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Notre Dame Football: D.O.M.I.N.A.T.E. (Domers Orchestrating Monumental Improvement Nicely Against Tiger Enemies) — Navy Midshipmen Week

Let’s talk about something sorta kinda maybe a little bit decent that happened this past weekend, and then look forward to a VERY exciting next opponent

*presses “Join Call” button*

*in the weakest and raspiest voice you’ve ever heard from Pat Rick*

Good morning everybody! How’s everyone doing?

My apologies for my voice, I seem to have misplaced it over the weekend, probably somewhere in South Bend if I had to guess...

*flashback sequence of Pat Rick drinking lots of High Life in wild winds and some driving rain and then screaming in the cold for 4 hours*

Yep, yeah I was lucky enough to be able to go. Yeah it was crazy, lots of fun. Definitely didn’t see that coming — always fun when your team surprises you like that.

No yeah, agreed. Brian Kelly getting a big win was certainly a bummer, but I’ll make that trade-off every day of the week, it was worth it.

Okay, do we have everyone who will be here today? Where are Juan and Nicole?

Ope, speak of the devil, hey Juan! I’m doing well, how are you?

Aaaand there’s Nicole, hi Nicole! Okay, we should have everyone now, let’s go ahead and get started, we have A LOT to cover today and I don’t think any of us want to miss a second of it.

Can you all see my screen?

Okay excellent. Well folks, somehow we’re now 10 weeks into the season and have only 3 games remaining — it’s been a wild ride these last couple months, but the payoff is what we got to witness from the project last week, as the team put together a pretty exciting win that we’ll discuss at length today using our typical weekly process.

So the agenda is pretty much the same as usual — I won’t spend any more time talking through that besides just mentioning that we’re switching things up slightly today, and instead of focusing just on What’s Important Now, we will instead discuss what we’re witnessing of late, Domers Orchestrating Monumental Improvement Nicely Against Tiger Enemies.

With that in mind, here’s what should be a pretty darn familiar agenda besides the acronym change...

And just for the sake of clarity, here’s a quick couple explainer slides on what D.O.M.I.N.A.T.E. means in the context of our overarching Project W.I.N.

Cool, so with that in mind, let’s review last week’s results!

Before we cover the slide, I just wanted to show a couple quick videos that I think really do a great job summarizing and conveying the massive win we had last week and what it means to this team and coaching staff and student body and fan base:

Truly electric stuff, hot damn.

Okay, so let’s get to the good stuff. I’m going to start with the positives, because the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team’s shellacking of the previously 8-0, #4 Clemson Tigers was truly a wonderful display of attitude, confidence, strength, determination, and just the will to absolutely dominate.

There’s nowhere else we can begin than with freshman cornerback Benjamin Morrison, who had the game of his life (to-date) on an absolutely huge stage, finishing with 7 tackles (4 solo), 1 PD, and 2 huge interceptions — one that led to a short field and an Irish touchdown and of course the other that was the ELECTRIC 96-yard pick-six that put the game on ice.

Morrison’s development and ascension to being an absolute stud of a cover corner just 9 games into his collegiate career has been really fun to watch, especially considering he was considered a good prospect, for sure, but not necessarily someone anyone thought would be this good this fast. A 4-star 2022 recruit ranked 311th nationally by the 247sports composite rankings, Morrison had a rating of 0.9000, which put him just below guys like John Goodman, KJ Wallace, Bo Bauer, and Alex Bullard.*

*Pat Rick Note: Bullard spent only 2 years at ND before transferring to Tennessee to finish out his career, and then I never once thought about him again until my girlfriend and I were watching the incredible Netflix show Marriage or Mortgage and Alex and his now wife were featured on an episode. That was a blast from the past for sure!

Anyway, Morrison got some chatter in the off-season as a promising frosh, but Jaden Mickey was always the young gun DB getting the most instant-impact praise. So, the fact that Morrison has managed to not only earn a starting cornerback spot on this defense but also now managed to be a legitimate game-changer against a top opponent is super fun to see, and has all of Irish nation VERY excited for 2+ more years of watching Morrison lock chumps down at corner.

I’m going to hop back and forth from offense to defense to special teams here, because there’s just so many good things to talk about on every unit. The offense was a thing of beauty on Saturday, and not because it was well-balanced and able to really do a ton of damage in lots of different ways.

Instead, the Irish came into the game with a strong running game and very little semblance of a viable passing threat against an opponent known for shutting down the run who also KNEW ND would need to run the ball well to win. And yet, the Notre Dame offensive line completely imposed their will on Clemson’s blue-chippers and 5-stars and absolutely spanked them up and down the field, paving the way for Tommy Rees’s offense to put up a 47-carry, 263-yard, 5.6 yards-per-carry, 2-touchdown performance against a defense that entered the game 7th in the country in rushing defense (allowing 88 YPG), 11th in yards per carry allowed (2.98), and tied for 7th in rushing touchdowns allowed (5 total).

The fact that Clemson knew exactly what Notre Dame was going to do and the Irish still exceeded their season averages so significantly just speaks VOLUMES about the offensive line’s effort, the running backs’ performance, and Rees’s play-calling on the evening.

Logan Diggs (114 yards, 6.7 YPC) and Audric Estime (104 yards, 5.8 YPC, 1 TD) both went off, and it felt like even on the plays where there was nowhere to run, they managed to squeeze through tight spaces and fight hard to break tackles and run guys over and fall forward to ensure a positive gain and to make Clemson’s defense work that much harder to bring them down. Both guys played a clean game in terms of fumbles and just looked inspired running the ball out there — hats off to them, the line, Deland McCullough, Harry Hiestand, and the rest of the offense for making such a fun display of physically-dominant football possible.

I’d also like to note that both Estime (60th in the country) and Diggs (75th) are now top-75 in the nation in rushing, Estime is also top-30 in rushing touchdowns with 9, and both backs seem to be just hitting their groove and driving toward even better season-end rankings. It’s of course a bummer that the Irish couldn’t land Will Shipley two years ago, because he’s a very good running back — but the “consolation prize” of Estime and Diggs has turned out to be FANTASTIC and arguably just as, or even more so, potent than Shipley might have been in an Irish uniform.

The offensive line also did a good job protecting Drew Pyne on his 17 pass attempts on the evening, allowing just one sack and only 4 tackles for loss, which were both well below that group’s per-game averages heading into the match-up.

We’ll get to Pyne’s passing when we cover the short list of negatives in a bit, so for now I just want to shout-out Pyne’s running performance on Saturday, as the guy is by no means a Buchner-esque dual-threat but absolutely has the capability to come up big with his legs when needed, which he showed on Saturday with his 4 carries for 21 yards and 1 touchdown, averaging 5.3 yards per carry on the night. He also had a couple specific throws that were absolutely MONEY, including the one he completed to Jayden Thomas on the sideline while on the run, and of course the gorgeously-placed ball to Michael Mayer late in the 4th quarter.

Speaking of Mayer, he had a quiet but very good game himself, reeling in 4 passes for 44 yards, including that touchdown that made him arguably the best Notre Dame tight end of all-time, snatching the career touchdowns record for himself away from Ken MacAfee.

Mayer is now tied for 25th in the country in receiving touchdowns with 7 on the season and is top-30 in receptions and 63rd in receiving yards, and is either tied for first or all by himself in first in all three statistics when looking at just tight ends. Brock Bowers is a great TE down in Athens, but at this point I can definitively say that if anyone but Mayer wins the Mackey award this season, they objectively did not deserve it. Michael Mayer is the best tight end in college football, full stop.

At this point, I’m sure you’re reading all this and screaming at your screen, asking me why I haven’t mentioned one of the most critical performances of Saturday — Jordan Botelho’s blocked punt that Prince Kollie corralled out of the air and scampered with into the end zone to start off the game with a bang. There’s no question that that play gave the entire Irish team energy and confidence and great vibes to feed off of and fuel their performance over the course of the game — it set the tone for the entire beatdown.

We’ve all talked about this a bunch now, but it obviously bears repeating: Special Teams Coordinator Brian Mason is an absolute GOD and it’s truly absurd and incredible and so impressive that, in a game where the opponent KNOWS you’re going to try to block a punt and KNOWS you’re really good at doing so, that they still managed to get one on their first try, and very close on a number of other occasions.

This was yet again a wild example of Clemson knowing exactly what ND was going to line up and do and the Irish went ahead and successfully did it anyway. The Irish are now alone at the top of the national rankings for punt/kick blocks with 6 this season.

Leaping over to the defense beyond Morrison’s herculean efforts, there are plenty of others to recognize, considering Al Golden’s whole group was truly excellent for three quarters and only really allowed Clemson to do anything during garbage time. Golden dialed up fantastic pressure all evening to make D.J. Uiagalelei and Cade Klubnik uncomfortable, and the secondary covered well and did a good job breaking passes up and laying the lumber on Clemson’s underwhelming receivers, limiting the Tigers to just 27-of-40 passing for 191 yards, 1 TD, and 2 interceptions.

If you’d told me that would be Clemson’s passing stats before the game, I probably would have been excited but also have assumed that that meant Will Shipley went off and ran roughshod over the Irish defense. Instead, Clemson finished with 90 yards TOTAL on the ground while averaging just 3.6 yards per carry, with Shipley held to 63 yards and a touchdown after averaging 92 yards per game in the Tigers’ first 8 contests. Additionally, the ND defense managed to finally get a red zone stop, forcing Clemson to be 2-for-3 in scoring on their limited trips into the red zone. That was really nice to see.

Golden’s group really did a number on Clemson, allowing just 138 total yards and 0 points in the Tigers’ first NINE possessions, with only one of those Tigers possessions crossing midfield. Nice individual performances were turned in by various defensive players, including Isaiah Foskey (4 tackles, 1 sack) — who’s now at 8.5 sacks on the year (T-3rd in the nation) which means he’s got 24 career sacks and is just 0.5 away from the record of 24.5 held by Justin Tuck — as well as TaRiq Bracy (4 tackles, 1 sack), Howard Cross III (1 sack), D.J. Brown (3 tackles, 1 PD, 1 QBH), and the Ademilola twins (2 tackles, 3 QBH).

Then, of course, there’s the much-maligned J.D. Bertrand. The senior linebacker has been a lightning rod for criticism all season, and I don’t think it was unwarranted, at least to a point. But Bertrand has really played well the last couple weeks, and especially on Saturday against the Tigers he was all over the field, flying around making plays. He finished with 12 tackles and a sack, and led a crisp and bone-jarring effort by the Irish defense to not only fly to the ball and hit guys hard, but also to wrap up and cleanly tackle Clemson players that probably aren’t used to a tackling effort like that very often in ACC play. Bertrand is not without his flaws, for sure, but he put it all together for a fantastic game against a top opponent and that was really fun to see for the kid, considering the hate he’s gotten.

We mentioned the punt block unit, of course, but I wanted to also shout out our favorite punter ever, Jon Sot, for downing 3 of his 5 punts on the evening inside the 20 and for booting another out the back of the end zone, keeping Clemson from ever having a chance to make a return. Similarly, kickoff specialist Zac Yoakam continued to do a great job mostly eliminating the possibility of any opponent kick returns, and on the couple kickoffs he had that didn’t land a touchback, the kick coverage was its typically-solid self in holding Shipley to just two returns for 21 total return yards.

Brigham Young v Notre Dame Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Some other quick-hitters to mention as positives:

  • Clemson pissing off ND with the personal foul and little scuffle before the half, which I think just served to make the Irish all sorts of jacked-up and drove them to come out REALLY angry in the 2nd half with their sights set on punishing the Tigers
  • Clemson’s vaunted defense looking like they wanted NOTHING to do with tackling Estime and Diggs in the 2nd half, as the two continuously lowered their shoulders and just bludgeoned and gashed them over and over and over again. I think it’s typically too extreme a word to use to describe sports performances, but “evisceration” is a perfect word for their performance along with the offensive line and tight ends blocking for them.
  • ND being 6/12 on 3rd downs while Clemson was just 4/11
  • The Irish out-rushing the Tigers 263-90 — just a wild contrast in success on the ground (THANK YOU HARRY HIESTAND)
  • The Irish winning the turnover, penalty, and time of possession battles against a top-4 team...*chef’s kiss*

Finally, a huge positive I want to shout out was something my friends Prison Mike, Ross, and Katie managed to accomplish just before the game in the tailgate lots. Back in 2020, Prison Mike and I watched the Irish’s double-OT win over Clemson at a friend’s apartment, finishing nearly a full case of Hamm’s Premium ourselves as we did so. We decided to keep one of the leftover Hamm’ses in memory of such an awesome night, and it’s been sitting in my fridge for 2 years just waiting for the right time to be cracked and slurped down at an ND football-related event.

With this game looming large, I quickly Googled whether drinking a two-year-old can of beer could be a safety concern for us, and discovered it is decidedly not! In a sealed can kept refrigerated all this time, everything I read told me that it would be completely safe to consume, and the only thing that might have happened is that the Hamm’s might be a bit flat and taste a little worse than normal. So, I brought a solitary can of Hamm’s in my jacket pocket and carried it around all day, waiting until probably about an hour or so until kickoff to open it up and pass it around our group of four as we prepared to go watch our team take on an undefeated, top-4 opponent.

So, I think it’s safe to say that we were INSTRUMENTAL in providing just the right mojo for the ND team entering this game. We’ve done this kind of thing before, so I know it’s not a coincidence that something awesome and drinking-related that our friend group accomplished could deliver such a major victory for our beloved Irish. And we managed to keep a few High Lifes from our 30-count case we bought on Saturday, planning to age the Champagne of Beers for a similar amount of time and then unleash its powers on another unsuspecting ND opponent in the near future. I am SO PROUD of us for this accomplishment.

Okay, with the laundry list of positives listed out above, I think we can move on to quickly covering the negatives from Saturday — there weren’t too many — and then we can move forward with our Powerpoint. Let’s knock these out.

Negatives from Saturday:

  • Not shutting those chumps out, allowing a couple garbage time TDs
  • This isn’t a surprise, but Drew Pyne’s passing performance obviously left plenty to be desired, if you wanna look at the passing game on its own merit and ignore the rushing success the offense was having all game
  • No WR besides Jayden Thomas making a single catch — again, the QB play was great here, but it’s crazy to me that no one else managed to catch a pass at all. Lorenzo Styles Jr. had himself a really bad drop and otherwise continued his sophomore slump/disappearing act
  • The refs not calling targeting/roughing the passer on that Pyne hit, and then making some really bad/ticky-tack pass interference calls to try to get Clemson back into the game (Benny Morrison had other ideas, thankfully)
  • The ND defensve letting Uiagalelei pick up a few nice gains/1st downs with his legs...they just lost contain a couple times really, but it’s been a problem all year (remember Jack Plummer???) and could really be concerning in a few weeks against Caleb Williams
NCAA Football: California at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
  • My friend group’s decision to buy a 30-rack of High Life, because it was heavy to have to carry around so far and got really hard to carry once it was opened and once the cardboard began to deteriorate/rip/fall apart thanks to the rain. We absolutely should have bought 2-3 12-packs and brought some plastic bags to help split up the haul and make everything easier to wander around with — we’re veterans and need to be better (we will be, I promise)
  • The wind being so crazy that they didn’t allow tents at tailgates. At multiple points both Prison Mike and I both had the wind blow our hats clean off our heads despite them being worn in a secure fashion — luckily, we were both able to chase down/bottle up our hats. On one of them Mike actually got compliments from a stranger on his groundball-fielding technique he used to keep his hat in front of him and avoid a critical error
  • This feedback email from ND that I received at 5:46 pm on Sunday that begins with “good morning” and then asks me to rate my experience at the Stanford game this weekend — a game that was not only not this past weekend, but that I also never attended:

Alright, that was a really good discussion, but I know we’re getting short on time, so let’s turn the page to take a super-quick look at our project scorecard.

All greens, all-around! I’ll let you all review this in detail offline, but just want to say it’s pretty awesome how far this team has come and what we were able to accomplish last week. Bravo to the Jarrett, Joe, Zeke, Josh, Blake, Logan, Audric, Benjamin, Michael, Drew, Tommy, Brian, Prince, Ross, Katie, Prison Mike, me, and everyone else for one helluva performance!

Alrighty, let’s keep this moving and honor our team members of the week!

If you can believe it, we’d like to recognize a whopping 19 people today and most of them I just mentioned for their completed objectives on the scorecard.

First, we’d like to recognize Joe, Jarrett, Zeke, Josh, Blake, Logan, Audric, J.D., Isaiah, TaRiq, D.J., Jayson, Justin, Howard, Jordan, Michael, Drew, and Jon for all the accomplishments you see on this slide. You guys were simply fantastic this week and truly lived the company values with your dedication and determination to go out there and crush the competition. Look in your inboxes for a Chipotle gift card after this call!

Then, we’d like to give an extra special recognition to...

Benjamin! Leadership just thinks so highly of you and what you’ve gotten accomplished of late, so be on the lookout for both a Chipotle gift card plus some fun company swag coming your way in the mail very shortly!

Okay, as hard as it’s going to be after all the excitement and celebration of our recent successes, we need to turn the page and start focusing on the upcoming task at hand — defeating those pesky Midshipmen from the US Naval Academy.

To prepare for that, let’s start with just a general overview.

I encourage you all to study this cheat sheet in great detail, but for now I just want to harp on a few major highlights:

  • “Bill the Goat” is such a great title for a mascot
  • Navy and Stanford both claim 1926 as national titles...REALLY wish we could have seen those two behemoths play that season...stupid BCS!!!
  • Another week, another opponent who has also never beaten Marshall. Is Marshall secretly the best program of all-time?
  • Navy’s notable alumni include Montel Williams, Ross Perot, and apparently the entire U.S. rowing team that won gold in the 1952 Olympics

Okay, so now that we have the basics — what else should we be aware of about this Navy team? You guessed it, we’ve gotta talk through their name talent — and BOY do they have it in BUNCHES.

I’m not sure they have the best/top names of any opponent on the Notre Dame schedule this season, but WOW do they have quality names up and down their roster. I’d guess that typically, when I go through a roster to prepare this list, I pick out 30-50 names to choose 36 from and rank. For Navy, I ended up typing out a list of 66 names, meaning I had to essentially leave half of them off this slide. That’s how deep their name talent is.

My personal favorites include Chreign LaFond, Johnny Wise, Romaine Robinson, Creedyn Foulger, Don Draper, Fabian France, Tedros Gleaton, and Andrew Threatt. I’d like to thank their parents, the states they were born in who allowed them all to be named those names, and Coach Ken Niumatalolo and the Naval Academy itself for bringing these fellas together on one team. What a crew of monikers!

Okay, now that we’ve covered the important details, what else should Irish fans know about this Navy team, considering plenty of pesky Midshipmen squads over the years have caused a lot of trouble for ND football?

The first thing to note about the Midshipmen is that they’re really just not a good football team right now. Just 3 seasons removed from their 11-2 campaign in 2019 when they defeated the Kansas State Wildcats in the Liberty Bowl, Ken Niumatalolo’s program has really had it rough of late. Navy went 3-7 in 2020, then 4-8 in 2021, and are currently 3-6 through the first 9 games of the 2022 season, having lost to Delaware, Memphis, Air Force, SMU, Houston, and Cincinnati while managing to beat East Carolina, Tulsa, and Temple.

Currently ranked 101st overall in SP+ (for reference, Notre Dame has climbed up to 26th in that ranking), the Midshipmen don’t do much of anything super well, besides cling for dear life to the triple option offense and hope for the best. Relatively speaking, their strength is definitely defense, ranked 63rd in SP+ while also managing to be 54th in the country in scoring (24.8 PPG) and 51st in total defense (363 YPG).

NCAA Football: Navy at East Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Those marks are driven entirely by the success the Midshipmen have found in stopping the run, as they currently rank 7th in rushing defense (only allowing 88 yards per game) and 13th in yards per carry allowed (3.18) and are tied for 6th in rushing touchdowns allowed with just 5 to-date. However, some of those numbers are misleading, as Navy has seen the 2nd-fewest rushing attempts per game of any defense in America, as it’s clear their opponents in the American Athletic Conference quickly discovered they could find oodles of success throwing the ball against them instead.

Sure enough, Navy’s passing defense statistics reflect that. The Midshipmen are 114th in total pass defense (275 YPG), 124th in yards per attempt allowed (8.8), 122nd in passer rating allowed, and 109th in completion % allowed (64.5%), which have all contributed to their abysmal 6.15 yards per play average, which ranks 112th in the nation.

That makes sense when you look at how they manage limiting big plays from their opponents as well, considering Navy is tied for 99th in the country in opponent plays of 20+ yards (they’ve allowed 46 such plays) and it gets even worse for plays of 30+ yards (122nd in the country, having allowed 25 such plays), 40+ yards (T-121st in the country, having allowed 15 such plays), and 50+ yards (T-120th in the country, having allowed 8 such plays). If there were ever a game for guys like Braden Lenzy or Chris Tyree or Tobias Merriweather to score on some home run plays, it would most certainly be this one.

Part of the problem is certainly that Navy doesn’t exactly have sparkling play from its secondary. The group is led by safety Rayuan Lane III (57 tackles, 4 PBU, 2 FF), and cornerback Mbiti Williams Jr. has had a few nice moments in coverage (33 tackles, 2 TFL, 4 PBU), but the Midshipmen rank tied for 80th in the country in interceptions and tied for 60th in 3rd down conversion percentage, as they just can’t get stops when the other team is slinging the rock. Other names to watch out for are CB Elias Larry (17 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 INT) and CB Dashaun Peele (8 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PBU), but don’t expect this Navy secondary to look great on Saturday, even if the Irish wideouts continue their great disappearing act and Pyne continues to miss on half his passes.

NCAA Football: Navy at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The other issue for the Midshipmen is that their pass rush isn’t super good, and they’re going to be very undersized and at a significant talent disadvantage against the Irish offensive line in pass protection.

Tied for 54th in the country in sacks and tied for 47th in tackles for loss, the guys most likely to make some noise in the ND backfield would be DE Jacob Busic (28 tackles, 6 sacks, 6.5 TFL, 4 QBH, 2 FF), LB John Marshall (71 tackles, 4 sacks, 12 TFL, 7 PBU, 6 QBH, 1 FF), and LB Tyler Fletcher (27 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PBU), but guys like NG Donald Berniard Jr. (22 tackles, 4.5 TFL) and DT Clay Cromwell (19 tackles, 1 sack, 4.5 TFL) will try to step up and make some plays as well.

If they can at least force ND to stick solely to running, that’s probably a win for a team so susceptible to the pass, and plays into linebacker position being the Midshipmen defense’s strength, as guys like Marshall, Colin Ramos (57 tackles, 2 sacks, 6 TFL, 1 INT, 2 FF), Eavan Gibbons (44 tackles, 1 sack, 5 TFL, 2 FF), Nicholas Straw (37 tackles, 1 sack, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PBU), Fletcher, Jianni Woodson-Brooks (29 tackles, 3 QBH), and Will Harbour (19 tackles, 1.5 sacks) will then try to apply their strong rushing defense so far to what will be far and away their toughest test to-date, considering ND just ran all over an even better run defense in Clemson.

NCAA Football: Temple at Navy Brent Skeen-USA TODAY Sports

The Midshipmen, being undersized, will certainly look to punch and swipe at the ball as much as possible, hoping guys like Estime will return to their fumbling ways thanks to their ability to force fumbles, as Navy is tied for 16th in the country with 10 forced fumbles so far this season and tied for 36th in total turnovers gained. If the Irish can play a clean game, though, and just manage to get first downs and get into the red zone, they should find success. Navy thrives at controlling the clock with their offense and limiting first downs and thus offensive opportunities for the opponent (15th in the country in first downs allowed per game), but they’re tied for 86th in red zone score % allowed, meaning ND would be extremely likely to score some points if they can just string together some first downs and make it there.

Interestingly enough, though, Navy is 10th in the nation in red zone TD % allowed, meaning they’ve been excellent at forcing field goals with their backs against the wall. Considering ND has struggled with scoring in the red zone — especially touchdowns — all season, that could present some problems if the Irish don’t bring their A-game and take care of business inside the 20.

On the other side of the ball, you will be shocked to find out that Navy is once again running that beloved triple option offense we have all come to despise with every ounce of our collective being. Unfortunately for Navy, though, they’re certainly worse at it than they normally are, as their offense is ranked very poorly in just about every metric that matters:

  • 119th in SP+ offensive rating
  • T-108th in scoring (21.9 PPG)
  • 108th in total offense (336.6 YPG)
  • 122nd in YPP (4.66)
  • 82nd in yards per carry (3.93)
  • 128th in passing offense (99.7 YPG)
  • 129th in pass attempts per game (12)
  • 106th in passer rating
  • T-97th in first downs (18.7 per game)
  • 90th in TFL allowed
  • T-62nd in turnovers lost (13)
  • T-103rd in fumbles lost (8)
  • 52nd in 3rd down conversion % (41.06%)
  • 87th in red zone score % (80.77%)
  • T-106th in red zone TD % (50%)

The only stats they really rank highly in can be directly attributed to how much they run the football (9th in total rushing offense, 1st in rushing attempts per game, 5th in time of possession) and how little they pass (tied for 27th in yards per attempt, tied for 13th in sacks allowed). It’s safe to say that there’s no way this Navy offense should find any sort of sustained success against Al Golden’s defense.

NCAA Football: Marshall at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

With that said, bad Navy teams have given the Irish fits before just due to their unique system, ND teams looking past the Midshipmen to other opponents later on the schedule, etc. We’ve all learned from the Marshall and Stanford games that a bad opponent doesn’t necessarily mean the Irish will handle them — if anything, the first 9 games of the year have shown that this Irish team refuses to get up for any inferior opponent and chooses instead to play down to that level. But, considering what just happened, aside from maybe some sloppiness following such an emotional high against Clemson, it’s hard to envision this ND team faltering enough to even come close to a loss this weekend (*knocking on all the wood in my apartment as I type that*).

With that all said, there are a handful of names to know within the Navy offense, per usual. Fullback Daba Fofana leads the team in rushing with 502 yards on the year, averaging 3.6 yards per carry and having scored 5 times so far this season. WR Maquel Haywood has been a more dangerous runner for the Midshipmen on fewer carries, having accumulated 406 yards at a 6.44 yards-per-carry clip (tied for 28th in the nation). He’s also a decent receiver, having caught 6 passes for 92 yards.

NCAA Football: Navy at Air Force Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The guy running the show is typically QB Tai Lavatai, who’s got 309 yards and 5 touchdowns on the season but is averaging less than 3 yards per carry. He’s definitely the guy who will do any passing for Navy this Saturday, as well, as he’s got 787 passing yards, 5 TDs, and 3 INTs while averaging 8.6 yards per attempt this year. Meanwhile, QB Xavier Arline is just 1-for-5 for 3 yards and an interception when given the chance to throw, so if he’s in the game, it’s unlikely they’ll be taking any shots downfield. He has run for 191 yards and a touchdown on 5 yards per carry, though.

Other key names include fullback Anton Hall Jr. (222 yards, 3.31 yards per carry, 2 touchdowns, one 62-yard touchdown catch), wideout Vincent Terrell Jr. (174 yards, 3.28 yards per carry, 1 TD, 8 catches for 206 yards, 2 receiving touchdowns, and 25.75 yards per catch), fullback Logan Point (138 yards, 4.2 yards per carry, 1 TD), and wide receivers Jayden Umbarger (16 catches, 265 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Mark Walker (10 catches, 175 yards). Umbarger and Walker, along with Terrell Jr., are the most likely targets if and when Lavatai does drop back to pass and press his luck as the potential QB to give Isaiah Foskey the all-time record.

NCAA Football: Memphis at Navy Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, on special teams, Navy is ranked 77th in SP+* and the key name is kicker Daniel Davies, who’s 19-for-19 on extra points this year but just 10-for-16 on field goals, having missed a few from several different distances and looking really shaky (2-for-5) when the field goal is from 40+ yards out.

*Pat Rick Note: I’m sure it’s mostly because I don’t know exactly what an SP+ special teams rating is truly telling us or what the inputs are exactly, but doesn’t it seem really odd that despite leading the country in blocked punts and also being pretty solid across the board in special teams performance, the Irish are only ranked 19th in the SP+ special teams metric? How have they not cracked the top-10 in that?

Anyway, we’re running out of time, so let’s go ahead and get to the final slide of material for this week — Domers Orchestrating Monumental Improvement Nicely Against Tiger Enemies!!!

I’ll let you read those for yourselves and internalize them for the week, but the overarching message here is to move on from this past weekend to focus on executing against a team that more often than not will give opponents fits, dominate them because they stink, and make enough big plays and shut them down enough defensively that a bunch of young guys can get some much-needed reps late in the game.

Then, get outta there and move forward to the final two games of the year.

Alright folks, any questions?

Okay, I will take your silence as a “no,” and per usual I will send out the link to this deck right after we hang up here.

Thanks everyone for your time today, and have a great week!

*clicks “End Call” button*

Time to go guzzle honey and hope I have a voice by next weekend.