Notre Dame vs. Navy: Offensive Grades


The biggest fear heading into Saturday’s game wasn’t the triple option. Instead, Notre Dame fans were worried about how well the Brian Kelly’s team would respond against the Midshipmen following a heart-breaking loss against Clemson.

The Irish (5-1) showed that despite the loss, they’re still on a mission to reach the College Football Playoffs after beating Navy (4-1) 41-24. Some thought there was a chance that Notre Dame could have easily fallen into a trap game looking ahead to the pivotal match up against USC, but the offense bounced back with ease racking up 459 total yards of offense and holding the triple option to just 318 yards rushing, which is 17 yards under their average.

Offensive Line: B+

This was without a doubt a bounce back from their rough performance against Clemson where they gave up four sacks and was a complete no show until the fourth quarter. Against the Midshipmen’s front seven, the offensive line struggled to get the offense moving at first, but after adjusting to the defensive pressure, the line helped generate 178 yards on the ground and allowed Kizer to get off 281 yards through the air.

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On all three of C.J Prosise’s touchdowns, the offensive line paved the way for a clear lane. The most impressive score of the bunch was Prosise’s last touchdown. After receiving the hand off, it looked as if the Midshipmen were in prime position to take him down for a loss or short yardage, but because the line got to the second level and recovered perfectly on missed blocks, Prosise was able to make a couple of players miss and scamper into the end zone to make it 38-21. The only miscues on offense were the lack of effort in the first quarter and the two sacks given up. Aside from that, the offensive line looked like its usual elite self.

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Running Backs: A- 

Just to harp on what I already mentioned above, the slow start on the ground is mostly the fault of the lack of a push in the trenches. Prosise carried the ball twice for seven yards in the first quarter, which is not the kind of start you want out of a running back that’s aching to redeem himself from a bad start the week prior. However, to make up for the missing production on the ground in the first quarter, Prosise caught three passes for 48 yards. In the next three quarters, Prosise shredded Navy’s defense for 122 yards and three touchdowns.

As most of you know when I give this grade out, I like to see a balance of production across the backfield, and while it wasn’t the best distribution of carries among the running backs, Josh Adams handled eight carries for 38 yards, which is good for an average of 4.8 yards. The good field positioning by Notre Dame comes from the three turnovers they forced, so the numbers don’t really show how well the backfield played as a whole. This was a good game that should build the confidence of the backfield heading into the prime time game against USC.

Wide Receivers: A-

The receivers also had a much better game this week in terms of getting open and allowing the passing game to be as  balanced and unpredictable as possible. Yes, it wasn’t against one of the top secondaries in the country like Clemson’s, but it was a good opportunity to boost the receiving corp’s confidence heading into the second half of the season.

Will Fuller was back to making plays as the number one option for Kizer. He hauled in five catches for 80 yards and a touchdown to push his season totals up to 571 yards and seven touchdowns. Chris Brown is also continuing to make his presence felt in the short to intermediate range. He caught four passes for 56 yards, which helped take the pressure off of Fuller and the rest of the receiving corp. It was especially important for Brown to have a good game against Navy because he’ll most likely be Kizer’s top option against the Trojans this weekend given the secondary will double team Fuller.

Despite the fact that six different receivers contributed against the Midshipmen, the tight ends were once again an irrelevant factor. Nic Weishar had one grab for five yards, which doesn’t make the tight end group stand out as intimidating in the slightest. I know it’s tough to not have a strong starter manning the position, but someone needs to stand out as a legitimate threat to keep the defense honest when defending the pass against the receivers. Alize Jones, I’m looking at you.

Quarterback: B+

All Kizer needed to do to win this game was manage the offense effectively, and in four starts, he’s done that pretty well. He didn’t need to make big plays to get the offense moving. He just needed to find the open man and move the chains without forcing the ball down the field. He completed 22 of 30 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown. He threw an interception, but it wasn’t costly.

The one fault in Kizer’s play, which could just as easily be attributed to the rest of the offense, was the inability to get the ball down the field. The longest play of the game for the Irish was a 30-yard pass to Fuller for a touchdown. Against the Trojans, who has a stout defense led by safety/linebacker Su’a Cravens, Notre Dame can’t resort to winning with short passes and a slow running game. Kizer is going to have to play like he did against Clemson, except play at his best from start to finish.

Against Navy, Kizer wasn’t phenomenal and he wasn’t atrocious. He was simply solid, and if that’s all he needs to do to help Notre Dame win, so be it.