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Navy prepares for rivalry following bye week

| Friday, November 15, 2019

No. 23 Navy will head to South Bend this weekend to take on the No. 16 Irish in the 93rd matchup of this rivalry. The Irish will have to fend off a nationally ranked Navy (7-1, 5-1 AAC) with a stud quarterback in Malcolm Perry.

After practice Tuesday, Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo addressed the media to preview his team’s matchup against the Irish (7-2).

Zachary Yim | The Observer
Irish junior running back Jafar Armstrong gets tackled during Notre Dame’s 38-7 win over Duke on Nov. 9 at Notre Dame Stadium.

The Midshipmen are coming off a bye week, and considering some of the injuries the squad is facing ahead of the matchup this weekend, Niumatalolo said the bye week is always helpful for recovery.

“It’s the best team we’re going to play on our schedule, so the extra time is good for you. But everybody is banged up at this time of the year. So that extra week kind of helped us recover a little bit,” he said.

But when asked about the challenge that Notre Dame poses as an opponent, Niumatalolo was frank about the history of the matchup.

“I mean, we’ve lost to them a lot,” Niumatalolo said. “They’re a good program, you know, Coach Kelly is as good a football coach as there is. They’re always well prepared. I mean, it’s always hard for us to beat those guys. Like I said, the last time we beat them, we played almost perfect. We had the ball for 40 minutes, they only had the ball six times, I think we scored every time we had the ball, and we beat them by a point. And that was one of their down years. So it’s always going to be hard to beat those guys, but we’re going to do the best we can. Well the truth is, we have to play perfect, and they’ve got to be off. That’s just the truth. I mean, we’ve got to hit a few three’s off the glass, bank off the backboard, and they’ve got to miss some layups. I say that every year, but that’s just the truth, and we recognize that. We’ll do the best we can, but it’s going to be hard to beat those guys.”

But luckily for the Midshipmen, their senior quarterback Malcolm Perry is having a career year. Niumatalolo said it’s always a plus when you’re quarterback is playing good football.

“Well, when your quarterback is playing well and your quarterback is your best player, it gives you a shot,” he said. “We’re going to need him to play well for us to have a chance.”

For Niumatalolo, at the end of the day, it comes down to execution. The veteran coach also said he is doing what he can to prepare his team for a frigid afternoon in South Bend.

“We’re playing as well as we’ve ever played, so that gives you confidence. But, we’ve still got to go in there and perform. Our guys are playing well, but like I said, they’re a really good team,” he said. “Well, we’re just doing all we can right now. Obviously we’re shivering right now, and it’s going to be cold on Saturday, so we’ve got to get ready for the weather. It’s going to be cold there. So, I’d obviously like to go indoors, but we’ve got to get ready for the weather.”

Perry answered some of the media’s questions after practice, and he started by expressing his excitement for the opportunity that lies ahead this weekend.

“Coming to Notre Dame, you know that’s one of the games that is going to be on the schedule every year, so it’s a huge game, huge opportunity,” he said. “It’s something you dream about as a kid, playing against a great team like Notre Dame. … I’m looking forward to it.”

Although the game presents a big opportunity for Perry himself, the chance to be seen on national television and get some recognition for his excellent play, the senior said he is entirely focused on winning a team game.

“That’s not something I really think about. My main focus is getting the team in the best position to win the game. And that’s what I’m looking forward to,” he said.

Finally, Perry said scoring will be key for the Midshipmen, and he expressed his confidence in this year’s team to get that done.

“I think that’s the good thing about this team this year — we have a lot of guys that can score points, a lot of guys that we can use in the run game, in the pass game. And that’s why we come out to practice every day and work on that, and we’ll try to make it work on Saturday,” he said. “You can’t make mistakes, we know that going in. You’ve got to make plays. You’ve got to be able to be consistent.”

The Irish will square off against Navy on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Notre Dame Stadium.

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