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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Notre Dame Football: Navy Midshipmen Primer

(Overall Series: 71-12-1)

Forgive and forget.

Get over it.

Let bygones be bygones.

Enter in a favorite idiom and you could describe the mood the Irish had better take when they begin to prep for their remaining schedule in 2014.

No question the loss to Florida State will remain in the minds of a million people- fans and pundits.

Following last Saturday's game, the weekly menu of critic shows,review programs of last weekends games and preview shows for the Saturday's games just couldn't move off the highlight reel of the erased touchdown negated from the Irish.

The opinions were almost split on the flag call, but the question of whether or not Notre Dame would/could benefit from the last second result continued on into the weekend, and will remain the new battle cry for the Irish as they finish out their season: Win out and prove you belong.

It would also play into their favor if the results of their final 5 games were lopsided. 

It all starts with perhaps one of Notre Dame's grittiest and toughest 'schematic' opponent's they'll face.

In 2013, Notre Dame fell well below their dream season of 2012.

Key defections and some injuries to key defensive players kept some teams the Irish faced in game's well into the final moments.

Navy was no exception.

A 38-34 Irish win moved Notre Dame to 7-2, but proved the Irish were but a shell of their former squad.

Navy rushed for 331 yards on the day, and they continue their trend of a being a top rushing team into 2014.

On the year, Navy ranks as the 2nd overall rushing unit in the nation-averaging 352 yards per game. If Notre Dame fans are seeking clarity as to the success Navy will have running the ball this Saturday- good luck finding that when you consider the despair in numbers in a variety of teams representing 3 levels of college football and how Navy faired in those games:

Level 1- Ohio State: 370 yards

Level 2- Temple: 517 yards

Level 3- VMI: 352 yards

Conventional wisdom would suggest Navy's numbers would have somewhat flipped in 2 of those games, especially when you consider Ohio State is one of the top teams in the nation.

But this is Navy.

America's finest doesn't read into what others think they should do.

Quarterback Keenan Reynolds will present the Irish with yet another dual option, run first, pass second player.

In 2014, Reynolds has put up modest Tommy Rees like numbers in the air. Reynolds has only attempted 69 passes for 518 yards with 2 touchdowns.

The problems he will present in the run game is another story.

No defense will confuse Navy with the San Diego Chargers and Air Coryell anytime soon. So when it comes to the option and the troubles it will present, the Irish will have their hands full. Last week against San Jose State, Reynolds ran for 251 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Brian VanGorder and his defense will concern themselves with the run first Saturday night, especially since Navy will present zero trouble via the pass with their 126th overall unit in the nation.

A much needed week off to reflect,forget and prepare has the defensive coach optimistic:

"I think the value of the week off right now through seven games and coming off a great game , the most important thing right now is we get some rest and get away from the game a little bit," VanGorder said last week. "Let the coaches work the Navy game plan, let the players get away. I think that’s important. Hopefully they’re fresh in coming back and, yeah, they’ve got to adapt, it’s an entirely different game. But these guys will. Our players, again, are high-character, smart guys. They’ll adapt and be fine."

For the Irish, the focus will be, well- focus.

Something Brian Kelly has cemented over the last few years is his ability to keep the Irish focused despite all it's adversity.

They must move forward and beyond the FSU game.

The 2014 season for Notre Dame football hinges on 5 games: Navy,ASU,Northwestern,Louisville and USC.

It can be hyped over and over what the results could have been, but a loss now will take center stage.

Go undefeated in those 5 games and chances are a spot in the final 4 playoff exists.

Lose one of those games, and the final play of the Florida State game goes away fast- as well as the topic of wide debate that Notre Dame is a top 6 team in the nation- and maybe higher come seasons end.

Up to this point, the Irish have all but erased the doubt that the defense would present little problem for offenses and Everett Golson would be an optimists' vision of what he was 2 years ago.

The reclamation project under guru George Whitfield as well as the time off to ponder his actions pre 2013 has paid dividends by leaps and bounds.

Golson is a mature player and viable Heisman candidate that has literally placed the team square on his shoulders and carried them this far.

2013 saw a hapless offense drift aimlessly under the direction of Tommy Rees. If any person needed to understand the difference in results between the 2 players, the result of the Pittsburgh come should suffice.

One year prior, Golson was scrambling for a triple overtime win, while in 2013- Rees was tossing interceptions around like tee shirts at a Triple A baseball game in key moments.

The two players are vastly different skill set quarterbacks. But where Rees squandered chances with his feet and arm- Golson has risen above any oppurtunity that defeat has presented itself.

Evidence of that trait came to surface against the Noles.

Golson's late 4th quarter charge with two minutes left will never diminish when people speak of last second comebacks.

His shear athletic ability and command of his offense proved 2 things: He can win games against the best and he is unshaken on the big stage.

Golson is ready for the big stage.

Getting his team there is of little concern if it depended on his play.

Of note Tuesday will be the release of the first playoff ranking comprised of the 12 man panel.

Notre Dame will be out of the initial "First 4".

But with 5 games remaining, the first poll is pointless considering the task at hand where the remainder of the season is concerned.

For the remainder of the season, the Irish 'should' be favored in all games. The Arizona State game may be the only exception, but if the Sun Devils are the favorite it may be close to home field advantage only- which is a field goal.

And this is how it should be, as the Irish are better then the 5 teams remaining on their schedule.

For now, it's all about the first of those five.

Win Saturday, big if the oppurtunity presents itself- and move forward to the next.



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