Thursday, November 16, 2017

No. 8 Notre Dame looks to keep New Year's Six hopes alive as rival Navy looms

                                             Photo Credit: Matt Cashore- USA TODAY Sports

By: Jon Opiela
Twitter: @jonopiela24

With the No. 8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-2) battling to remain in a New Year’s Six bowl game, they will return home to take on the Navy Midshipmen (6-3, 4-3 American) (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC). This week’s CSO Mock CFP Committee has the Irish slated for a rematch with the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs in the Cotton Bowl. 

The Irish will honor 26 academic seniors and/or graduates on senior day Saturday. Notre Dame will debut new jerseys to honor legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne. 

“There isn’t a better name that you could be wearing that has set the standard of excellence for Notre Dame football,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said.“So getting back to that standard of excellence will be worn, and it certainly is what we’ve talked about relative to refocusing our football team on playing to a standard that we had set this year.”

Notre Dame looks to recover after a 41-8 road loss to No. 7 Miami (FL) on Nov. 11, which saw quarterbacks Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book play.

“First of all, it’s about getting back to our traits, and you have to have an incredible attention to detail when you play Navy and their offense,” Kelly said.  “They do things offensively that teams each and every week struggle to defend.”

The Navy Midshipmen leads the FBS with 369.8 yards per game of rushing offense. Much like Army, the Navy Midshipmen run an offense based around the option. Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko faced option teams throughout his time with Wake Forest. 

“You know, his background is that he’s had to stop option teams before, Georgia Southern.  He’s been in the option system. That was something we vetted out in the interview process,” Kelly said. “This isn’t a defensive coordinator that’s coming in inexperienced in terms of stopping the option.

The Midshipmen also have converted 47.6% of third down conversions this season, which ranks eighth in the FBS. Notre Dame will need to slow down Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry, who rushed for 282 yards and four touchdowns in his debut last week against SMU. 

“We’ve got to find a way to take the football away.  We haven’t done that.  We didn’t do that last week.  We’ve got to get the football, take it away, and revert back to some of the things that we were doing defensively,” Kelly said. “If we can get some turnovers and get some points relative to touchdowns instead of field goals, then we’ll put ourselves in a much position against a very good team.”

Notre Dame’s rushing attack is no joke either, currently ranking sixth in the country.  While Josh Adams Heisman Trophy hopes are pretty much non-existent following the Miami game, he is still averaging 8.0 yards a carry this season. Wimbush will look to regain his composure and success with throwing the football against Navy. 

All-Time Series:

Notre Dame leads the all-time series against Navy 76-13-1.  At Notre Dame, the Irish are 29-5-0 against the Midshipmen all-time.  Navy won 28-27 last season in a neutral site matchup held at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.