The Mids got back on the right track last time out with a 43-40 win over SMU. Now Navy gets to drop out of conference play for a week to meet old foe Notre Dame.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Make the right call at quarterback
Last week against SMU, Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo made a decision at quarterback that has likely changed the trajectory of the program. Frustrated with the boom or bust nature of the offense under junior Zach Abey, Niumatalolo turned to sophomore Malcolm Kelly, a player who was recruited as a quarterback but who had been playing as a slot back this season. It was the right call as Perry tore through SMU for 282 yards on the way to being named the FBS Offensive Player of the Week.
Then, disaster struck and Perry left the field late after turning an ankle. His status for Saturday is questionable, meaning that Niumatalolo will likely have to choose between the recently displaced Abey or Garret Lewis, the backup quarterback that was skipped in order to elevate Perry. It is a huge call and one Niumatalolo has to get right to give the Mids the best chance to win.
Win the time of possession
Part of the triple option’s unique attack is that it starves the opposing offenses of the ball. Last year in this game, the Irish had just six total possessions as Navy ground out the yards and kept the clock running. Even the best teams in college football will find it hard to score on every possession, so if Navy can hold the ball again and give Notre Dame fewer opportunities then the offense will be helping take the pressure off of the defense.
Navy has held the ball for an average of over 35 minutes per game in 2017, yet the defense is still allowing over 30 points per game. Ball control will have to be a key and to that end, whichever quarterback starts simply cannot turn the ball over.
Pressure Brandon Wimbush
The prospects of Notre Dame making their way back into a College Football Playoff spot are slim to none at this point. It would take a perfect storm scenario of results that just isn’t going to happen. The Irish controlled their own destiny until a loss last weekend at Miami, and the main culprit for that loss was quarterback Brandon Wimbush.
Wimbush had a horror show of a night in South Florida on Saturday. He finished 10-of-21 with two interceptions and even that stat line doesn’t really show how badly he played. Before being replaced by Ian Book, Wimbush was all over the place with his throws. He missed countless open receivers – almost always throwing high and into traffic – as the Miami defense put as much pressure as possible on the passer. This is the defensive game plan Navy must emulate, sacrificing coverage at times to blitz the passer and make him inaccurate with his throws.