ND FOOTBALL: 41, not done
Joe Meixell | Wednesday, November 9, 2005
Every year, it’s the same line – this Notre Dame team doesn’t want to be the one that loses to Navy for the first time since Navy Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach was under center in 1963.
And this year it’s no different, as No. 7 Notre Dame (6-2) tries to extend its 41-game winning streak against Navy, a matchup that has been played every year since 1927.
“They better think that way,” Irish head coach Charlie Weis said of his team’s mentality. “I think that way, so let’s hope they’re thinking that way. But, you know, I’m not looking at what happened the previous 41 games. I’m only looking at this game. That’s all I’m looking at. I don’t look in the past.”
This year both teams have a lot at stake. Notre Dame must win its next three games if it wants to be considered for a BCS bowl game, while Navy (5-3), needs one win in its next three games to become bowl-eligible. A bowl bid for the Midshipmen would be the third consecutive year they have earned a bid – a school record.
“All our focus has to be on going against the team that’s got similar goals as we do,” Weis said.
Navy needs just one win in its remaining games against the Irish, Temple and Army to be bowl eligible, and the Irish must beat Navy and Syracuse at home and Stanford on the road to preserve their BCS bowl hopes. But Weis wants his players focused solely on Navy, because if they overlook the Midshipmen they could be in for problems.
“I think that the most important thing they have to realize is that when they’re playing against Navy, they’re playing against a team that’s put themselves in a position to make some serious noise themselves, so we’re not alone in this situation here,” Weis said.
And so for the Irish to win out, it starts this weekend against Navy and its triple option offense. The Midshipmen’s undersized quarterback, 5-foot-9, 185-pound Lamar Owens, a co-captain, is a dual threat. On the season he has 585 yards on the ground and 936 yards in the air.
“Their whole offense starts with the quarterback Owens,” Weis said. “He’s a dual threat every time he touches the ball.”
Owens leads a Navy team that has beaten Duke, Air Force, Kent State, Rice and Tulane, losing only to Maryland, Stanford and Rutgers. And Weis said the Irish are not taking the Midshipmen lightly.
“The game is going to be shortened,” Weis said. “You have to make the most of your own possessions because you probably won’t have as many.”
Last week in a 49-21 win over Tulane, Navy scored 28 first-quarter points – four touchdowns on its first four possessions to put the game out of reach early. Navy finished with 418 yards rushing, throwing the ball just three times and completing one pass for 29 yards.
“Realistically, what they do is run their core things and make you stop them,” Weis said. “They very seldom get stopped. You don’t average 282 yards a game rushing by people shutting you down.”
Weis said for the Irish to be successful, they have to get off to a good start, as Navy is 3-0 this season when it scores first. And Weis said that since Navy is an academy, the team is one of the most disciplined teams the Irish will play this year.
“These guys are so fundamentally sound and they’re driven to be successful, it presents some serious problems,” he said.