Notre Dame Football: Defensive Grades Against Navy


Well, Navy did everything we expected them to do Saturday night. But, the Irish defense buckled down when they needed to and won a hard fought battle. A lot of people can look at the box score, and see that the Irish gave up 454 yards and 39 points to a mediocre Navy team. But that would be unfair to the Irish players. I am not saying that the Irish played great, but the final stat line doesn’t tell the whole story.

The Irish had another battle against Navy’s triple-option, which meant we saw the injuries pile up for the Irish defense. Starters Sheldon Day, James Onwualu, and Jarron Jones all had to leave the game at some point. This gave Irish fans a glimpse of what the Irish defense will be in the near future – for better or worse.

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But, the most significant injury came in the third quarter when Navy running back Noah Copeland dove up the middle for 3 yards. It didn’t look like Joe Schmidt had that much ball contact on Copeland, but the play resulted with the captain fracturing his ankle. The Irish now will now call upon true-freshman Nyles Morgan to fill in for the captain’s absence.

Defensive Line – B-

The defensive line game up 5.4 yards per carry to the Midshipmen and comes with the territory. Seeing that the anchors of the line, Day and Jones, were banged up all night, the unit actually did a decent job. The thing that discouraged me the most is that the Irish gave up huge runs in the game. Navy picked up rushes of 54, 24, 18 and 18 on the night. Especially when the 54-yard run was on 4-2 and it set up the go-ahead touchdown. I am going to chalk this up to the triple option and the D Line will be back to normal against Arizona State.

Linebacker – B-

I would have laughed in your face over the summer if you told me an injury to Joe Schmidt would be “devastating.” But before Schmidt was injured, he looked pretty pedestrian trying to stop the triple option. Morgan did an admiral job filling in for him, but he did allow a few busted plays that lead to scores. One thing that we can take a way from this unit is that the missed tackling that plagued them during the UNC game was a nonissue.   This was evident in the third quarter when Jaylon Smith wrapped up a ball carrier and Morgan cleaned him up. Also, it is good to see Onwualu make some contributions after being pretty silent all season.

Secondary – C

Just like giving up the trick play against UNC that went for a touchdown, you cannot allow Navy to pass for two touchdowns against you. Granted, that one of those touchdowns was a clear push off on Drue Tranquill. But, Navy had a few more chances to connect a few more passes that could have been devastating to Notre Dame. But, you have to give credit to the secondary when it was clear passing downs. I am not going to lie; I had no clue who number 53 was when he intercepted Keenan Reynolds. I know who Justin Utupo is, I just did not recognize his number. I feel like this is a narrative I am writing about each week, but the secondary needs to step this week against Taylor Kelly.