No. 8 Notre Dame aims to rebound versus Navy
Navy Midshipmen at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
So much for No. 8 Notre Dame being in the College Football Playoff mix.
The Fighting Irish look to bounce back from a humbling loss to Miami when they host Navy on Saturday.
No one associated with Notre Dame (8-2) saw the 41-8 defeat coming. The Fighting Irish were ranked third in the CFP poll and poised to stake their first claim to the revamped college playoff.
Now that's just a pipe dream, but if they're not careful, the Irish might see a New Year's Six Bowl appearance slip through their fingertips too.
Navy, which became bowl-eligible thanks to an exhilarating 43-40 last-second win over SMU, is riding a wave of confidence and certainly is capable of sinking Notre Dame's chances of playing on New Year's Day.
The Midshipmen (6-3) and the Irish will collide for the 91st straight time when they clash at Notre Dame Stadium in what is the longest continuous intersectional rivalry in college football.
In one stretch of the rivalry, Notre Dame was a winner 43 straight years. But in the past 10 seasons, Navy has been much more competitive and has won four times, including a 28-27 upset last year.
After last week's shellacking, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly knows not to take Navy lightly.
"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 Tuesday. "I think everybody knows quite well how prolific they are and how difficult they are to stop. They do things offensively that teams each and every week struggle to defend."
Just ask SMU about its attempts to stop the Navy ground game. That didn't go so well.
The Midshipmen ran the ball 72 times for 559 yards and won time of possession by nearly 17 minutes -- a margin of 38:23 to 21:37
"The other thing you have to do is you have to beat a lot of one-on-one blocks," the eighth-year Notre Dame coach said. "You have to play physical. You have to be able to get off blocks. You have to be able to make tackles against a very good and well-disciplined football team, a team that fights for four quarters.
"They've won close games. They manage the clock very well. They play smart football. It will be a great challenge for us."
No. 1 on Notre Dame's list is stopping quarterback Malcolm Perry, who made his first start against SMU.
And what a debut it was.
Perry rushed for a career-high 282 yards and four touchdowns on 33 carries. He had touchdown runs of 3, 92, 24 and 1. The 282 yards rushing is an American Athletic Conference record and the third most in school history.
"We've got to find a way to take the football away. We haven't done that," 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 better position against a very good opponent."
Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo has mutual respect for his opponent and is doing his best to make sure this troops haven't lost sight of how good Notre Dame has played this season, regardless of last week's outcome.
"Notre Dame is Notre Dame. They're always a really talented football team. Whether they won or whether they lost, this is going to be a tough game for us. It always is," Niumatalolo said on Monday during the American Athletic Conference teleconference.
Navy will have its hands full with dual-threat, redshirt sophomore quarterback Brandon Wimbush.
Despite struggling against Miami, Wimbush has been solid, accounting for more than 2,000 total yards (1,405 passing and 663 rushing) and 25 touchdowns.
He left Saturday's game with a bruised hand, and later re-entered. Kelly said Wimbush would be ready for the Midshipmen. Early in the week, Wimbush didn't show any ill effects and the medical staff didn't have him on the report either.
Niumatalolo and defensive coordinator Dale Pehrson also must find a way to slow down the Fighting Irish's Heisman Trophy candidate Josh Adams, who has compiled 1,231 yards and nine touchdowns.
Notre Dame ranks sixth in the nation in rushing at 303 yards per game with Adams toting most of the load.
"Adams is a big, strong, physical runner. He breaks a lot of tackles and is very tough to bring down," Pehrson told the Capital Gazette on Monday. "That offensive line is absolutely unbelievable. Definitely the best we'll play this year. They've got some real monsters up front."
Notre Dame senior All-American left tackle Mike McGlinchey (6-8, 315) anchors the veteran offensive line.
"We have a huge challenge coming up in Notre Dame, which is year in and year out one of the best programs in the country." Niumatalolo said. "It's going to be a tough challenge, but we're looking forward to it."
Navy will be without safety Sean Williams for the first half after being ejected for targeting in last week's game against SMU.
Updated November 14, 2017