The Navy Midshipmen face another really tall task this week. They faced Cincinnati a few weeks ago. Now they go to South Bend to tackle the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
By Matt Zemek
Navy has been fighting uphill battles most of the season, having to play near-perfect games to win, so what’s one more? The Midshipmen are used to this. Let’s see if their fuel tank is still full, or if this continuous parade of difficult assignments will leave them spent and running on fumes. If they are going to beat Notre Dame or at least make the Fighting Irish sweat in the fourth quarter, the Midshipmen have to tend to a few key tasks.
1 – Contain Kyren Williams
Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams is a special player. He is so good at making the first defender miss. He is an accomplished runner who is able to bounce off the first point of contact and get additional yards after confronting the first tackler on a play. He is shifty, tough, and supremely resourceful. Navy has to prevent Williams from breaking away for huge plays. The Midshipmen also have to stop Williams enough that Notre Dame isn’t constantly ramming the ball down Navy’s throat and keeping the Mids’ offense off the field. So much of the battle for Navy against Notre Dame revolves around this first and most central game key. If Navy can’t accomplish the goal of keeping Williams in check, it’s hard to see how the rest of the afternoon will unfold in a manner which is favorable to the visitors.
2 – Pounce on bad passes from Jack Coan
The Notre Dame quarterback room has been a weakness for the Irish most of the season. Jack Coan isn’t a bad quarterback, but he isn’t an especially strong one, either. The transfer from Wisconsin has had some highly positive moments, but his successes have been accompanied by glaring failures and slip-ups. There are a few times each game in which Coan makes a mistake, either a poorly-thrown ball or a flatly bad decision. Navy’s secondary and linebackers need to be ready to catch interceptions and make the kinds of plays which can change the game on a dime. This flows from containing Kyren Williams. Limiting Notre Dame’s effectiveness on the ground will make it more likely that the Irish will get into predictable passing downs. That’s when Navy can hunt for turnovers, which it will need if it is going to spring the upset.
3 – Fourth downs
Navy’s offense, when it has the ball, will need to be repeatedly successful on fourth down and short, converting several times in big situations. It is hard to envision a Navy win in South Bend without multiple fourth-down conversions. The Mids will need these value-added plays if they are going to do something special in Indiana.