NAVY KEY: PERFECT EXECUTION OF BLOCKING ASSIGNMENTS
Navy’s only chance is to mount lengthy drives that take time off the clock and end with points. In order to accomplish that game-plan the Midshipmen must eliminate the missed assignments. This needs to the offensive line’s finest hour with center Ford Higgins and right tackle Andrew Wood leading a command performance. Failing to execute blocks is not an option. Notre Dame has several outstanding defenders capable of disrupting the triple-option. Navy needs to effectively block defensive tackle Jerry Tillery, middle linebacker Te’von Cooney, outside linebacker Drue Tranquill, cornerback Julian Love and free safety Alohi Gilman.
NOTRE DAME KEY: MAKE STOPS ON THIRD AND FOURTH DOWN
The Midshipmen will attempt to methodically move the ball in short increments, which means there are going to be a lot of critical third and fourth down conversion attempts. The Fighting Irish have to find a way to get the Mids off the field on those money downs. Tillery, who checks in at 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds, has the ability to collapse the interior blocking. Cooney (team-high 56 tackles) is a force inside and can run sideline-to-sideline while Tranquill (46 tackles) is also aggressive in pursuit. Gilman (38 tackles) knows how to play the option and does a good job of filling the alleys.
SERIES HISTORY: Notre Dame leads 77-13-1 on the strength of a 43-game winning streak between 1964 and 2006. Navy won three of four meetings between 2007 and 2010.
INJURY REPORT: Navy – Starting slotbacks Malcolm Perry (leg) and C.J. Williams (upper body) are probable; starting left tackle Jake Hawk (ankle) and backup left tackle Kendel Wright (lower body) are questionable; Backup inside linebacker Tyler Pistorio (concussion) and kickoff specialist J.R. Osborn (undisclosed) are doubtful. Notre Dame – Backup tailback Jafar Armstrong (knee) and starting cornerback Tony Pride Jr. (undisclosed) are probable; Backup tight end George Takacs (undisclosed) and backup defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa are
OF NOTE: Unlike most rivalry trophies which are kept by the winning team, the Miller Trophy physically embodies the bond which unites Notre Dame and Navy. The trophy is named for Edgar “Rip” Miller, a member of Notre Dame’s 1924 national championship team who spent 48 years at the Naval Academy as a football coach and administrator. Making its debut in 2011, the trophy features two identical halves which are permanently retained by Notre Dame and Navy and reunited on game days.
Eight of Navy’s 13 wins over Notre Dame have come at a neutral site when the former was considered the home team. The Midshipmen have beaten the Fighting Irish four times in Baltimore and once each in Cleveland, Philadelphia, East Rutherford, New Jersey and Jacksonville.
Navy will certainly have its fair share of fans at San Diego County Credit Union Stadium on Saturday night. San Diego hosts the largest naval fleet in the world and is home to over 120 tenant commands and more than 35,000 sailors, soldiers, Department of Defense civilian employees and contractors.
Navy has played at this stadium four times since 2005 with all the appearances coming in the now-defunct Poinsettia Bowl that was also run by the San Diego Bowl Game Association. Navy went 2-2 in the Poinsettia Bowl, beating Colorado State (2005) and San Diego State while losing to Utah and San Diego State.
QUOTE-UNQUOTE: “Last year we were so close. If just a few plays had gone our way that game could have been ours. Everyone that played last year knows how close we were to beating this team and that we can do it. No matter what people on the outside say, we know we can compete with these guys and get after them.”
— Navy wide receiver-quarterback Zach Abey
“There has to be an incredible sense of urgency on the offensive side of the ball because you just don’t know how many possessions that you will get. Maximizing possessions and scoring points is crucial. They’re extremely efficient on offense. They’ve given us all that we can handle year in and year out. We could use two more bye weeks to prepare for Navy in terms of what they present you.”
— Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly