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Matchups: Notre Dame vs. Navy

Michael Bryan | Friday, November 6, 2009


As if the Notre Dame passing attack had not seen enough success, quarterback Jimmy Clausen and the Irish will get an additional boost Saturday with the return of star sophomore wideout Michael Floyd. With Floyd back on the field along with Golden Tate and Kyle Rudolph, Clausen should have a field day against the Midshipmen and for the rest of the season. There is no better passing attack in the country than Notre Dame’s with everyone healthy.

Navy’s defense has been solid against the pass but has not faced any attack close to the caliber of Clausen and the Irish. The Midshipmen have nine interceptions on the season but have not generated a consistent pass rush with just 11 sacks all season. Sophomore guard Trevor Robinson will miss the game because of a high ankle sprain, but the Notre Dame offensive line should not have any issues. Clausen should have time to throw and continue to put up Heisman-worthy numbers.



Junior running back Armando Allen is “day-to-day” because of nagging injuries, but it may not make much of a difference with the way classmate Robert Hughes has played. Hughes rolled up 131 yards and a touchdown on the ground in the rout of Washington State in San Antonio, and showed off some pass-catching ability as well with four receptions for 51 yards. The Irish offensive line should be able to take advantage of their advantage in size over the Navy defensive front.

The Navy defense was descibed by Irish coach Charlie Weis as easily the best he has faced, and has given up just 315 yards per game. The run defense, however, has not been the Midshipmen’s strength, and they were shredded on the ground for 267 yards by Temple running back Bernard Pierce last week. The Irish should be able to be successful on the ground against an undersized Navy defense that will first be looking to defend the pass.



Nick Tausch set a Notre Dame record against the Cougars last week by making two more field goals, giving him 14 in a row. Classmate Ben Turk had a roller coaster game in San Antonio, pinning Washington State down at the 2-yard line, but also dropping a snap and badly missing one.

The Irish kick return game has been consistent but unspectacular, and needs to use its talent advantage against lesser opponents.



Weis has to be hapy to have Floyd back in the Irish offense, opening up the playbook for the matchup against the Midshipmen. Hopefully Weis balances the creativity he displayed in using the Wildcat moving Golden Tate around the Notre Dame offense and letting Clausen run the pro-style offense with Floyd, Tate, and Rudolph. The offensive line should dominate and it will be hard to call a bad play against Navy.



The nature of the triple option offense makes the Navy passing game rare, but quarterback Ricky Dobbs is one of the better passers to come through the school. Dobbs has completed 50 percent of his passes this season for 618 yards and three touchdowns on the season. Still, if the Midshipmen are passing the ball often, it does not bode well for their chances to upset the Irish.

The Notre Dame pass defense has struggled mightily this season but had a strong performance against Washington State. Freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel was confused by the Irish blitzes and never looked comfortable dropping back to pass. Tuel managed just 102 yards and was intercepted twice in San Antonio.
While the Notre Dame passing defense has been porous all season, they should have a break against a Navy offense that passes the ball only in effort to catch defenses completely off guard or in a last-ditch effort to get back in the game.



Navy’s triple option rushing attack is one of the most difficult to defend in college football. It requires discipline and patience on the part of the defense, and the Midshipmen have numerous formations, options and runners to use against opposing defenses.

Navy has seven players on its roster with more than 100 yards rushing on the season, led by the quarterback Dobbs. Despite missing some time due to injury Dobbs has 16 touchdowns already on the year. Fullback Vince Murray also has 638 yards to lead the Midshipmen in that category.

The Irish rush defense has improved dramatically over the past several games. Defensive linemen Kapron Lewis-Moore, Ethan Johnson and Ian Williams have all stepped up in recent games to stifle opposing running backs. Linebackers Manti Te’o and Darius Fleming should provide speed and athleticism off the edge to keep the Navy rushing attack somewhat in check.



Navy back Gee Gee Green is a dangerous returner on kickoffs, and the Midshipmen have put up solid numbers in punt returns as well. Kyle Delahooke has averaged 43.2 yards a punt, and has pinned 10 punts inside the opponents 20-yard line.

Kicker Joe Buckley is eight of 10 on the season, and has made every field goal he has attempted from outside of 40 yards. This is a very solid unit for Navy that could have a big impact on field position.



The triple option is one of the most complicated schemes in football, and the Navy coaching staff does an excellent job showing different looks and personnel packages. Jon Tenuta and the Irish defense will have to be careful not to be overly aggressive and give up a big play on the ground to the Midshipmen. The Notre Dame coaching staff must emphasize discipline and staying in their lanes against an attack that relies on misdirection.