After facing what will by far be the toughest part of their schedule, Notre Dame will get a well deserved bye week before they face off against the triple option attack of Navy.
Navy is one of those games on paper that the Irish should always win. A well-run triple option attack, however, can negate a clear size, strength, and speed advantage if a defense isn’t ready to handle it. If a defense fails to stop drives, all of a sudden the offense finds themselves not just trailing, but pressing to overcome all the time that has been chewed up on the clock.
This year’s iteration of Navy looks to be one of those teams that can cause those kind of problems.
Previous Opponent Previews:
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Offense[table “” not found /]
The building blocks of last year’s option offense all return. Navy’s offensive line returns all of their starters. QB Keenan Reynolds returns to take the helm of the offense as does FB Noah Copeland and RB Geoffrey Whiteside. While technically not a returning starter, FB Chris Swain also returns who was the teams second leading rusher behind Reynolds (1524 yards) with 424 yards.
In short, the entire 2013 offense is basically back and that offense can move the ball against practically anyone. Navy faced off against 4 BCS teams last season (ND, Indiana, Duke, and Pitt) and gained at least 300 total yards and 200 rushing yards, including a 419 yard performance against the Irish (331 rushing yards).
Their worst performance was against Western Kentucky of all teams. In that game, their rushing attack went nowhere, gaining only 86 rushing yards and 162 yards total.
Their offense was nothing to dismiss in 2013 and should only get better in 2014.
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And here’s the huge weak spot.
Navy’s defense is simply terrible. The only sub-300 yard performance this unit put together was against fellow service academy and triple option team, Army. Against teams not focused on a clock-bleeding offense, the defense was much worse, especially against BCS competition where they gave up an average of 440 yards.
But hard-nosed defense is not what Navy relies on. For them, their best defense is a good offense. If the defense can bend and not break, that’s a win for Navy. They will be more than happy to trade a clock-bleeding TD drive for an opposing FG.
What to Expect
As I implied in the previous section, it’s always better to think about Navy games in terms of winning and losing drives. Any drive that doesn’t result in a TD should be considered a loss. It’s simply a waste of time considering how Navy can bleed the clock and that goes for both teams.
For Navy, they chew far too much time off the clock to only come away with three points. For the Irish, who will have less time to work with than what they’re used to, it’s simply a waste.
To push this concept further, the Irish goal on defense will be to force Navy “off schedule” and into passing downs. Navy will m0ve the ball, that’s simply unavoidable. The goal will be to limit their runs to less than 3 yards per rush. If they can do that, all of a sudden, Navy will find themselves in third and long and well out of their comfort zone.
While the narrative will certainly be focused on Brian VanGorder’s first game as ND defensive coordinator against Navy, especially considering how much Bob Diaco struggled in his first season, the Irish can create a good defense with a good offense much like Navy does. Should Navy find themselves trailing by two possessions or more, they will find themselves forced to push the pace and throw in more passes than they would prefer.
In short, any way the Irish can knock Navy off their gameplan is how they will walk away with a win and I fully expect them to do so.
Study Your Enemy
Here are the Navy blogs you should keep an eye out on:
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Texan by birth, Irish by choice.
Born and raised in the great state of Texas, Tex is a first-generation Domer and a former student manager. After graduation, he left the cold winters of South Bend behind and returned back to his home state with a computer engineering degree in tow. Missing the daily grind of working football practices and talking football with fellow Irish fans every day, he took to blogging, a path which eventually led him to Her Loyal Sons. Continuously diving into stats and game film, Tex strives to break down every aspect of Fighting Irish football--even though it's determined to kill him.
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