It seemed as if the first half of Notre Dame’s schedule was to be the most daunting. Turns out the second half is no cake walk either.
But the Irish can’t think of Pitt, UConn or Stanford before they deal with those pesky Midshipmen of the Naval Academy.
When Navy has the ball:
The vaunted triple option. Few other teams run it as well as the Midshipmen. It starts with QB Ricky Dobbs taking the snap from under center. He has the first option of handing it off to the fullback coming up the middle. If that’s not looking promising, he’ll take it himself…or he’ll pitch it to another running back that’s lined up just wide of him or that’s running next to him.
It sounds confusing, I know. But it’s effective. For example, two weeks ago they defeated ACC’s Wake Forest using only the triple option run game. They refused to throw it. Not once.
Fullback Vince Murray has seen his workload heavily increase over the past few weeks. Against Temple, he took 33 carries and ran for a 115 yards. Aside from Dobbs, Murray is the hammer that the Irish have to nail down, all 220 pounds of him.
Now, this sounds like it sets up perfect for the Irish. Their rush defense has been exceptional for most part of the season. But defending against the option requires discipline and tackling basics.
If the Irish hold their spots and make the plays that come their way, they should shut down Dobbs and the ‘Shipmen.
When Notre Dame has the ball:
Navy doesn’t run any gimmicks on defense. They’re well disciplined,
good at rushing the passer and strong in the middle.
LB and defensive captain Ross Pospisil is Navy’s best defender. He leads the team with 65 total tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss. He’s pretty much the director of traffic when the Navy D is on the field.
Behind him is Safety Wyatt Middleton, one of the best defensive backs to play at Navy in the last 20 years. Last game against Temple, Middleton had two interceptions and leads the team with three.
These boys aren’t an easy pushover for Clausen and company. However, with Mike Floyd returning to the field, they have to feel threatened. And if ND gets into the red zone, they will have success, as opponents are scoring 80 percent of the time on Navy.
Clausen, Tate and Allen Jr. have to keep doing what they’ve been doing. There’s nothing in Navy’s defense that requires some remarkable scheme or superior trickery. Just get it to the playmakers and let them do work.
To sum it all up:
Navy’s not a huge threat to the Irish, especially with their stout run defense. But they are much, much better than Washington State. And if the Irish are caught looking ahead to Pitt next week, this’ll be closer than expected.
But as I’ve said 700 times before, the Irish offense shouldn’t be stopped in this game. All eyes will be on Mike Floyd, taking his first snaps with the Irish since the third game of the season.
There’s going to be enough energy in Notre Dame Stadium to light up South Bend. Way too much for Navy to pull off the upset.
Prediction: ND 33, Navy 17