2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 9 - Navy at Notre Dame
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Oct. 29 at Notre Dame 56 … Navy 14
CFN Analysis: Notre Dame is night-and-day more talented than Navy – it always is – but this year it showed it. This was a dominant performance by the Irish as the lines destroyed the Midshipmen lines and both sides of the ball had few problems. The run defense held the Navy ground game to just 196 yards, while the Irish offensive front blasted away for 182 yards with three scores from Jonas Gray and two from Cierre Wood. Tommy Rees was excellent, getting all day to work and connecting on 16-of-22 passes for 237 yards with a score, but because it’s Notre Dame, Rees threw a pick as one of the team’s two turnovers. After a rocky week, this was a business-like effort that was never a game, and it should continue to be smooth sailing against Wake Forest, Maryland, and Boston College before facing Stanford.
Navy only outgained Notre Dame by 14 yards on the ground and didn’t dominate in time of possession. That’s a bad thing. Navy’s offense hasn’t exactly been clicking this year, and against the Irish it was stagnant at times. Veteran quarterback Trey Miller did what he could, but he’s not a passer and he doesn’t run as well as Kriss Proctor. The defense, without a pass rush, didn’t have a chance to slow down the Irish attack. Now it’ll take four straight wins to go to a bowl, and while the schedule isn’t bad, the team isn’t playing well enough to run the table.
(AP) SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame less than two minutes to make a week's worth of problems -- heck, maybe a season's worth -- disappear.
Michael Floyd and Jonas Gray scored in a span of 1 minute, 59 seconds Saturday, and Notre Dame rolled from there, rebounding from its rough week with a 56-14 thrashing of Navy. The Irish (5-3) rushed for seven touchdowns, most in 19 years, while limiting Navy (2-6) to a season-low 229 yards of total offense in the Midshipmen's sixth straight loss.
"As a family, we all have good days and bad days. And you work through that as a family," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "We communicated with each other as a team and as a family, and you saw it today. You saw a team that played together. I told our team, that's the best collection of plays relative to all 11 players playing together."
A lopsided loss to USC last Saturday night pretty much ended Notre Dame's chances of a BCS bowl for yet another year, and tensions within the team apparently flared after Kelly talked about having to "retrain" the players he inherited from Charlie Weis. Some of the veterans, including star linebacker Manti Te'o, expressed their displeasure with his comments on Twitter, and the Chicago Tribune reported Saturday that Kelly apologized to players during a team meeting Friday.
But winning cures all kinds of ills and the Irish looked like a happy bunch Saturday, exchanging flying chest bumps after TDs and dancing on the sidelines.
Notre Dame scored on five of its first six possessions, and had two running backs score multiple touchdowns (Gray had three, Cierre Wood had two) for the first time since 2001. Floyd also had two TDs, scoring on a 56-yard catch and a 10-yard lateral for Notre Dame, which beat Navy for only the second time in five years after winning 43 straight from 1964 to 2006.
The game was so out of hand, the starters spent the fourth quarter on the sidelines.
"I'm not going to get into the specifics of it, but we just had to go out there and play unified," Gray said. "Let the outside distractions be just that, outside distractions. Obviously, when you look at us on the field, that was a unified team, no doubt."
Not that everything was perfect.
Notre Dame has struggled with turnovers all season, and its sloppiness cost the Irish again in early in the second quarter. Theo Riddick couldn't get his hands on a swing pass from Tommy Rees, and Navy end Jabree Tuani scooped the ball up. Though the play was initially ruled a lateral and, thus an incomplete, that was overturned, giving the Middies the ball at the Notre Dame 27.
Six plays later, Gee Gee Greene scored on a 9-yard pass from young quarterback Trey Miller, playing in place of Kriss Proctor, to cut Notre Dame's lead to 14-7.
Instead of falling apart, though, the Irish roared back with two touchdowns in a 2-minute span.
George Atkinson III, who returned his second kick for a score last week against Southern California, gave the Irish great field position, putting the ball at the Notre Dame 44. Rees then found Floyd, who took advantage of Navy's defensive breakdowns and strolled into the end zone untouched for a 56-yard score.
"He was great," Kelly said of Floyd. "He had talked about it all week, coming out this week and having a great game, and you know, he was not going to be denied today."
Navy then botched the kickoff return, with Marcus Thomas never getting up to the ball and watching helplessly as it bounced off the ground. He gave chase, but Troy Niklas beat him to the ball to give Notre Dame back possession at the Navy 22. Four plays later, Gray scored on a 2-yard run to give Notre Dame a 28-7 lead.
"Coach Kelly did a great job getting his guys ready, bouncing back after the USC game," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "They came prepared and focused and they got after us ... offensively, defensively and special teams. Just a total butt whipping."
Though there was still almost 40 minutes left to play, the game was effectively over.
The Irish defense hounded young quarterback Trey Miller, who was playing in place of the injured Kriss Proctor, all afternoon. Miller finished just 5-of-13 for 33 yards, and Navy could only manage 196 yards on the ground -- well below their average of 325 yards.
Fullback Alex Teich, who ran roughshod over the Irish last year for a career-high 210 yards on 26 carries, was held to just 62 on 15 touches.
"You have to give those guys some credit," Teich said. "Last year ... it was like night and day. Those guys just flat got after it."
Notre Dame is now 13-8 under Kelly. While that's not nearly good enough for zealous Irish fans, it's the same record Lou Holtz had in his first 21 games at Notre Dame.
"We want a consistency about how we play each and every game," Kelly said. "We've got to play together, play a brand of football that I'm starting to see. Today was a great example. Everybody was playing together, everybody was playing hard for each other, and that's what we expect."
Navy (2-5) at Notre Dame (4-3) Oct. 29, 3:30, NBC
Here’s The Deal … There was a time not all that long ago when the three sure things in life were death, taxes, and Navy losing to Notre Dame, but the Midshipmen have owned the series recently winning three of the last four games. Now it’s a game for survival.
Just when it seems like Notre Dame really is good, it started screwing up – again – giving up three turnovers in a strange and controversial loss to USC. Matt Barkley accused the Irish quitting, there were several strange plays and strange calls, and now any and all dreams of getting to a BCS game are over. There are still several interesting games left, including a date at Wake Forest and a regular-season ender at Stanford, but first, the Irish has to break the rough patch against the Midshipmen.
As bad as things might be for Notre Dame after last week’s debacle, things are far worse for a Navy team suffering a miserable collapse. The running game is fine, but the defense has been an utter disaster after starting the season 2-0. The last four games of the regular season – Troy, at SMU, at San Jose State, and Army – are all winnable, and if the Midshipmen don’t come out of South Bend with a win, they’ll have to sweep to get to a bowl game.
The losses might not be good in the standings, but four of the five losses were by three points or fewer, losing to everyone but Southern Miss by a grand total of eight points. The team isn’t as bad as the 2-5 record, but that won’t matter much if it’s 2-6. If the Irish are 4-4, though, with four losses in five years to Navy – especially a 2-5 Navy – the drama will be at a whole other level.
Why Navy Might Win: Yes, there’s someone worse in college football in turnover margin than Notre Dame. East Carolina beat Navy last week, but it’s actually worse at coughing up the ball, giving it away 23 times on the year, while the Irish are 119th in the nation in turnover margin giving away an average of -1.43 per game. Navy has been decent at taking the ball away with 13 so far, and the defense has to go into the game doing whatever possible to take the ball away. The Irish were stingier in the passing game over the last five games, throwing just three picks, but the fumbles continue with two against USC including the game-changing center exchange miscue. Navy’s defense isn’t good enough to stop the Irish, but it has to sell out to take the ball away, and it should be able to come up with a few big plays.
Notre Dame’s defensive front is banged up, and it’s had major problems over the last few weeks against the run, unable to slow down the Air Force option attack two weeks ago, allowing 363 yards and two scores, and USC cranked out 219 yards. Navy’s offense will run the ball, run the ball, and run the ball, and it’ll have success and should control the clock, however …
Why Notre Dame Might Win: Air Force was able to throw the ball. The Falcons threw for 202 yards and two scores to go along with all its success on the ground, and they still got blown out. Navy will need everything to go its way, and if it doesn’t win the turnover battle by a large margin, and if it doesn’t hold on to the ball for over 35 minutes, and if it doesn’t run for at least 300 yards, it has no shot … and it still might not be enough.
The Navy secondary has been awful mostly because the defensive line isn’t getting into the backfield. Navy isn’t generating any pressure whatsoever, and while that’s been the norm in the past for Midshipmen defenses, this year, the secondary isn’t picking up the slack. The D only has seven sacks on the season, and if the Notre Dame quarterbacks aren’t getting pressured, they’ll take target practice. Last week, East Carolina’s Dominique Davis completed 40-of-45 passes for 373 yards and two scores, hitting a record 26 straight passes to start the game. That means the Irish must get a big game out of …
What To Watch Out For: Tommy Rees, if he’s healthy. He suffered a knee injury against USC, but he was able to come back in and he appears to be ready to go. Before getting picked off by the Trojans, he was tight with the ball and kept the mistakes to a minimum. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass against the Trojans, but against the bad Navy defense he has to relax, can’t force anything, and he has to let his terrific receivers work themselves open.
The big problem is on the Notre Dame defensive front with Ethan Johnson still hobbling on an ankle injury that’s kept him out over the last few weeks, while Kapron Lewis-Moore is done for the ear with a knee injury. The Irish have talented young players, most notably Aaron Lynch, who’ll be stars of the future, but they have to step up their play now.
Navy’s Kriss Proctor suffered a hand injury against ECU, and Trey Miller did his best to try to keep up the pace. While not the runner that Proctor is, he threw for 126 yards and two scores, to go along with 36 rushing yards. If Proctor can’t go at all, Miller’s job will be to get the ball out of his hands in a hurry, with Gee Gee Greene needing to get to the outside and Alexander Teich needing to soften things up in the middle from the opening drive. The big fullback rumbled for 210 yards in last year’s win over the Irish, and he might have to be just that effective again.
What Will Happen: Michael Floyd will go ballistic. The senior receiver missed last year’s game, but he destroyed the Midshipmen two years ago with ten catches for 141 yards and a score in the loss. After being held to four catches for 28 yards against USC, he’ll come up with his fourth 12-catch game of the season while Rees will be nearly flawless in a blowout win.
CFN Prediction: Notre Dame 48 … Navy 20
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Notre Dame -20 O/U: 62
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