Notre Dame Football Primer: #13 Irish face Navy in Ireland

College Football is finally back! Year two of the Marcus Freeman Era begins this Saturday afternoon.

The Fighting Irish return to Dublin, Ireland for the first time since 2012. The Notre Dame Football program has changed dramatically this past decade, but the national championship goal remains the same. Notre Dame marches into this Week 0 matchup with another high preseason ranking to face their longtime rival, the Navy Midshipmen. Led by Heisman candidate Sam Hartman, the Irish are looking for a convincing win after a near upset to the Midshipmen last fall.

Essential Game Info:

  • Game Time: Saturday, August 26th at 2:30 PM ET
  • Location: Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland
  • Matchup History: Notre Dame is 79-13-1 all-time against the Navy Midshipmen (Last Meeting 2022: Irish won 35 to 32)
  • Current Odds: Notre Dame -20.5
  • Trophy: The Rip Miller Trophy

Navy Details

  • Conference: American Athletic Conference
  • Head Coach: Brian Newberry
  • 2022 Record: 4-8 (4-4)
  • 2021 Record: 4-8 (3-5)

Weather Forecast

The current GameDay forecast shows a 45% chance of rain, with a high of 63 degrees and a low of 53.

Navy Storylines:

There is a new Head Coach in Annapolis. For the first time since 2007, Ken Niumatalolo will not lead the Midshipmen into battle. Former Defensive Coordinator and Safeties coach since 2019, Brian Newberry, has taken over as Head Coach. Before his time at the Naval Academy, Coach Newberry was at Kennesaw State.

Navy Football travels back to Ireland. As an independent, Notre Dame can play essentially whoever they want, wherever they want, and the Naval Academy has always been open to playing neutral site games. Whether it is Jacksonville, San Diego, or now Dublin, they travel across the world to play in this historic rivalry.

No starting quarterback has been announced for Navy Football. Per Head Coach Brian Newberry, it is still a two-quarterback competition. Fans will likely see both Tai Lavatai (Senior) and Blake Horvath (Sophomore) in action this Saturday.

Last fall, Lavatai went 42 for 91 (46%) for 787 yards, 5 passing touchdowns, and 3 interceptions in 2022. On the ground, he had 115 attempts for 309 yards (2.7 yards per carry) with 5 rushing scores. While Blake Horvath has yet to record a statistic. Regardless of who is at quarterback, expect the Midshipmen to do a little more passing than they did under Ken Niumatalolo.

Notre Dame Storylines:

Sam Hartman makes his debut under center. The time has finally arrived for the Wake Forest transfer to make his highly anticipated start in Ireland. Notre Dame has desperately needed a superstar quarterback under center since Brady Quinn in 2006.

Fans hope that with a talented offensive line, a great core of running backs, and young wide receivers, Hartman can have his best season yet.

Gerad Parker takes over as offensive coordinator. With the departure of Tommy Rees to Alabama, former West Virginia Offensive Coordinator Gerad Parker gets another shot at play-calling. Undoubtedly, every coordinator in the country will be questioned on each decision, but how Coach Parker balances Sam Hartman and Audric Estime will be fascinating to watch.

The Irish Defense seeks redemption against the Navy. Notre Dame had a 35 to 13 lead against the Naval Academy but ended up winning 35 to 32. The Navy is always willing to roll the dice on 4th down and go for it just about any time the opportunity presents itself. Coach Freeman and Coach Golden must be better prepared in year two for the triple option.

Head-to-Head Matchups:

Notre Dame Offense vs. Navy Defense: The Fighting Irish have the advantage in this matchup. As always, Notre Dame must avoid settling for field goals when playing a service academy. There will only be limited possessions as the Navy Offense will windle the clock down to single digits every drive.

The Irish will have a clear advantage in this category but must be patient.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Navy Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: There is a new era of Navy Football, but expect them to stay close to their triple option roots. Last fall, the Midshipmen were able to give the Irish Defense fits during the second half of their matchup while keeping the Irish Offense off the field.

I give Al Golden’s Defense the advantage in this category and believe they will play better than they did in 2022.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Special Teams: Notre Dame brings in new special teams coordinator Marty Biagi (Ole Miss) alongside transfer kicker Spencer Shrader (South Florida). Last season, Shrader was 9 of 13 last season with a long of 49 yards.

Conversely, Navy is expected to start senior Evan Warren, who only has one attempt in his career (a 45-yard missed field goal).

Advantage: Notre Dame

My Prediction:

Notre Dame has won 10 of the last 11 matchups against Navy, including 5 straight victories with an average margin of 18 points. However, Marcus Freeman and company narrowly escaped a late surge from the Naval Academy last fall.

Football has no certainties, and before Notre Dame can even think about Ohio State, USC, or Clemson, they must pass this test. I believe the Irish will win this year’s matchup convincingly. Both the offense and defense will likely show some rust early on but will ultimately get the job done.

Notre Dame has been built off the rushing attack this past decade, so I anticipate Navy to try and take away the ground game first. But this will allow Sam Hartman to take some early shots and gain momentum for the Fighting Irish. I have the Irish winning this week 0 matchup by three touchdowns.

Prediction: Notre Dame 45, Navy 24

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  1. Mike, Coach Freeman, I would suspect, wants more than just a win in game one. He strikes me as a LEAHY, ARA, HOLTZ type, who wants his team to run smoothly and execute PERFECTLY on all three sides of the ball, from the starting whistle for game one. And if that happens it will be a long day for NAVY, not a short one for ND.
    But if we stutter and misfire, bumble and fumble, even just a couple of times, or we’re surprised by some new formations from their new coach, everything we fear and they desire will happen, and an outright loss is possible. So don’t give it to them! Make them play Notre Dame football instead.

    BTW: I have a distant ancestor, Captain GW DeLong (Annapolis 1865), who has a statue of him on the grounds at Annapolis. Captain DeLong was my father’s grandmother’s brother. He died of starvation somewhere in Siberia after discovering Jenrette Island while trying to find a water route to the North Pole.

    BGC 77 82

    1. If you want to reply to a poster, use the “Reply” feature.
      Basic board conversation etiquette.
      And you don’t even need to specify who it’s for… how you know this one is for you.

      1. Yes sir, Mr. David, sir. From now on I’ll do things your way, AZ I’ve always deferred to the millions of jackasses during my life who wanted me to live my life their way.
        On second thought, much more than this, I think I’ll do it my way, as I always did IRL.
        So let me just quote the master of online etiquette: “If you don’t like what I post, or where, don’t read it” Your words, jackass, now mine.
        Got my tix
        to the division 2 game next week. This will be my first game since 2019! Prior to covid, and dialysis, I had been to every home opener except one Texas game, going back to 1975. Tickets were only $26 apiece at vivid seats! For once the miraculous wisdom of the marketplace worked in my favor…except it is a D2 team, and typical of Labor Day weekend games, the temperature will flirt with 100° Fahrenheit. Love it! Only a Halloween weekend game or a sleet bowl against a high rated team in November is better. I honestly just hope I have the strength
        to stay for the whole game.
        As we all drive into our overpriced parking lots, mine now the handicapped lot, let’s honk our horns for David to end his boycott.
        Peace, Love, Cure Kidney Disease (which I got from Ibuprofen for sure, and perhaps Stelazine). A useful warning to all my friends.

        BGC 77 82

    2. BTW: There was, in the late 1800s no water route to the North Pole. Captain DeLong was only able to save about half of his men, as recounted in the novel “Hell on Ice”
      Today, with rapid global climate change, he probablycould make it, even with his (mostly) wooden ice breaker. Times change.

  2. The ND game I hate, every year.
    I will watch it this year, for 2 reasons:
    Because there’s no better game to watch, and I really want to see Hartman light it up.

    I will not watch any pre-game shows, because I have ZERO interest in more, endless profiles of the amazing Deion Sanders.
    Not his childish gangsta wardrobe, his pet ferret, his new Boulder mansion, his sports cars, and most definitely NOT his pathetic defense of treating all those kids like garabge and kicking them off the team..

  3. The flexbone was designed to increase passing in the triple option (over the true wishbone). But it’s also possible to increase passing by going back to the older forms of option football, pre-wishbone; the Houston Veer, etc. And NAVY has run a form of that against us in the second half of a blowout NAVY win.

    Just sayig, make them play our game, and we won’t need to worry about “first game surprises from our opponent.”

    BGC 77 82

  4. I would amend each conclusion by adding the word “should,” as in defense should have the advantage (in Navy O vs ND D), and should have a clear advantage in ND O vs Navy D, and finally the Irish should win convincingly. BUT, nothing is guaranteed whenever ND plays Navy, not anymore it isn’t. Using last year’s game as a guide, and specifically the 2nd half, with most of Navy’s defense back, both ND’s offense AND defense have a lot to improve. There have been zero significant additions to the ND D, and though we now have a legitimate high level talent at QB, he is working his first game at ND, under a brand new OC, with WRs with minimal experience/production, behind an O-line with two never-before starters at interior positions (and that, after there were 5 sacks in the 2nd half in last year’s game). This will likely be no cakewalk, and those of us anticipating lots of backups getting significant playing time are going to be disappointed, as Navy will shorten the game, playing keep away from our offense, and Freeman just wants to get off with a win to start his 2nd season as HC.

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