Notre Dame Football Primer: #20 Irish face Navy in Baltimore

The newly ranked Fighting Irish travel to Baltimore to face their longtime rival, the Naval Midshipmen.

Notre Dame Football looks to continue its success on the road after a program-defining victory against #4 Clemson. This week’s opponent will be the Navy Midshipmen, as Marcus Freeman gets his first taste of this rivalry as Head Coach. Ken Niumatalolo’s team has had some close calls this fall and will be keen to halt the Irish momentum. It will be a noon showdown on the gridiron as the Fighting Irish square off against Navy for the 93rd all-time meeting.

Essential Game Info:

  • Game Time: Saturday, November 12th at 12:00 PM ET on ABC
  • Location: M & T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Matchup History: Notre Dame is 78-13-1 all-time against the Navy Midshipmen (Last Meeting 2021: Irish won 34 to 6)
  • Current Odds: Notre Dame -17.5
  • Trophy: The Rip Miller Trophy

Navy Details:

  • Conference: American Athletic Conference
  • Head Coach: Ken Niumatalolo
  • 2022 Record: 3-6 (3-4)
  • 2021 Record: 4-8 (3-5)

Weather Forecast

The current GameDay forecast shows a 60% chance of rain with a high of 63 degrees and low of 39.

Navy Storylines:

Navy will face the Fighting Irish in Baltimore for the 23rd time. It has been 14 years since these two programs met at M & T Bank Stadium. Ken Niumatalolo’s team is 3-6 this season, but most of their losses were decided late in the game. The Midshipmen lost to Air Force by 3-points, SMU by 6-points, Temple by 7-points, and Cincinnati by 10-points.

Irish fans undoubtedly know that you can throw records out the window in rivalry games.

Quarterback Tai Lavatai leads the Navy Offense. This fall, Lavatai is 42 for 91 (46%) for 787 passing yards, 5 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and 5 sacks taken. On the ground, he has 115 rushes for 309 yards (2.7 yards per carry) with 5 rushing scores.

Accompanying Tai Lavatai in the rushing attack are Midshipmen Daba Fofana and Maquel Haywood. This season Fofana has 140 carries for 502 yards (3.6 yards per carry) with 5 rushing touchdowns, while Haywood has 63 attempts for 406 yards (6.4 yards per carry).

Notre Dame Storylines:

Marcus Freeman earns a monumental victory. After an up and down season, the Irish were able to knock off #16 Syracuse on the road, followed up by a dominating victory over the 8-0 and #4 Clemson Tigers on Saturday. Most impressively, Notre Dame did not upset the Tigers late in the game, but they controlled the clock and won by three touchdowns.

Although the Irish still sit at 6-3, they have proven they can compete with anyone this season.

Tommy Rees has found the strength of the Irish Offense. Notre Dame does not have a high-flying offense like Tennessee or USC, but the past two weeks they have found an identity. A strong rushing attack alongside timely passing and play action has been the recipe for success. Facing Clemson, the Fighting Irish had 47 attempts for 263 yards (5.6 yards per carry).

While going 9 for 17 with 85 passing yards and 1 passing touchdown, Drew Pyne was able to manage the game for the Irish Offense. If Notre Dame can build an early lead against Navy, they should get more wide receivers involved with the offense and develop a rhythm in the passing game as well.

Can the Irish stay focused until the USC matchup? Notre Dame has played their best football on the road this season and they will travel to the east coast again to face the triple option. If Coach Freeman wants to finish with a 9-3 record with a potential 10-win season from a bowl game, they must first focus on Navy and Boston College.

Head-to-Head Matchups:

Notre Dame Offense vs. Navy Defense: The Notre Dame Offense is averaging 379 yards per contest, while the Navy Defense is allowing 363 yards per matchup. The Irish have wreaked havoc on the ground the past two weeks against top-20 opponents, the Midshipmen will have their work cut out for them.

The Fighting Irish have the advantage in this matchup, and I expect the play action to create more junk plays for the offense.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Navy Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: The Navy Offense is averaging 337 yards per game, while the Notre Dame Defense is allowing 329 yards per matchup. Al Golden’s group maintained the trenches against Syracuse and Clemson. The Midshipmen rely on the triple option to move the football and that will play right into the hands of this Irish Defense.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Special Teams: Notre Dame’s kicker Blake Grupe is 10 for 14 this season with his longest make coming at 47-yards. Conversely, Navy’s kicker Daniel Davies is 10 for 16 with his longest make coming at 46-yards.

The Irish have one of the best punt blocking units in the country thanks to special teams coach Brian Mason. Notre Dame has the advantage in this matchup.

Advantage: Notre Dame

My Prediction:

Fresh off an historic victory on Saturday, Notre Dame will have the opportunity to continue their momentum of the second half of the season. Marcus Freeman must refocus the Irish for the upset minded Navy Midshipmen and triple option.

Look for the offense to run the football early in the game and hopefully open the passing attack if they can build an early lead. Drew Pyne has been a quality game manager the past two weeks, but I hope he can make a few more plays downfield against the Midshipmen.

I believe this game will start off slow, like the matchup did in South Bend a season ago. With both teams wanting to control the clock and dominate the rushing attack there will not be many possessions, but I do predict the Irish to score 34-points and pull away in the second half.

Prediction: Notre Dame 34 Navy 13

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  1. You know these guys like to go for it on fourth anyway: Given our special teams play, I hope the defense expects a lot of 4rth down plays! (A fake punt would not surprise me though).

    BGC 77 82

  2. Re: Navy – obvious likely letdown game after both Syracuse and Clemson dominance . . .
    UNless ND can break some big chunk plays in the first half, it will be decided later than sooner, (hoping I’m wrong) and expect Navy to cover the spread with a late score since they never give up.
    Heads up to ND : Watch your knees, boys . . . chop, chop . . . coming at you.

  3. You know, the way this year has gone ND better not take anyone for granted. On paper this should be an easy win. But we’ve seen ND too many times this year play to the level of their competition. I honestly would not be surprised if they lost this game. Hopefully they can build off the dominant Clemson win and win out. But it’d be nice for them to finally play at their own level, instead of that of their opponent. This could be a great opportunity to open things up, see what they got.

    Fingers crossed this is an easy win, and not another heartbreaking loss.

    1. Notwithstandfing that on ANY given Saturday, there can be PLENTY of mind-blowing upsets in college fotballl….
      Navy is NEVER an easy win at all. Navy is excellent at executing its unique offense, and impossible for opponents to prepare for enough to feel confident.
      And even when the final score is lopsided, that game is tough, injury-prone, frustrating, patience-testing torture….and the more vastly superior a team is on paper, the more agonizing it can be.

      Want a team that can make a real good defense look completely uncoached? Navy.

  4. Tai Lavatai was injured and ruled out for the season 2 weeks ago. He won’t be playing on Saturday. The Navy QB is Xavier Arline at this point.

  5. I really doubt your expertise. Tai Levatai is out for the season with an injury. Xavier Arline is the new quarterback. He’s small but speedy and not much of a passer. You really need to revise your article by doing some much needed research. Just sayin’.

  6. We could take a win in a game like this for granted the past few years. But now we have to worry about another Stanford or Marshall meltdown.

    Hopefully, the team shows up ready to dominate an inferior opponent. Coming after a big win, this has emotional letdown written all over it. Kelly would have the team ready to play—let’s hope Freeman shows he is taking steps towards filling those shoes

      1. Fun Fact:, re: the Northewestern loss in 2014…..

        With an extra-point attempt that would push ND’s lead to a 3-score lead, Kelly turned against the strategy sheet and went for two. And failed. The game eventually went to OT…for the L.

        In fairness, he also made a LOT of other idiotic calls in that game.
        But on 2-point plays —- despite the narrative of Kelly now immediately being feted at LSU for being the 2-point genius/hero (“because it worked”, right Bruce?) —- Kelly has a long track record of being a really, REALLY dumb loser on that issue.

  7. I had a colleague who was.a physical therapist. He had been a trainor under
    Devine and Faust, as an undergraduate student back then. Years later, we were talking after work about something, either my knees or ND Football. Anyway, he asks “Curme, do you know what game the players like playing the least?” So I guessed MSU, because it was often so hard-hitting. But he said no, it was NAVY, because of the injuries. He said “it always had been” (meaning even before “the bone” when he was a trainor for Mary Pat Paskiet’s dad).
    Stay on your feet, and GO IRISH

    BGC 77 82

  8. Irish Access video from Saturday…..great stuff.
    FWIW… the soundbites of Freeman’s pre-game and half time speeches to the repetitive, automaton shit Kelly used to spew.
    How on God’s green Earth can that rat-fucking con man have even ONE person here defending him ?!

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