Notre Dame Football Opponent Preview: Navy Midshipmen Offense


After being snubbed in the inaugural College Playoff rankings, Notre Dame will look to prove the College Playoff selection committee wrong by taking care of a 4-4 Navy team Saturday.

Coming off a difficult loss a couple of weeks ago to No.2 Florida State, the Irish will play a tough Navy offense that is known to play well against Notre Dame. Last season, the Irish squeaked out a win at home against the Midshipmen with a score of 38-34 stopping the option-heavy offense on a fourth-and-four with over a minute left in the game. Looking to avenge their loss, there’s no doubt that the number two rushing offense in the country will be prepared to face Notre Dame’s 14th ranked defense this season.

Offensive line

There really isn’t anything special about Navy’s offensive line other than the fact that they are hard hitting linemen that live on run blocking. Rushing for 352 yards per game doesn’t come solely from the talent in the backfield. The offensive line led by senior right guard Jake Zuzek, who has started 26 straight games at guard, has been physical all year, and in a prime time game, the Irish shouldn’t expect anything less than 100% from these underdogs.

Notre Dame’s defense is no stranger to playing against the option offense winning four of the last seven meetings against Navy. For them to have success, they’re going to have to rely on reading the movements on the line to find the football. It can be easy to lose sight of the ball once it’s snapped, but, most of the time, reading where the guards and tackles are pulling to will lead the defense to where the play is going. On the other hand, the offensive line can deceive  defenses by pulling one way and sending the play the other way. Containing the ball withing the tackle box is going to be key, and if the front seven can consistently bring pressure up the middle just like they’ve been doing all season, it’ll disrupt the option offense before it can even develop.

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Running Backs

The problem with trying to identify one or two guys as the featured backs in this offense is that there is no featured back. Between the full backs and the slot backs, Navy has scored rushing touchdowns with nine different backs including junior quarterback Keenan Reynolds. Like I said before, the offensive line is going to be the key in stopping the run. In terms of who’s leading the Midshipmen in rushing, senior fullback Noah Copeland and junior fullback Chris Swain have rushed for 602 and 455 yards respectively. In addition to running the ball, the slot backs can also catch the ball effectively hauling in two of the team’s five touchdowns passes (yes, just five).

Wide Receivers

These guys are basically extra offensive linemen on the field lined up outside the numbers. Whenever Navy runs sweeps, reverses or pitches the ball, the receivers hold the responsibility of hooking the defensive backs towards the inside of the field to give the backs the outside lanes. The only thing the defensive backs need to worry about is watching out for the occasional play action passes and shedding blocks to contain the outside lanes. Sophomore Jamir Tillman leads the team as the only receiver with double digit receptions and the only receiver with over 100 yards. Tillman has caught 16 passes for 303 yards and a score.

Keenan Reynolds

Reynolds is the leader of this team scoring more than half of the team’s offensive touchdowns on the year. Known to keep the ball for himself on option runs, Reynolds has run for 639 yards to go along with 11 touchdowns on the ground and two scores through the air. Last season, Reynolds led Navy to an impressive 9-4 record while rushing for 31 touchdowns. It’s clear that Reynolds is the driving force of the Midshipmen’s option attack, so if the Irish can find a way to limit his production, there’s a chance Notre Dame can come away with shutout Saturday.

In every game this season, Reynolds has found the endzone at least once and has run for over 100 yards three times including a phenomenal 251 yard game against San Jose State last Saturday. Reynolds has acknowledged in recent interviews that the Irish defense, although young, is going to be tough to play against allowing just under 20 points per game.

If Notre Dame can take care of business against Navy without looking ahead to their pivotal matchup against Arizone State, the Irish should have no problem winning their 88th meeting against the Midshipmen Saturday night at FedEx Field.