Notre Dame Football Preview ’18: The Navy Midshipmen

Having been a part of the Notre Dame football schedule every year since 1927, the Navy Midshipmen will face the Irish at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego in primetime. The annual clash marks the final October game for both teams, with Navy having something of a home field advantage in the matchup, due to the heavy naval presence in that city.

[Related: Get ready for the 2018 Notre Dame season with our series on opponent previews]

Midshipmen head coach Ken Niumatalolo is beginning his tenth season at the Academy and will face Notre Dame coming off their bye week. He’s hoping that Navy’s second-half slide, which resulted in a 7-6 final record doesn’t reappear. That marred another strong start that saw Navy begin the year with five consecutive victories.

Navy Offense: Keeping Things Running

In this offense, the notion of a throwing quarterback is largely a mirage, since the plan of attack for years is to run the ball before running some more. The man behind center, Malcolm Perry, will again bring some serious running chops to the field. In 2017, he scored 11 touchdowns and rushed for 1,182 yards, He took over after then-starter Zach Abey was lost to injury, with Abey now being shifted to the receiving corps-except for short-yardage situations.

[Related: Read up on the full history of the Notre Dame – Navy rivalry, why it’s unique, and why it should never end. ]

When a running back’s touch is needed, fullback Anthony Gargiulo is available, having collected 423 yards and scored three touchdowns last year. In addition, the duo of Keoni-Kordell Makekau and Tre Walker will look to contribute more in 2018. While both only combined for 25 carries, each of those runs was good for average of just under seven yards, with Makekau closing out his freshman season strong.

The offensive line has been depleted due to graduation, with just two starters back. Both of them handle the tackle slots, with Andrew Wood set to begin his third season at right tackle. On the other side, Jake Hawk started all but one game last season .After that, raw talent is what’s available, with the duo of Ford Higgins and David Forney being given the best chance at finding a starting role.

Navy Defense: Staying Consistent a Key

Last season, this side of the ball saw an average of five fewer points and 64 opposing yards per game being allowed, with none of the six losses from 2017 by more than 10 points. A midseason dip saw opponents score 180 points over a five-game stretch.

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Up front, the Midshipmen has Jarvis Polu at one of the ends, with the middle still held down by Jackson Pittman. The problem here is the gaping holes left at linebacker that have forced the team’s defensive coordinator Dale Pehrson to shift Nizaire Cromartie to outside linebacker, after he thrived as an effective pass rusher in short stints last season.

Joining Cromartie will be another linebacker who managed to make an impact while playing only half a season. That was Hudson Sullivan, who brought down 40 ballcarriers, a number that will undoubtedly rise when he’s in the lineup over the course of a full season.

Issues in the secondary could be directly tied to a weak pass rush, though this unit is also vulnerable to getting burned by the big play. Some of the midseason stumbles might be attributed to a shift from the team’s traditional zone defense, so it seems like a return to that more comfortable coverage is pending.

Navy Special Teams: Cause for Concern

The kicking game is a bit shaky with Brandon Moehring’s limited range and relative inconsistency likely to cause some sweaty palms this season. More pleasant is the fact that punter Owen White, who was also used on some extra points, averaged just over 40 yards per boot. Perry is likely going to be a bit too busy to continue returning kickoffs, so Zack Fraade figures to see more activity here, while a new punt returner is needed.

The Last Time Notre Dame Played Navy

Last year’s date with Navy on the Notre Dame football schedule took place in South Bend, with the Irish using two scoring passes to Kevin Stepherson to emerge with a 24-17 comeback win. This back-and-forth battle was deadlocked at 10 when intermission arrived, with the Midshipmen’s ball-control offense keeping possession for 43 minutes.

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13 comments

  1. ndcrazymike 3 months ago

    Playing NAVY each year has become one of the toughest games of the year! Adjusting to the w-bone is never easy with really just a few days to prepare for it. BGC you are right the bone was such a big part of college football!! All the great RBS from the 70″s and 80″s that became legends running the wishbone! This NAVY game has become a CLASSIC almost every year!! Lets enjoy the history and tradition of this long running rivalry!! GO IRISH!!!

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    1. southside 3 months ago

      Ndcrazymike , I just got back from San Diego today. My brother moved there last year from Illinois. I lived there 14 years job transfer in ’96. The Navy/Marine bases/facilities are a presence one cannot help to admire. I hope Notre Dame continues it’s tradition of playing our Military schools. Whoo-ah !

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  2. Greg Kelly 3 months ago

    Upsets happen, I never bet on college ball. Have you ever been to the Point. Think you would have lasted longer than EA, you don’t write as well. And you would have finished higher than George, that ain’t saying much.
    Appointments to the academies used to be one per Congressional district. Today if no one from a district it goes to another. Seems like Navy is looking for that 6’ 4” 300 pounder instead of that class valedictorian. Cheating scandals at Navy, God forbid.
    Adams and the boys got together in the back room and started the Navy. A few months later they realized they didn’t have Marines. They just went over to Tun Tavern where they were sure to find them.

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  3. duranko 3 months ago

    What I remind my Marine associates, is that I was in the Army, a full branch. Jarheads and Bams have to deal with this reality, of which I remind them with extreme prejudice:

    The Marines are a “wholly owned subsidiary of the U.S. Navy.

    Some plantation.
    Some masters.
    Some marines.

    To clarify some other detritus in this thread,
    Navy is not always ready to play. There is one chowderhead on this board who shall remain nameless predicted, last Fall, that Navy would whomp Temple.

    It didn’t happen that way, as Temple won the game with some ease.

    But the Navy game has a special place in Notre Dame’s heart.
    How special?

    read this:

    Notre Dame & Navy’s Special Relationship
    Pearl Harbor, Day of Infamy. America declares war. A nation puts college plans aside and fights the clear and present dangers from Hitler, Mussolini and Japan. Colleges become an afterthought, and without students and tuition checks, colleges go out of business. Even Notre Dame was not exempt from the strain, and was facing the wartime economic crisis without state funding, without guarantees of America’s great land grant colleges and without the decades of accumulated endowments of the Ivy League colleges. Simply, Notre Dame was on the brink of extinction.
    Navy, to the rescue! The US Navy, comfortable in the Midwest at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, designated Notre Dame as a training center and paid enough for usage of the Notre Dame facilities to keep the University afloat. The good Holy Cross Fathers breathed a sigh of relief.
    Frank Leahy left his position as Notre Dame coach to enlist, voila, in the Navy. Whether that silver tongued rogue had anything to do with initiating or increasing the level of Navy support is unknown.
    Their du lac University would not be just another casualty of the war. Consistent with its Christian values, Notre Dame was and remained, and yet even today remains, grateful for the Navy’s support and solace in the midst of woe.
    Notre Dame has given Navy an entirely appropriate open invitation to play the Irish every year. While a paper trail exists, the word of Notre Dame is its bond and Navy will play the Irish every year until Annapolis chooses not to.

    Beginning in 2005, a “new tradition” was established with each team standing near the other’s fans for the post-game singing of the alma mater, win or lose. Notre Dame provides this recognition for no other opponent.

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    1. david 3 months ago

      A tear comes to the eye. So I’m sure no “fan” of ND will ever post anything about dangerous Navy chop blocking, or smug arrogant smirks from Niumatalolo, or the misguidedness of scheduling this game for primetime TV….or describe higher frustration for losing to such a worthy, honorable opponent as Navy…..

      Because to do otherwise would be to be an utter, worthless hypocrite. Detritus.

      Enjoy the game.

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      1. Bruce Gregory Curme 3 months ago

        Chop blocking or Cut blocking, David? Perhaps in the mayhem of the interior of the line you might get a chop block …but even then only as a screw up. I only played 8th grade football, but back then we could (and I did) roll block in the open field…now illegal…but Lord Almighty, was it ever fun…especially on Special Teams (which I was)! Cut blocks are still legal in most (but not all) situations. Would you deny NAVY their legal fun?

        BGC ’77 ’82

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      2. Bruce Gregory Curme 3 months ago

        Also, David, I’m a great fan of college football. I just love to see the bone run well…and that’s rare nowadays. So whenever I can, I’ll watch Georgia Tech or Navy in a big game. When the bone is working, it’s a thing of beauty. Of course, when it sputters and puts the ball on the carpet a few times, it gets slaughtered. But that could be said of many offenses, I suppose. SEC teams won’t schedule NAVY (or maybe NAVY won’t schedule them). But SEC teams do play GT. It is not always a pleasant experience for them. When I was younger, I could watch the masters of the bone running it every week…Texas, Alabama, Nebraska and Oklahoma. A little simpler, but it was really the same thing. The Air Force (now Navy/GT version) is just highly adapted for effective blocking by smaller (but very athletic men)…and much less talented defense than Texas, Bama, Oklahoma and Nebraska had.

        BGC ’77 ’82

        BGC ’77 ’82

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      3. ndcrazymike 3 months ago

        I guess you see all these things while not watching the games huh dope! Why complain about the games start time davey, if your not watching? CMON davey say it GO IRISH!!! Stop your whining and try something positive like a new site to go on!

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      4. duranko 3 months ago

        When it comes to whining, urinating and moaning, I always defer to experts, ‘dat be you, David.

        I once worked for a great, charismatic Scandinavian man whose initials were Jan C…………………..

        He had a saying “WHINERS WILL BE PUNISHED” We thought it was violent, but he demurred and said it was not he who would administer the punishment, but the market and natural economic and interpersonal forces. You prove his point with the punishment that rains down on you each time you post and each time you sit there with a calculator and figure out how many dollars Kelly makes each hour, each day, each week, each month. Boy, that must really ruffle your tender, sensitive little feathers!

        I assume you are under professional counseling and therapy. If not, get there post-haste. I don’t know if you were born a masochist, or became one through training and effort. You obviously have a miserable life, whether at home, with family and in the workplace, or all of the preceding.

        Perhaps it is part of your therapy, self-medicated or otherwise, to come to a site which celebrates Notre Dame Football. And you set yourself up as a negative, miserable wretched person, and then blend that into a toxic cocktail with your hatred of all other humans and expect people to acquiesce in your infantile, wet-diaper rants.

        Well, it is a free country, and you can be as miserable and hateful and full of despair, resentment and frustrated anger as you choose to be.

        It is your foul, emotionally bankrupt bed that you have made. Go lie in it.

        You are a “mere” annoyance, like a housefly in the summer.
        You have endurance and persistence.
        But you have no game and less credibility.

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      5. david 3 months ago

        The truth hurts, and high blood pressure kills.

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  4. david 3 months ago

    Navy is a focused, well-oiled machine that does a few, very simple things exceptionally well. And is always ready to play.

    ND does not do anything reliably well…and yet somehow remains very predictable anyway. And outright dreads this game.

    And SAn Diego is a Navy better-than-home game.

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    1. david 3 months ago

      “Back when”, there were some albums recorded by bands, and some films featuring a movie star, that were strictly made as the result of a “contractual obligation”?
      They are most often quite forgettable, weren’t any fun to do, people suffered through them, and it shows.

      Unfortunately, that is what the Navy game appears to have devolved into for ND. A de facto contractual obligation.

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  5. Greg Kelly 3 months ago

    Absolutely ridiculous that we have to struggle past the middies. I mean they have many players that couldn’t fit in a jet, or do submarine duty. But, they sure fit in their football program.
    As a super fan of their poor country cousins I went to an air Show at Miramar, a fat pot bellied sailor directing traffic. You will never see a fat Marine. Navy takes all the credit.

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