Duranko’s Digest: What Did We See Against Navy?

Jaylon Smith - Notre Dame LB
Photo: Matt Cashore // USA TODAY Sports

After the second consecutive slow start, Notre Dame exercised functional control over Navy and completed discharge of its moral imperative, defeating Navy 41-24. The win over Notre Dame’s longest continuous and only perpetual rival moved the Irish to 5-1. It was Kelly’s 50th victory as Notre Dame head coach, tying him with Dan Devine for fifth place among Irish head coaches.

Niumatalolo started fast; Redfield didn’t

The Navy strategists had studied the Georgia Tech film and Navy’s first drive was the most successful, aided and abetted by an eager but impatient Max Redfield and what may well be a declining Joe Schmidt. Redfield has mastered Mandarin in the classroom but not yet the triple option on the field.

Notre Dame can now stop the option

Or at least slow it down. After the Middies ripped off 70 yards in 3 plays on the first drive, the Elliott architecture, implemented by the Van Gorder construction plan asserted itself. In the next three drives the Irish Defense held Navy to 16 plays for 52 yards, two punt and a fumble.

As a result, the slow starting Irish offense moved to what appeared to be functional control with a commanding 21-7 lead.

Navy was not able to milk the clock and had a mere 16 first downs. And just as against Georgia Tech, Notre Dame’s defensive schemes forced the Middies to spend Timeouts prematurely.

The anti-option plan can now be mothballed until next Spring. Bobby Elliott, take a bow!   Somewhere Bump Elliott is smiling.

Disturbing Trend

After Keenan Reynolds went out with an injury, Notre Dame allowed Navy to score two quick touchdowns in just 4 minutes of possession, aggregating 116 yards in 11 plays wrapped around a horrific interception thrown by Kizer.  In the process the Irish linebackers and safeties made Quentin Ezell look like Leonard Fournette. It was 21-21. Control had evaporated.

That is the fifth time this season that the Irish have allowed two quick scores in a little more than 6 minutes;

  • In a little over 9 minutes straddling the first and second quarters, Virginia, anemic offense or not, put up two TDS
  • Against Georgia Tech, while a hyperventilating Brandon Wimbush waited on the sideline, ND ALLOWED the Engineers to score two TDS in a little more than 6 minutes
  • Against UMASS, in a little more than 4 minutes the ND defense ALLOWED UMASS to put up two quick TDS
  • Against Clemson, in a little more than 6 minutes, Clemson’s Tigers, aided by the only poor punt of his young career by Tyler Newsome, roared to a 14-0 lead.

Thus, in 5 games, all but Texas, the Irish have suffered a woeful 4-9 minute stretch and allowed two quick TDS.

This “habit” must be terminated with extreme prejudice.

Martini and Grace

The second and eighth leading tacklers both seemed patient, relaxed in space and able to bring the Navy runner down without drama or intrigue.

The Kickers

Newsome and Yoon are assets, now and through the 1/1/19 bowl game. Newsome has length and already has shown the ability to bring the “coffin corner” out of the archives. Yoon seems settled in after a shaky start and his end of the first half field goal was a pressure moment. Cocky is good for a placekicker.

Future Stars

  • Josh Adams – frosh running backs are usually shaky the first six weeks. Josh is well above the norm. Neither he nor Denson nor Sanford know what Adams’ ceiling might be.
  • Tevon Coney – he will be ready when his time comes. He may be ready even now.

What did we see on Saturday against Navy that has predictive value against USC?

Nothing, absolutely nothing. It’s different next Saturday.

Who controlled the clock?

The Replay booth. Notre Dame and Navy never had a chance.

What will we see against USC?

  • The campus at its postcard best, leaves on the ground, color on the trees, the early nibble of Michiana autumn in the air.
  • Our rival, our blessing our curse.
  • A very precise quarterback, Cody Kessler. Kessler comes in with 54 TDS and 6 interceptions over the last two seasons. But Kessler is the first immobile quarterback we will have faced. He has Reesian mobility, on an absolute scale.
  • A bevy of talented receivers. Juju Smith may turn out to be more productive, long term than his predecessors Robert Woods, Marquise Lee and Nelson Agholor. He appears to be stronger. Adoree Jackson is a deadly weapon and gashed Notre Dame last year on a wheel route with Greer Martini the patsy.
  • A large offensive line which USC insiders contend has underperformed its hype in 2015.
  • The first true test for the Irish secondary with a quarterback who is accurate, a deep corps of swift receivers, and clever play calling by Sarkisian. In 2015 it is arguable that KeiVarae Russell has underperformed expectations more than any other player on the roster. It is time for him to make that a lie.
  • A USC defense that has some players, but got gashed and bashed by Stanford when the Cardinal held the ball for 39 minutes and 29 seconds. The other side of that coin is somewhat terrifying, as Troy scored 31 points against an often stingy Stanford defense in just 20 minutes of possession. Su’a Cravens gets the ink on the SC defense, but Adoree Jackson may be the player with the most long term potential. Most believe he will be a better cornerback than MacKensie Alexander of Clemson.
  • A pivotal outing for the Irish. With no game the weekend of the 24th, a win against SC can put the Irish in good stead for the final stretch against Temple, Pitt, BC, Wake and Stanford. A loss would eliminate the Irish from playoff contention and diminish the chances of a first rate bowl game.
  • All of football is unpredictable, but it seems as if there have been more strange twists and turns in the USC-Notre Dame series than for any other Irish opponent.
  • It’s mid-October. Notre Dame versus USC. Enjoy this. It’s why the players play and why we fans are fans.


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  1. At the end of the day, ND came away with a convincing win. Unfortunately, as noted above, ND did allow 2 quick strikes by their backup QB. However, Navy does extensive practices with their backup QB, probably more so than at other schools, and they have their back-ups ready to pick up the slack at any time, so I’m not entirely surprised. Once the defense settled down, they shut Navy down again. I remember the commentators noting that GT has about 5 base offensive schemes while Navy has over 30 to prepare for. Navy has masterminded the triple option so it stands to reason it would be a bit harder to defend. I was glad to see the team step up and shut them down again though. Fans of other teams love to slam ND for playing Navy every year, which I never understood. Navy, while not NC caliber, is not to be taken lightly. They do have talent and will gash you if you dare overlook them. In short, while they likely won’t be making the playoffs anytime soon, are not a bad team. They could beat any given team on any given Saturday under the right circumstances.

    ND should not take USC lightly, despite the coaching uncertainties going forward. They have talent on the team. And like Michigan, USC typically plays ND tough no matter what the circumstances are. ND should, and will prepare for USC as if they are in top form with no issues. That’s the best way to win the game.

  2. It appeared to me Navy ran its option faster/quicker and closer to the line of scrimmage than GT. Hopefully this can help the D-line and backers for SC’s speed. Also carry over on the hard hitting and physical game may help. I sometimes wonder if preparing for the triple option shouldn’t help defending the read option. At least for D/E&OLB. Watching the Clemson player he didn’t commit or get to deep, so was able to take the QB or RB. He was disruptive along with Clemson crowding the scrimmage line.. Again play more defensive lineman please. Help the D-Backs. Glad BVG adjusted a couple of positions/personnel too. Thanks.

  3. Would like to see VanGorder line up Sheldon Day on their center.

    Especially on passing situations with Kessler in the shotgun.

    Day has such a quick first step it’s something I think VanGorder would have to test.

    That’s a lot of pressure on someone who hasn’t played center in a while.

    That might be a match up that ND can really exploit.

    Not only could Sheldon bring pressure up the middle, he may force a few bad snaps as well.

  4. I agree with Duranko about Joe Schmidt declining. Time to see more of Morgan. Also agree with ChrisJ that Wimbush should have gotten some reps against Navy, late in the 4th quarter. I’d like to see the Irish use both of the freshman RB’s more.

  5. The schedule helps here. I now prefer a week off AFTER SC than before.

    The players can go all in and recuperate next week.

    For the first time all year the Irish do not have to “spy” on the QB. I expect some Smith blitzes, and maybe even a blitz or two from Russell or Redfield. The Tuerk absence is big, very big. If the center has to call protections VanGorderr will drive hie nuts.

    While , as a follower of Christ, I eschew viol3nce, more or less, I want southside on my side if a brawl erupts.

  6. Duranko , spot on. Irish can’t start out slow — not in this GAME. 1st quarter drives by ND are essential. 3 and outs in 1st quarter will give Kessler/Trojans the ball–and they can strike quickly in a short span of time as mentioned. Kelly says he needs more consistency from secondary. True. But , Irish also need a pass rush or Kessler will pick apart Irish secondary. Disrespect T-Shirts and Daniel Day Lewis look from “There will be blood” film and Irish go 6-1. Post game celebration with spiked cider , smell of burning leaves in the autumn air , good news of more top teams tumbling down — life is good.

  7. USC is really never a gimme, but what else is new? Most recently USC has played poorly losing two games but do not expect them to lie down against the Irish. Procise needs to be at his best as does Kizer and Fuller. The ND defense should be tested and the secondary needs to be on alert at all times! Go Irish!

  8. Duranko nailed it….no Defensive lapses. If we can’t get fired up for this game, we are not Champions.

    The way to beat the Trojans is to pressure Kessler. If not, he will dissect us.

    UCLA hammered SC last year by effectively pressuring Kessler and Washington did it Thursday night. Our D line needs to stuff this guy.


  9. Also, MaxTuerk, the Trojans bellcow center is out for the year. This is a lot of stuff to deal with for Helton. It’s too bad all this stuff is happening to USC . I hope it’s nothing temporary!!

    And I understand that springboarding off last week’s uniform twist that the ND players will be donning an undershirt saying “DISRESPECT”

  10. So USC’s Sarkesian is taking a leave of absence immediately. Haden is reported to say he is not healthy. This puts a twist on Saturday’s game.

  11. It’s been a pattern where the back up QB should have got some playing time and didn’t. That’s not a new thing with Kelly and given what has happened this year with QB’s I am surprised a little more priority has not been given to that aspect. It’s a win, but, I don’t know if I rate this a dominating win. 300+ yards given up with a lot of time to prepare for the option isn’t exactly dominating it.

    Time to prepare for those Trojans and be ready for a team coming in with their own chip. ND has to play a complete game all 4 quarters. Kizer is doing a job right now that is pretty damn good. His weakness is not running the read option as well as Zaire nor being a more true running QB. He is mobile (definitely not suffering Reesism) but if he could run better this offense would be a bit more open.

    Go ND

  12. Was anyone else surprised to see Jaylon actually miss a couple tackles this last game? I think that is the first time I have ever seen that. Max Redfield may be overrated at this point in his career. I’m not confident in him as a playmaker. Shumate looks great though and really brings the lumber with some of his hits. It was a dominant win even though it was kind of boring. That’s how it should be though every time we play Navy so at least that was a positive that we just took care of business.

    I love Kelly as a coach but man sometimes he does really stupid things. The last drive of the game…first of all, Wimbush could have easily played here so that was questionable. Why NOT play him here just to give him that little bit more experience? And then on top of keeping Kizer out there and the game completely out of reach for Navy at that point, he calls a designed run for Kizer!!!!! What was he thinking!?!?! lol

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