Notre Dame won its third straight game for the first time this season in last week’s destruction of Air Force, and the Irish will be expected to put another dominating performance together this week versus one of the oldest rivals of the Notre Dame football program – Navy. The Irish looked strong against the option last week and will face it again this week versus the Midshipmen, which should lead to another strong effort by the Irish defense. This week’s game could be a mirror image of last week’s offensively as the Irish will likely pick apart Navy’s secondary at will. The following are the key matchups the Irish must dictate to win as convincingly as they should:
Dan Fox versus Keenan Reynolds:
Just as it was last week linebacker play will be under the microscope this week versus the option. Fifth-year senior Dan Fox will be responsible for shutting down the engine that makes the Navy offense run, quarterback Keenan Reynolds. Reynolds is Navy’s leading rusher with 546 yards and 11 touchdowns and is also a very solid passer with 667 yards and four touchdowns on the season. If Fox can do the grunt work and limit Reynolds’s big plays then linebackers like Jaylon Smith will be able to shine and fill up the stat sheet.
Carlo Calabrese versus Chris Swain:
Inside linebacker Carlo Calabrese will be charged with the responsibility of shutting down the first option in the triple option, fullback Chris Swain. In what promises to be an extremely physical matchup Calabrese will battle the hardnosed Swain who is one of two frequently used fullbacks for the Midshipmen. Swain has 284 rushing yards and three touchdowns, good for second on the Navy roster and will occupy Calabrese’s full attention from start to finish.
TJ Jones versus Parrish Gaines:
Irish receiver TJ Jones is likely in for another huge day when he faces Navy. Jones has separated himself as far and away Notre Dame’s best receiver and Tommy Rees’s favorite target. Charged with trying to contain Jones will be Navy corner Parrish Gaines. Gaines is a junior and is a big corner at 6’2’’ 196 pounds. The Midshipmen corner has 34 tackles and an interception so far this season.
The Irish running backs versus Cody Peterson:
With the Irish having a bit of trouble getting the run game going against Air Force don’t be surprised if the attack is run heavy this week to make a statement. With the backs still splitting carries at this point in the season and some of them still struggling to find consistency look for all four big players to get carries. Navy linebacker Cody Peterson will be in charge of slowing down the Notre Dame ground attack. Peterson is a co-captain and leading tackler for the Midshipmen and the senior has plenty of experience. He’ll be in tough however as the Irish will likely look to pound the ball on the ground throughout the game.