SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame’s turnaround season took a detour last week. The ninth-ranked Fighting Irish have no time to wallow in misery, either, not with Navy visiting on Saturday.
Navy brings a triple-option offense with lots of history to South Bend, and will test a defense that couldn’t contain Miami in a 41-8 rout.
”You have to have an incredible attention to detail when you play Navy and their offense,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. ”I think everybody knows quite well how prolific they are and how difficult they are to stop. They do things offensively that teams each and every week struggle to defend.”
Facing a Navy offensive scheme that changes quickly and can run behind any one of three quarterbacks, the Irish will look at history for more than just the importance of a rivalry that will see its 91st consecutive meeting this weekend.
”Clearly, they are always looking to make some adjustments, and you have to be prepared for every look for the last 10 years,” Kelly said. ”They did some things against us two years ago that we hadn’t seen in six, seven years.”
Irish defensive coordinator Mike Elko has never previously faced Navy, but Kelly said his experience against other option teams has served the Irish well in preparations that began during the bye week in October.
”Against Navy you have to tackle, whether it’s tackling the dive, tackling in space against the quarterback or their A back, you have to tackle,” senior Irish rover and captain Drue Tranquill said. He and Kelly added that the Irish will have to focus on getting off the one-on one-blocks quickly to contain the option offense.
”You got to be at the right place in the right timing against an offense like this and if you’re not, they exploit you,” senior linebacker and captain Greer Martini said.
Notre Dame enters the weekend managing to hang on to a No. 8 playoff ranking after the blowout loss to the Hurricanes. With a much slimmer chance to snag a playoff spot, the Irish can still hope for a New Year’s Six bowl with wins against Navy and at No. 20 Stanford in the regular-season finale.
”We still have a lot to play for. There’s a bright future for this team,” Martini said. ”We win out these next two games, we’ll be in a great bowl game.”
Added Tranquill: ”Confidence is a choice. That’s what we’ve learned and what we’ve told ourselves, and we know the type of defense we can play. We’re all going to come back this week with the knowledge of what we’ve done and what we’re capable of, and we’re going to go out and execute in that fashion.”
If the Irish can bounce back the way they expect, they’re looking at a favorable bowl game. Kelly said the seniors deserve a win in their final home game.
”They’ve done a great job of redirecting our program back to where it needs to be, and that’s really the most important thing,” he said.
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