The Notre Dame Fighting Irish took down the Navy Midshipmen 34-6 in what ended up being a blowout but didn’t really feel like it, despite the Irish never really being threatened in the game. That’s because of some strangely conservative offensive playcalling that for some reason seemed afraid to take any chances. Follow along as we break it all down for you and give you the key numbers behind the outcome.
The game was never really in any danger late, but it was very disappointing to see the offense only put up 17 points going into the 4th Quarter.
The most shocking thing about this box score is you would have no idea that this was Jack Coan’s highest graded game of the season according to PFF. He posted a 90.5 grade with 3 Big Time Throws on passes over 20 yards downfield and added another one in the 10-19 Yard range. Despite the incredible performance and the relative anonymity of Navy’s defense, Coan only threw 2 more passes over 10 Yards downfield. This makes sense when Kyren Williams led the team in targets with 7, but that led to an abysmal -0.50 EPA/Play with only one of his targets going for positive EPA. Combined with Chris Tyree’s -0.30 EPA/Play and 33% Success Rate, this wasn’t a banner day for the Running Back room when they’ve been very efficient as pass catchers on the season.
Now, something was clearly off in the passing game. Braden Lenzy continued to struggle, posting a -0.82 EPA/Play and a 52.4 PFF Grade. Avery Davis also had a tough day before going down with a Torn ACL, with only 2 targets for 0.01 EPA/Play and a 53.7 PFF Grade. When those two guys struggled to get open it makes sense why we saw a lot of checkdowns to the Running Backs. But when Coan posts his highest game of the year by far, two good receivers in Kevin Austin and Michael Mayer have good days, and the overall EPA numbers don’t seem to match that, that speaks to issues with the playcalling in my opinion. The sequencing on the first two drives illustrate this better, where the plays should be scripted and the offense should have no problem executing.
- 1st and 15 Run for 5 Yards following a false start penalty (-0.15 EPA)
- 2nd and 10 Run for 2 Yards (-0.78 EPA)
- Setting up a 3rd and 8 scramble by Coan (-1.21 EPA)
- 1st and 10 Pass, incomplete, out of an empty backfield (-0.92 EPA)
- 2nd and 10 Run for 6 Yards (0.18 EPA)
- 3rd and 4 Pass for -2 Yards, throw was behind the Line of Scrimmage (-1.66 EPA)
The playcalling was so conservative and almost playing as if Coan made a single mistake it would be game-ending. Against one of the worst offenses in the country with a defense that isn’t anything to write home about. And let’s not get lost in the final score, keep in mind it was 17-6 going into the 4th Quarter. Out of reach for this Navy team but definitely not an emphatic performance through the first 3 Quarters. If it wasn’t for really efficient 3rd Down Passing (1.29 EPA/Play, 56% Success Rate) the binary outcome of the game likely doesn’t change but our perception of it probably does. Going into a game where Notre Dame will likely need to score in bunches it would have been encouraging to see that mentality show up in a game that could have been used as preparation for it.
Not much to add on Navy’s side because, well, it’s Navy. But credit to Marcus Freeman and the defense for holding the Triple Option to 6 points and really a net of 4 when you factor in the safety. This year’s team is a far cry from some of their best offenses of the last 6 years, but it still was an excellent performance that kept this game from ever being stressful despite the woeful offensive playcalling.
Carlinos Acie and Chance Warren were the two biggest threats in the offense and they had good days as the only Midshipmen involved in the standard offense with positive EPA (Jayden Umburger’s gain was on the trick play end-around). But they only got the ball a combined 4 times, and Notre Dame was able to contain and shut down every other player. Losing Tai Lavatai likely hurt as he’s been much more efficient than Xavier Arline this year. But they both had similar numbers in this game anyways at under -0.40 EPA/Play and both having a 17% Success Rate. Great game for the defense and glad to be done watching the Triple Option for another year.
Next week will be a tougher test for both sides, with the defense needing to contain Brennan Armstrong (if he plays) and an explosive Virginia Offense while Tommy Rees and Co. try to keep up. We’ll be back in a couple days previewing that one.