It’s Midshipmen Week!
Two remaining games, two wins, one New Year’s Day Bowl Game. That’s what’s in front of, and at stake for, the Fighting Irish following their 41-8 loss to Miami last week; forget the chaos scenarios that have the Irish with a shot at making the playoffs, no one’s that lucky, not even the Irish. Still, as disappointing as it is to be on the outside of the playoff picture, the Irish still have much to play for, and coming on the heels of a 4-8 season, only the most cynical of Irish fans could call a possible 10-2 season with a top-tier bowl game a disappointment. But, to get there, the Irish first must take care of business against Navy on a day that will see the Irish wearing uniforms that pay tribute to legendary former Fighting Irish coach, Knute Rockne, as well as honoring the senior members of the Class of 2017, which includes Captains Mike McGlinchey and Drue Tranquill, along with Nyles Morgan, Tyler Newsome, Greer Martini, Jay Hayes, and Quenton Nelson. All told, twenty-six Irish seniors will be introduced prior to kick-off, with family, friends, and fans alike cheering them on, and thanking them for their contributions to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
Despite the disappointing 41-8 loss to Miami last week, the Irish only dropped five spots, and with a record of 8-2 find themselves on the outside looking in, ranked No. 8 in the CFP rankings. Navy needed a late field goal to get past SMU, but their 43-40 win stopped a three game losing streak, and with a record of 6-3, the Midshipmen are now bowl eligible.
It’s the longest uninterrupted intersectional rivalry in college football, dating back to 1927, as Notre Dame and the Navy Midshipmen will meet for the 91st consecutive season. Notre Dame had won five straight against Navy, until last season’s 28-27 loss in Annapolis. Notre Dame holds a series record of 76-13-1 all-time against the Midshipmen.
Players To Watch
After struggling in both the run game and passing game against Miami, passing for just 119 yards and 1 TD, and rushing for just 50 yards, while throwing 2 INTs and losing a fumble, it will be interesting to see if he’s is able to put that game behind him. The Navy defense won’t be nearly as fast as Miami’s so Wimbush should be able to run against them, but we’ll have to see if he can get his passing game under control and stop sailing his passes. Through 10 games, Wimbush has rushed for 663 yards and 13 TDs, while passing for just 1,405 and 12 TDs, with 4 INTs.
Like Wimbush, Adams was held in check against Miami, rushing for just 40 yards on 16 carries; it was the second straight week that Adams would rush for less than 50 yards, though at least against Wake Forest that was because he sat out the majority of the game with a headache. Adams shouldn’t have any trouble running against an undersized Navy defense, and the Irish offensive line, coming off a disappointing performance themselves, should be ready to plow the road for another big day from Adams. Despite two sub-par games, Adams is still ranked 8th in the country in rushing yards, with 1,231, and has 9 TDs as well.
One of the best run-stopping linebackers for the Irish, he saw heavy playing time when the Irish faced run-heavy teams like Georgia Tech, Army, and Navy over the last few season, and has had some of his biggest games against those opponents. In his last two games against Navy he’s been the leading tackler for the Irish in 2016 with 11 Total Tackles (4 solo, 7 assisted) and 1 TFL, and the second leading tackler in 2015 with 9 Total Tackles (3 solo, 6 assisted). Martini’s seeing the field more this season, and despite just five starts, he is the 4th leading tackler on the Irish with 53 Total Tackles (31 solo, 22 assisted), 3 TFL, 2 FF, and 1 INT.
Players To Watch
Zach Abey/Malcolm Perry (QB)
The two likeliest starters are both dealing with injuries; Abbey suffered a shoulder injury two weeks ago against Temple, while Perry suffered an ankle sprain last week against SMU. While it looks like naming the starter will be a game-time decision for Navy, indications are that it will be Abey. Abey’s been the starting QB up until the SMU game, and is their leading rusher with 1,202 yards and 13 TDs; as is typical of Navy QBs, his passing stats aren’t great, and he’s thrown for just 717 yards and 6 TDs; his completion percentage is just 41.7% and he’s thrown 6 INTs. Perry gives the Midshipmen perimeter speed, and he ran for 282 yards and 4 TDs, including a 92 yard TD, against SMU just last week.
Tyler Carmona (WR)
Navy’s not likely to throw much against the Irish, but when they do, they’ll likely target their senior wide receiver that leads the team in receptions, yardage, and TDs. Carmona’s best game of the season came against Temple two weeks ago, where he hauled in 4 passes for 63 yards and 1 TD. Despite not having any receptions last week, Carmona has 333 receiving yards and 4 TDs on just 12 receptions.
Micah Thomas (LB)
The senior linebacker earned second-team All-AAC honors last season, and was the team leading tackler with 107 Total Tackles (65 solo, 42 assisted). He’s having another great season for the Midshipmen and is the 2nd leading tackler for the Navy defense with 60 Total Tackles (49 solo, 14 assisted) putting him just three tackles behind the leading tackler. He also has 3 TFL, .5 Sack, 1 FF, and 3 INTs on the season.
Fighting Irish Keys To Victory
Get Wimbush Back On Track
Just one week removed from a poor performance against Miami, Wimbush is going to need to put that game behind him and keep the Irish offense rolling. Whether it’s a few high-percentage passes, or a quick shot down field to one of the Irish’s speedy receivers, the Irish need to find a way to get Wimbush some early confidence in the passing game, because whether it’s on the ground, or through the air, Wimbush will need to be nearly perfect in a game where failing to score on every possession will make for an all too close game.
Get 3rd (& 4th) Down Stops
Navy will do as Navy does, and try to grind this game out on the ground. In their 2016 game, which Navy won 28-27, the Midshipmen controlled the time of possession in the second half, including 10:37 in the fourth quarter, giving the Irish just two second half possessions. Navy was able to sustain their drives by moving the chains on both 3rd down, where they were 8 of 13, and 4th down, where they were 4 of 5. If the Irish are going to win the time of possession battle, let alone the game, they’re going to need to get the Midshipmen off the field on 3rd downs.
Final Analysis. Despite the brutal loss to Miami last week, the Irish aren’t about to let that game define, or reshape, their season. The Irish may have near non-existent hopes for a playoff spot, but they can still earn a top-tier bowl game if they win out, and they know that that’s what they’re playing for here. The Irish won’t be caught off-guard against Navy, and though it will be a hard fought game, the Irish will pull away, and win it easily.
Final Score – Notre Dame 42 – Navy 24