WHO: Notre Dame (5-5) Vs. Army (6-4)
WHEN: Saturday, 6:30 pm
WHERE: Yankee Stadium
TRADITION: In the 1920’s and 30’s, Notre Dame-Army at Yankee Stadium was an unrivaled football tradition. Grantland Rice’s famous Four Horseman line was penned after Notre Dame beat Army at Yankee Stadium. Win one for the Gipper was also an Army game at Yankee Stadium. These two teams have not played in Yankee Stadium since 1969, but theyare bringing back the tradition for their 50th meeting.
NOW: Notre Dame comes into today’s game 5-5, needing one more victory to become bowl eligible. With USC on the horizon in the last game of the season, who Notre Dame has lost to eight straight times, today’s game figures to be the best chance for the Irish.
Army is bowl eligble for the first time in fourteen years and comes into today’s contest with loads of confidence and an upset in mind.
Inspirational Quote: Justin Tuck at the Notre Dame pep rally at the Lincolin Center in New York: “I am excited to go play Philadelphia, but I’m going to just say this. I’d rather be putting on number 44, I’d rather be stepping inside Yankee Stadium. I’d rather be smashing anybody that steps out on that field that didn’t have on my clothes.”
Three Keys to Victory:
Stop the triple-option: It’s been well-documented how poorly Notre Dame defended the option earlier this season in a 35-17 loss to Navy. Navy ran the ball from start to finish and Notre Dame had no answers whatsoever. Navy ran 60 times for 367 yards, while throwing only two passes all game. Coach Brian Kelly says Notre Dame has changed their game plan this time around, but the worries are still there. Army has a similarly strong rushing attack as Navy, averaging 272.8 yards per game on the ground. Slowing down fullback Jared Hassin will be key. Hassin leads Army in rushing yards with 861 on the season. Against Navy, Notre Dame allowed fullback Alexander Teich a personal-best 201 yards.
Middle Linebackers: So, we know the Irish need to slow down Hassin and the option attack, but how can they do it? The middle linebackers will be the defensive cogs. Manti T’eo must play disciplined football to make sure Hassin doesn’t have a day similar to Teich. Expect a big outing from fifth-year senior linebacker Brian Smith. Smith is a smart, veteran player who has played Army and Navy enough times in his career to understand the nuances of defending the triple option.
Take care of the ball: Yes, winning the turnover battle is important every game, but it’s especially important when you have the talent advantage. At Yankee Stadium, with the green jerseys on, this is going to be a raucous environment with a lot of emotion early on. Freshman QB Tommy Rees must remain cool under the heat and avoid the common mistake of trying to do too much. Notre Dame has both a size and speed advantage against the Army defense, so Rees doesn’t need to make any sensational plays. Rees and Kelly should rely on Cierre Wood and the running game early on to wear down the Army defense. That should settle down the young quarterback as well as open up space down the field for Michael Floyd.