Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 12, 2022

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 34 of 55 NOV. 12, 2022 35 GAME PREVIEW: NAVY 1. Familiar New Starting Quarterback If not for his preference to play quarterback, newly minted Navy starter Xavier Arline might be on Notre Dame's roster. The Irish offered Arline a preferred walk-on opportunity in the fall of 2019 as an athlete. Navy, Army and Air Force, though, wanted him as a triple-option quar- terback. And he wanted to play quarterback. He picked the Midshipmen in January 2020. Now a junior, he is the team's starting quarterback following a season-ending injury to Tai Lavatai in late October. Arline started five games in his first two years and played the second half of last year's Notre Dame vs. Navy game, also because of an injury to Lavatai. Football was Arline's second sport to lacrosse at Shoreham-Wading River High on Long Island. He was the nation's No. 5 recruit in the 2020 cycle, ac- cording to Inside Lacrosse, and won a New York state championship. He was identified as a high-level lacrosse prospect in middle school and committed to perennial power North Carolina as an eighth grader. Arline reopened his recruitment, though, because he wanted to play foot- ball. But he didn't stay away from lacrosse for long. He joined Navy's lacrosse team last for its 2022 season and scored 5 goals in 6 games. 2. Defensive Downturn Continues Navy's sharp decline from an 11-2 season in 2019 to a 10-19 record since then is due in no small part to a defense that has regressed in each of the last three years. The Midshipmen were 36th in yards per play in 2019. They finished 83rd in 2020, 101st in 2021 and were 112th entering their game against Cincinnati Nov. 5. Somehow, Navy's scoring defense has improved to 64th this year (25.4 points per game) after ending 2021 at 82nd (28.3). That can be tied to a jump in red-zone effectiveness. The Midshipmen are 16th in opponent red-zone touchdown percentage (46.3) after finishing 58th a year ago (57.8) But they still allowed 34 or more points in three of their first eight games this year. Better havoc-play production has also helped. Navy is tied for 22nd with 15 turnovers forced and has recovered 9 fumbles (tied for seventh). Fumble luck has been on the Mids' side as well, with only 9 forced fumbles needed to generate those 9 recoveries. They're slightly above average in sacks per game (2.38, 47th) and tackles for loss per game (6.25, 45th). Chunk plays remain a sore spot. Navy came into Week 10 with 42 plays of 20-plus yards allowed, which ranked 104th nationally. Only six FBS teams have allowed more 30-yard gains (22) than Navy. 3. Rushing Efficiency Issues Navy's high volume of rushing attempts makes it a near-lock to finish in the top 10 in rushing yards per game every season. The Midshipmen were sixth in the nation through Week 9 this year and have finished in the top 10 every season but one since 2009. Their efficiency, though, has dipped from high-level to below average. From 2009-19, Navy finished in the top 25 in yards per carry 10 times and in the top 10 five times. In the two full seasons since then, it ended the season ranked No. 100 and No. 88. The first eight games of 2022 have brought only mild improvement — the Midshipmen are 72nd at 4.0 yards per carry. Sophomore fullback Daba Fofana, the leading rusher, was averaging just 3.7 yards per carry heading into Week 10. Only two of Navy's top six rushers were above 4.0 yards per carry. The big-play threat has been sophomore slotback Maquel Haywood, who was averaging 6.5 yards on his 61 attempts. — Patrick Engel Junior signal-caller Xavier Arline had a preferred walk-on offer to play at Notre Dame but chose Navy for the opportunity to play quarterback. PHOTO COURTESY NAVY Three Things To Know About Navy

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