Notre Dame football: Irish should have no issues against Navy
Navy in 2020
Navy and Notre Dame football may not have played for the first time since 1926, but that didn’t help Navy’s season at all. It was a disaster at 3-7, with losses to both Air Force and Army. They also became the source of scrutiny in how Ken Niumatalolo handled practice during the pandemic.
Yes, he kept his players safe from close contact, but they weren’t ready for play for their week 1 game against BYU, and the Cougars dominated them 55-3.
The next week, Tulane jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead on Navy, and it looked like they were going to get blown out again before a second-half comeback gave them a 27-24 win. Another blowout loss, this time to Air Force, then two wins against AAC bottom feeders Temple and ECU, and it looked like the Midshipmen had their feet under them.
They wouldn’t win again.
The schedule got much more difficult at this point, and they lost their last five games by an average score of 26.4-14.2. This shows a couple of things. The defense, for all its faults and not practicing with contact all offseason, rapidly improved over the course of the season. They’re well-coached on defense and often in the right spots, even if they’re undersized once they get there.
However, it was also clear that Navy could never find a quarterback to properly run their offense. This left a defense that is used to getting long breaks on the field for the majority of games and put them in difficult situations.
The Navy offense is unique, in that it is designed to use large chunks of the clock and put defenses in difficult situations to make up for their lack of natural size and talent. This lack of natural size and talent is inherent to the academies and their standards for admission, not to mention the military commitment that comes with attendance.
For this offense to run properly, though, the Midshipmen need a quarterback who can make quick decisions and function as a running back. It doesn’t hurt that their quarterback can connect on the odd downhill throw before either.
In 2019, Navy went 11-2 behind Malcolm Perry. In 2020, the Midshipmen went 3-7 behind three different quarterbacks. The difference is that Perry ran for 2,017 yards and 21 TDs, and he threw for 1,084 yards and 7 TDs.
Those are single-season numbers for a quarterback who truly understands and functions in this system. 2020’s Dalen Morris, Xavier Arline, and Tyger Goslin ran for 287 yards and 2 TDs combined. They threw for 939 yards and 6 TDs.
That inefficiency at quarterback, in stark contrast to the year before, made the Midshipmen anemic on both sides of the ball.