught up because if you're asking to get in the wrong place, it's going to be a touchdown. So basically, juts follow your assignments; don't try to do too much. You're not going to win the game on every play, so just do what you're told, do what the coaches ask you to do and if everyone's on the same page, we'll be alright."

Head coach Charlie Weis isn't one to beat around the bush. When examining the Midshipmen rushing attack, he had nothing but positives to say of the job first-year coach Ken Niumatalolo has done with the ground game.

"It's the same Navy team," Weis said. "And they're averaging over 300 yards a game rushing, 308, which is [second] in the country. 5.4 a carry. Nothing changes with them. They're one of the best at what they do."

Another area that the Midshipmen are unmatched in is their effort. The program does not boast the flashy names of highly touted recruits, but thus far this season Navy is getting the job done on the field.

"Every play, they can give you every play," Neal said. "They're undersized, but they are the hardest working guys I've seen on the field. They come at your legs full-speed, 100 miles per hour, it's Navy."

One aspect in which Navy dominates its opponents is the category of time of possession. The squad ranks thirteenth nationally, possessing the ball for an average of just over 32 minutes per contest. Their success rushing the ball, coupled with their efficient red zone scoring could present itself as a problem for the Irish defense, if Notre Dame's offense cannot put points on the board early.

"They get in the red zone, they score," Weis said. "They've scored 88 percent of the time, and they get off to fast starts. They have outscored their opponents in the first quarter, 91-69."

For an offense like the system Navy employs, a great part of the success comes with the ability to trick and deceive opposing defenses. Since the defenders know that a vast majority of the plays that will be called are going to be runs, misdirections characterize the Midshipmen attack. For the Irish, it will be imperative not to be fooled. For Neal, it's about sticking with the individual tasks at hand.

"I say it is, but like I said, you just have to follow your assignments," he said. "As soon as you don't do your assignment, boom, fullbacks going the middle of the field, the quarterback's keeping it going, 30 yards, 40 yards."

Part of the reason as to why Navy was able to end Notre Dame's 44-year winning streak last season was because of the confidence that the squad displayed in its ability to gain yardage. This was specifically evident in short-yardage situations and fourth downs, which Navy exploited to pull out the overtime victory. To neutralize this assurance in short-yard situations, physicality will determine the outcome of the play.

"We've got to set the tone," Neal said. "Not really just sit back, but go ahead and attack that gap. If there's a guy coming, go ahead and attack him. Don't wait on him."

As the defense gears up to face the option, game planning so far this week has been slightly different for the Irish players, although some simplicity has emerged as well.

"It's a whole lot different," Neal said. "It's a lot more simple. Scheme-wise there's a couple of more calls that we're going to add, but we've got to go out there and run the play. We know what they're going to do. They know what they're going to do, and everybody in the stands knows what they're going to do. They're going to run the ball, run the option, give it to the fullback, so we've just got to play gap control defense."

For McCarthy, it has been a different experience as well.

"It's very different, than a traditional offense," he said. "In practices, the offensive show teams are giving you a much different look. It's different. You have to have a different mentality on defense. You can't be out of control or anything; you have to be reading your keys. It's different, but it's fun as well."

With this difference in game planning, the senior safety has instead had to shift his focus to certain areas of his skill set that he hasn't had to use against other opponents.

"You might just concentrate on more areas, since you're defending the option, and it's something you don't usually see every week and it's something that your eyes need to be in the right place, you have to have your keys right," he said. "They do some things that are a little unconventional and we have to work on different things, but that's what practice is for. We'll be ready."


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