By: Phil Houk of Fighting Irish Preview and Irish 101
Last year the Irish were big winners over Navy, 44-22 and Ian Book had a very accurate day hitting 27-33 for 330 yards. Dexter Williams had a big day running for 142 yards and 3 TDs. But that was against a sub-par Navy team, that only manged a season record of 3-10.
This year Navy stands at 7-1, their lone loss came to a really good Memphis team in week 3. In their last action the Middies defeated Connecticut 56-10.
And like just about everyone else on Notre Dame’s schedule Navy has had 2 weeks to prepare for the Irish.
After their uncharacteristic last season, Navy is now back to doing what they do best: triple option football and quarterback Malcom Perry who played slot last year is the trigger man. And he has been spectacular: On the season Perry has 1,042 yards rushing and 16 touchdown.
The option attack always features a hard nosed fullback, and this year Navy has two. Nelson Smith who has put up 505 yards and 7 touchdowns and Jamale Carothers, 355 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Navy will pass the ball and this season they are doing it a bit more than usual, but they still pass it only about 8 times per game—and so far it’s been good for 6 touchdowns and a shade under 100 yards per game.
Nationally Navy has the number 1 rushing offense, 27th in total offense and 9th in scoring offense at 40.1 points per game.
Defensively under new coordinator Brian Newberry, the Midshipman have shown significant improvement, and they play aggressive and downhill. They have some size up front and have been very stingy giving up just 18.1 points and 310 yards of offense per game. Both numbers rank them in the top 20 nationally, and are significant improvements over last season.
Sophomore Linebacker Diego Fagot is the team's leading tackler. Junior Linebacker Jacob Springer has tallied 7 sacks, the team overall has 24. Last year Navy totaled 10 sacks, for the entire season!
Unusual for a triple option team, Navy has limited their fumbles, they have lost just 8, to go along with 4 interceptions thrown.
Freshman Kicker Bijan Nichols has made 42 of 43 extra pints and 5 of 7 FGs with a long of 49 yards. And punter Owen White is averaging 43.1 yards net per kick, 5th best in the Country.
Overall, they rarely turn the ball over, they don’t commit a lot of penalties, they are outstanding on 3rd and 4th down and in the red zone, both offensively and defensively. About the only deficiency statistically is the strength of their schedule: with the exception of Memphis, who they lost to, no other opponent is close to the top 25.
Expect a much tougher challenge from the 2019 version of Navy than last season.