It’s Black Knights Week!

The Shamrock Series game is usually one of my favorite games of each season, as much for the custom uniforms as because, generally speaking, it’s one of the easier games on the Irish schedule each year. Theoretically, at least. This year, who knows? The Irish will still be suited out in some pretty cool uniforms that pay tribute to the military, especially fitting for a game being played the day after Veteran’s Day, but it’s hard not to feel a little less enthused than normal about the game itself given how this season has unfolded. That said, with just three games left for the Irish this season, barring a miracle that sees them win out and become bowl game eligible, it’s time (past time?) to lower expectations and simply try to enjoy the Fighting Irish games we have left, because before we know it, the season will be over, and then what will we do with our Saturdays?

The Match Up

Following their 28-27 loss to Navy, Notre Dame’s record stands at 3-6, and their hopes of being bowl game eligible stand at slim to none. Army, on the other hand, are just one win away from being bowl eligible, with a 5-4 record, and Notre Dame, Morgan State, and Navy left on their schedule.

The History

This will be the 51st meeting between Notre Dame and Army, in a series dating back to 1913. Notre Dame and Army haven’t faced each other since 2010, when the two schools faced each other in that season’s Shamrock Series match-up, a game the Irish won 27-3. Notre Dame leads the overall series 38-8-4, and haven’t lost to Army since 1958.

 

Players To Watch

Fighting Irish

DeShone Kizer

Kizer had a solid, though not spectacular game against Navy, throwing for 223 yards and 3 TDs on 19-27 passing attempts. The going won’t get any easier for Kizer and the Irish offense this week, as they’re set to face the Black Knights who are ranked 6th in passing yards  allowed, giving up an average of just 166.6 yards per game, and who have surrendered just 8 passing touchdowns all season. Through nine games this season, Kizer’s thrown for 2261 yards with a 60.9% completion percentage, and has thrown 19 TDs and 7 INTs.

Greer Martini

When it comes to facing triple-option teams, Martini truly comes to play; Martini’s best games have all come against teams running the triple-option. He had a career best 11 tackles just last week against Navy, which gave him a total of 37 tackles in four games facing triple-option teams over his three years at Notre Dame. In contrast, that’s just 6 fewer tackles, in five fewer games, than he has so far this season, his best season yet with the Irish.

 

Players To Watch

Black Knights

Andy Davidson (RB)

Davidson, a sophomore, played linebacker for the Black Knights his freshman season, but following the dismissal from the team of 2015’s leading rusher for Army, Davidson made the switch during spring practice. So far, Davidson is acquitting himself quite well at his new position, and is the team’s leading rusher. Davidson rushed for 100+ yards three straight games to start the season, and has four total games of 100 yards or more over the course of the season, though Davidson has been held to under 50 rushing yards in each of his last two games. On the season, Davidson has rushed for 707 yards and 7 TDs.

Jeremy Timpf (LB)/ Andrew King (LB)

Timpf and King, both seniors are the bedrock of the Black Knight defense, and have led the team in tackles over the last three seasons. In 2014, Timpf led the team in tackles with 117 (79 solo, 33 assisted) and TFL, with 14.5; King was tied for second in tackles with 63 (52 solo, 11 assisted) with a second best 8 TFL, as well. In 2015, Timpf and King tied for the team lead in tackles with 92 apiece, though King edged out Timpf in TFL with 16.5 to Timpf’s 5. And, as you can expect, 2016 is shaping up to be more of the same with these two tackling machines, with Timpf leading the team with 72 tackles, and King hot on his heels with 71 tackles; they’ve also combined for 14 TFL between them.

 

Fighting Irish Keys To Victory

Avoid Turnovers

The Irish are 19-2 under Brian Kelly when they don’t commit a turnover. Unfortunately for the Irish, both of those losses have come this season. The Black Knights have the ability to make game changing plays on defense, having recovered 16 turnovers (4 fumbles, 12 interceptions), which would rank them 8th in the country in turnovers gained once you factor in ties in the standings. Facing another clock controlling team this week, the Irish can ill afford to give up any turnovers which would give the Black Knights an even greater opportunity to shorten the game.

Make Every Possession Count

Notre Dame scored on all but one of their six possessions against Navy, and still lost 28-27. It didn’t help the Irish that they had just two second half possessions against Navy, but neither did settling for field goals on two of their possessions, especially the second half field goal where the Irish should have gone for it on 4th Down, instead. The Irish are going to need a near perfect touchdown to possession ration against Army to come away with a win.

 

Final Analysis

The Irish are 7-0 in the Shamrock Series, but they’re not always easy games for the Irish, as evidenced by last season’s 19-16 nail biter against Boston College. This season’s match-up doesn’t seem like it will be an easy one, either, as much because of Notre Dame’s poor play, as it because Army is actually playing decent football this year, and only needing one more win to be bowl game eligible for the first time since 2010 should have the Black Knights fired up that much more against Notre Dame. Still, I don’t see the Irish losing to two service academies in a row, even as bad as this season has been, so I’m picking the Irish to win this week, but getting the bottle of Jameson ready, just in case.

Final Score: Notre Dame 31 – Army 24

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