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Navy takes momentum from recent win into Notre Dame Stadium

| Friday, November 5, 2021

Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo appeared a bit tired as he started his press conference on Monday, fumbling his words and swiping away stray eyelashes as he began to describe his upcoming opponent in Notre Dame. It was hard not to look at the somewhat comical first few moments of the interview as an analogy for the Midshipmen’s season up to this point. Navy football hasn’t been stellar in recent history, but the Midshipmen’s 2-6 record does not really tell the full story of this team. 

The Midshipmen would not taste victory until October as they were routed by Marshall, Air Force and Houston in succession by a total margin of 30-100. Navy was dominated by Marshall and Air Force but gave up the lead late on the road in Houston to lose 28-20. After managing to seal a 34-30 win over UCF back on their home turf, Navy would turn to host No. 24 ranked (in the AP Poll) SMU in Annapolis, where they would lose again by just a touchdown 24-31. This is probably when a lot of the drowsiness and weariness that is evidenced in Niumatalolo’s words and actions this week began to cultivate. His team would then go on to lose two more to Memphis and No. 6 – by the CFP rankings –  Cincinnati. His squad was able to hang in there with one of the nation’s best in the Bearcats but was overwhelmed by Memphis. The Midshipmen were able to snag a win at Tulsa 20-17 but have mostly been beaten down in morale as a team and a unit. 

When asked about his team’s performance up to this point in the season and how big it is for the psyche of the team to begin heading into South Bend with a fresh win in recent memory, Niumatalolo’s response got some chuckles. 

“You know you want to see the fruits of your labor. You wanna go plant some stuff, you don’t want to see your fruits come out and they’re burned or anything or they die, you know what I mean?” Niumatalolo said. “To see that all the hard work and all the planning and all the harvesting came out. So happy for our players, they’ve been awesome. Just the resolve of this team to continue to work. I’ve been super impressed with them starting with our seniors and our captains. 

Niumatalolo also discussed the importance of the timing of the win ahead of taking on the road battle against a top-10 ranked opponent.

“We need any momentum we can get. We need all of it,” he said. “It doesn’t do anything but help us so that win will definitely give us some momentum going in to play a really, really good Notre Dame team as they always are. But we definitely needed it.”

As Navy heads into Notre Dame Stadium, they will plan to get the job done on the ground, utilizing their classic triple option attack. Run defense is where Notre Dame has looked the weakest in past weeks, and with senior safety Kyle Hamilton still sidelined with a knee injury, the Midshipmen will certainly aim to attack Notre Dame in any area where they might see any vulnerability. 

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About Jimmy Ward

Jimmy is a senior at Holy Cross College, where he studies English and sports management. He is originally from Westfield, Indiana. Currently, Jimmy serves as an associate sports editor at The Observer. You can find him at @jimmyyward on Twitter.

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