Somehow, life has moved on since last Saturday night.
Somehow, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team still has games to play.
Your favorite 8-2, 8th-ranked squad from northwest Indiana will play host to the 6-3 Navy Midshipmen on Senior Day tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 PM ET.
Notre Dame has yet to face a triple option offense this season, and after the 41-8 shellacking the Irish suffered down in Miami, it should be interesting to see how the ND squad responds in their last home game against a Navy program that’s managed to beat the Irish in 4 of the last 10 meetings between the two schools, after having gone 43 years without seeing anyone except Notre Dame win this matchup.
So, to prepare for tomorrow, I talked to Kyle Andrews, the Navy expert over at Underdog Dynasty, to understand who will be playing QB on Saturday afternoon, what happened during the team’s 3-game losing streak, whether Ken Niumatalolo can sing and dance, whether Bill the Goat is the G.O.A.T. mascot or just the G.O.A.T. goat mascot, and much more.
Here. We. Go.
1. Navy's had a pretty impressive run over the past few years with Ken Niumatalolo at the helm, but this season the Midshipmen have struggled a bit more and are just 4-3 in conference play. What kind of team has Navy fielded this year as opposed to the past couple seasons, and what has led to some of the struggles?
The biggest issue with Navy currently is their defense.
In years past, Navy has hovered around the 40s in the country of total defense rankings. This season, they have allowed 165.8 yards per game on the ground (64th) and 244.3 through the air (91st).
Obviously, that isn't going to help the Midshipmen, especially since they rely on a tough ground game and clock control.
2. Navy, per usual, has some major talent at QB with Zach Abey and Malcolm Perry, but injuries for both guys have called into question who will start against the Irish on Saturday. Who do you expect to play, and what do Irish fans need to know about his strengths and weaknesses?
Perry looked very good, but I think that Abey will start.
Abey's biggest strength is running ability. Not many quarterbacks can rush for as many yards and touchdowns as Abey has this season (1,202 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns).
His biggest weakness is his accuracy in the passing game. Though Navy isn't known for their passing attack, Keenan Reynolds was able to sling the ball, and Abey has talent to do it too. Though he has the arm talent, he has only completed 47.4% of his passes. No bueno.
3. What running backs will the Irish defense need to worry about containing/bringing down, and how effective do you think the Navy running game will do overall against what had been a stout ND run defense for most of the year, but who was gashed by Miami last weekend and hasn't had to defend the triple option yet this season?
The Irish will have to key in on many different rushers, mostly in fullbacks Chris High and Anthony Gargiulo. Abey and Perry both can run very well too.
To put things lightly, there is not one runner that Notre Dame should key in on. There are just too many.
Notre Dame can stop Navy's rushing attack, but it'll be tough. They have to make sure that they don't overshoot their gaps and stay disciplined.
4. Who are the players to watch on Navy's defense?
Defensive back Sean Williams, linebacker Micah Thomas, and linebacker D.J. Palmore have been good for Navy’s defense this season.
These are the three players that should be keyed in on for Notre Dame, though Williams will be suspended for the first half, due to a targeting penalty that he received in the last game.
5. How strong/fast is the Navy front seven, and do you see them being able to contain Josh Adams and Brandon Wimbush, or will the Irish get back on track running the football?
They aren’t as strong and fast as they were in previous years and the stats prove it. With all due respect, Notre Dame will be able to run all over this front seven.
6. Give me your X-factors for Navy -- which players on offense, defense, and special teams will need to have fantastic days in order for Navy to be in a position to upset the Irish?
Whichever quarterback and every single running back on offense, need to have the best days of their life.
The same goes for the trio in Williams, Thomas and Palmore. Perry will also need to show up in the kick return game. It’s a team effort.
7. Ken Niumatalolo vs. Brian Kelly in a dance-off: who wins, and what one song does each coach dance to?
Brian Kelly wins.
Niumatalolo is like the Batman of college football coaches — no superpowers, stoic, but makes the best of what he has. He isn’t much of a dancer, or at least I don’t think. I don’t know about the song choices, it’d be interesting though.
8. Follow-up: if it's a karaoke contest instead of a dance-off, what song does each coach sings, and who wins?
Niumatalolo wipes the floor.
Yes, I said that he probably wouldn’t dance, but like in the episode of Justice League, where we see Batman put on a show with his singing ability, we will see Niuamatolo do the same.
Now for the songs, Niuamatalolo sings “Fly Me to the Moon” by Frank Sinatra. Kelly would sing “Piano Man” by Billy Joel... He seems like a Billy Joel guy right?*
*Pat Rick note: Yes, I think he does
9. If you had to pick two Navy players to compete on the old Nickelodeon game show Legends of the Hidden Temple, who would you pick and why?
Keenan Reynolds and Kyle Eckel. Both have played in the NFL and Reynolds is a very interesting guy. Super athletic too.
10. Talk to me about Bill the Goat. Is he the GOAT mascot in college football, or just the GOAT goat mascot in college football?
He's obviously the GOAT of all college football mascots. I mean, he's a GOAT!
11. Give me a prediction. Who wins, what is the final score, and what is your reasoning?
An angry Notre Dame team that still is hunting for blood? Oh, it's going to be ugly for Navy because Notre Dame still has a lot to prove.
42-17 Notre Dame
12. Anything else ND fans should know about Navy's team, coaches, program, fans, tradition, etc.?
Our military men and women are some of the bravest people that I know. And due to that, one tradition is for people in Annapolis to get the midshipmen a milkshake at the local ice cream shop. It's the least that they can do.
I want to thank Kyle for taking the time to answer all my questions with some great answers, and encourage all of you to follow him and Underdog Dynasty on Twitter, as well as to check out all their Navy coverage over at their SB Nation site.
Go Irish, Beat Navy!