Notre Dame Football Primer: Irish face Rival Navy in Top 25 Clash

After a decisive win on the road, Brian Kelly and the Irish head home to take on longtime rival, the Navy Midshipmen. Both teams are in the Top 25 of the College Football Playoffs and have major bowl aspirations. The vaunted triple-option attack of the Midshipmen will be in full effect as Notre Dame looks to continue their dominance in South Bend.

Essential Game Info:

  • Game Time: November 16th at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC
  • Location: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana
  • Matchup History: Notre Dame is 76-13-1 all-time against the Midshipmen (Last Meeting 2018: Irish won 44 to 22)
  • Current Odds: Notre Dame -9.0

Weather Forecast

The current forecast for GameDay shows a 10% chance of rain with a high of 37 degrees and a low of 25.

Navy Details:

  • Conference: American Athletic Conference (West Division)
  • Head Coach: Ken Niumatalolo
  • 2019 Record: 7-1 (5-1)
  • 2018 Record: 3-10

Navy Storylines:

Bounce back season for Ken Niumatalolo. After going 3-10 and losing to Army for the 3rd straight season, the Midshipmen have gotten back into the Top 25. Ken Niumatalolo has Navy playing the type of football fans have been accustomed to during his tenure. His team is coming into South Bend fresh off a bye-week (like every team that Notre Dame plays).

Yes, the Irish have dominated the series as of late, but 2 of the last 3 meetings in South Bend have been decided by 7 points or less.

Time of Possession is Key for Midshipmen. There is no surprise that Navy wants to control the clock against Notre Dame. Navy attempts to average 3 to 4 yards a play so they can methodically use their running game. Don’t be surprised to see the Navy Offense going for it on 4th down as they have been known to do against the Irish.

Key Navy Players. The Midshipmen offense is led by quarterback Malcolm Perry. On the season, the senior quarterback is 29 for 53 (54.7%) with 722 yards, 5 passing touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. Navy excels in the running attack, where Perry has 157 carries for 1,042 yards (6.6 yards per carry) and 16 rushing touchdowns.

Adding to the Navy Triple Option are Nelson Smith and Jamale Carothers. Smith is the marquee fullback, and the first option that the Irish will emphasis on stopping. Through 8 games, Nelson Smith has 104 attempts for 505 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and 7 touchdowns. While Carothers has 36 rushes for 355 yards (9.9 yards per attempt) with 8 touchdowns.

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Diego Fagot and Kevin Brennan headline navy Defense. Fagot has tallied 59 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 1 interception on the season while Brennan adds 52 tackles and 1 interception this year.

Notre Dame Storylines:

Irish Offense finally hitting stride? Ian Book had perhaps his best game of the season last weekend, not including the lackluster competition of Bowling Green and New Mexico. Book went 18 for 32 through the air for 181 yards with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. On the ground, the Irish Quarterback had 12 carries for 139 yards with long of 53 yards. Under Chip Long, the Irish Offense has been successful when the Notre Dame Quarterback is contributing on the ground.

Notre Dame finally started to utilize the middle of the field against the Duke Blue Devils. Chris Finke had one of the best games of his career as a result. The senior captain had 5 catches for 49 yards and 2 touchdowns. He could have easily eclipsed 100 yards if it wasn’t for a holding call late in the 2nd quarter that negated all his yards after the catch.

Injuries continue for Irish. Unfortunately, the Irish lost their best pass-rusher and captain on Defense in Julian Okwara. Brian Kelly also announced linebacker Jack Lamb will miss the remainder of the season. Notre Dame’s injuries are starting to pile up as they reach their final 3-game stretch. Irish fans can only hope Braden Lenzy and Joe Wilkins Jr. will be back off the injured list this weekend.

Top 25 Matchup in South Bend. Coming off an awful 2018, the Navy Midshipmen have bounced back in a major way this fall. As the Irish are looking to make a New Year’s Six Bowl, a victory over 7-1 and Top 25 Navy could help add to their resumé.

Notre Dame vs. Navy is one of the most historic rivalries in College Football. The Midshipmen have won 3 of the last 10 matchups and are not a push-over by any means. If the Irish want to continue their home dominance, they will have to play critical fundamental football this weekend.

Head to Head Matchups:

Notre Dame Offense vs. Navy Defense: The Midshipmen have only given up 18 points per game in 2019. Although most of their competition was not up to the level of the Irish, it is a major reason they are currently ranked. Facing their best opponents, Navy gave up 35 points to Memphis and 38 points to Tulane.

A week ago, I would give this matchup a tie. However, after Notre Dame’s performance on the road against the Blue Devils, I will give the Irish a slight advantage. Ian Book will have to make every drive count because the Notre Dame Offense may not get many opportunities.

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Advantage: Notre Dame

Navy Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: Injuries are starting to pile up for the Irish Defense and at an inopportune time against the triple-option. When the Navy Offense is rolling, it’s a beautiful sight to see (when your team is not facing it).

Once again, I’m on the fence about this matchup. Notre Dame just lost Julian Okwara, which hurts. But the Notre Dame Defense has played great all season except for the Michigan game. For the Irish to be successful, they will have to create negative plays against Navy to keep them “off schedule.” I believe the Irish Defense can successfully do this, and that is why I give Clark Lea’s Defense the advantage.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Special Teams: Navy’s special teams are headlined by kicker Bijan Nichols, who is 5 for 7 this season with a long of 49 yards. On the Irish side, Jonathan Doerer has made 7 of 9 attempts with a 52-yard long.

Last weekend, Chris Finke had one of the best games of his career, and special teams was no exception. Finke had a 46-yard punt return that setup another Notre Dame touchdown. Irish fans hope to see more of this version of Chris Finke the remainder of the season.

There is no clear advantage in this category.


My Prediction:

The annual Notre Dame Navy rivalry is back for the 2019 edition. Whether or not you like this series, these programs will be playing one another for the foreseeable future. Ian Book and the Irish Offense had an impressive performance on the road last Saturday. After the game-winning drive a week prior against Virginia Tech, it appears the offense has hit its stride.

Clark Lea’s Defense was remarkable as usual last weekend against Duke. Besides one good passing play for the Blue Devils, the Irish Defense shut down their opponent.

Brian Kelly has faced Navy for a decade now, and Clark Lea has seen the Midshipmen numerous times. It will be critical for Notre Dame to get Navy off the field, so they do not drain the clock and limit the Irish Offense to only a handful of possessions. I believe this will be a good matchup, but Notre Dame will pull away in the end and continue this newfound momentum.

Prediction: Notre Dame 31 Navy 21

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  1. Michael , this backfield of QB Perry and RB’s Smith/Carothers looks to be a 3 headed torpedo heading toards the Irish. I just want to add that Carothers numbers of 36/355/9.9 yds per attempt and 8 touchdowns are for the last 4 games. He didn’t play the first 4 (which includes the Memphis loss). That’s pretty freaki’n scary. Who is this guy ? All hands on deck for Irish to stop the Middies and send them back to the ship yard for repairs.

  2. This should be an easy win for the Irish. Notre Dame should run the table on their remaining schedule which gets them to 10-2 and a decent bowl game. Notre Dame should never fucking lose to Navy.

  3. One has to think that this ND expert has not seem Navy play since last vs ND. Gilman has been gone 3 yrs and was there only one; he has to therefore be the smartest player on ND by far or you give him too much credit.
    Malcolm Perry will be the most dynamic players on the field.

    ND should win….but watch out.

  4. Navy, simp;y, is not one of the 25 best football team in America.

    The ranking, they have. The quality and depth they do not.

    And Damian is right.

    Lea, if he has one fault, and that is “IF”, is that he overschemes and does not let his players just cut loose.

    Sure we beat USC, but 3 rush, 8 back ALL the time diminished the ability of our stallions to make plays.

    But he is perfect for Navy. He will adjust scheme and personnel, and will probably put Gilman, who knows a thing or two about Navy,
    close to, if not in the box, with Hamilton patrolling the back. And he may play Bo Bauer a lot. This is a Bo Bauer kind of game, pursue,
    hit and wrap and not worry about chasing RBS in screens or wheel routes.

    Last year?

    The Irish held Navy to 14 first downs, while garnering 28.

    The Irish had 584 yards of total offense, the Middies 344.

    Lea knows what to do. Kelly understands, and shows him good looks on the practice squad. Lea has the players to complete what is necessary.
    And Navy’s head coach is uncomfortable with Alohi on the other sideline. Alohi knows the Middie shtick.

  5. Get ready for NAVYS chop blocks , cut blocks and late hits we always lose a player or 2 from these games!! As always the triple option will infuriate the defense and fanbase for 4 quarters b4 a close hard fought win! GO IRISH!!

  6. I’m not as worried about Navy’s trademark triple option as I once was. It does seem the defense has found ways to minimize that advantage for Navy.

    The main concern probably is Navy’s tendency to burn up the clock. It can cause frustration for a defense in the sense that Navy doesn’t do anything fast. There’s a lot of hurry up and wait. The defense just has to be patient and try to get a 3 and out (or 4 and out), which against Navy can be frustratingly difficult to come by.

    I think you’ll be able to tell by the end of the first quarter what kind of game we’re going to have and whether it’s going to be a slog of a game.

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