In Notre Dame’s losses to the Navy teams of the late 2000’s the Irish simply failed to match the tenacity and conditioning of the Midshipmen. Although less talented, Navy executed their game plan to perfection and frustrated Notre Dame’s players and coaches. After a disastrous loss in 2010, Brian Kelly and Co have found the answer to Navy’s offense and the conditioning program of Paul Luongo has prepared Irish players for the tempo of the Midshipmen’s attack.
In a similar story to last season expect Notre Dame to establish the running game early with a combination of George Atkinson III, Will Mahone and Greg Bryant. Notre Dame’s offensive line should create large running lanes through Navy’s 3-4 defense. Navy will also struggle to pressure Tommy Rees unless they blitz their linebackers and safeties which should leave Notre Dame’s receivers with room to work. If Navy can find a way to disrupt the Irish blocking scheme they may stall Notre Dame’s rushing game and force tough third down situations.
On defense Notre Dame can not overlook Reynolds and Copeland. In Navy’s wins against the Irish the quarterback and fullback positions have caused havoc. Reynolds and Copeland could match the Navy tandem of Ricky Dobbs and Alexander Teich. They execute Navy’s offense incredibly well and by this time in the season their timing should be near perfect. If Reynolds and Copeland make plays early they will force Bob Diaco to adjust his strategy and pull his defense closer to the line of the scrimmage. This could open up the outside lanes for the triple option attack or a potential play action pass.
In the end, Notre Dame simply has too much talent and size to lose the game. Navy will fight for the entire 48 minutes and Reynolds will break off a couple of big runs, but they will be unable to overcome Notre Dame’s power running game or defensive front seven. I expect Notre Dame to pull away in the second half and win the ball game.