Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 12, 2022

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

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Page 36 of 55 NOV. 12, 2022 37 GAME PREVIEW: NAVY Senior safety Brandon Joseph earned the defen- sive game ball against the Orange after scoring his first career touchdown on a 29-yard interception return on the first play of the game. After compiling 8 sacks against UNLV and Syra- cuse, Notre Dame ranked 16th nationally with 3 sacks per outing. The Irish rolled out of Syracuse ranked 56th in passing efficiency defense, up 14 spots from 70th the previous week. Advantage: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. NAVY RUN DEFENSE Following its 0-2 start, Notre Dame ranked No. 101 in rushing offense (103.0 yards per game). During its 5-1 run the following six games, it had climbed to No. 39 nationally (186.6). Following his 20-carry, 123-yard, 2-touchdown performance against Syracuse, sophomore tailback Audric Estime led the Irish with 558 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns through eight games. Notre Dame has settled on a tag-team tailback approach in its running game with Estime and fellow sophomore Logan Diggs. In seven games, Diggs had 431 rushing yards on 95 carries with 1 touchdown. Navy has been impressive against the run this season, ranking No. 8 nationally with an average of 92.1 yards allowed per game through Week 9. Only twice in its first eight games did Navy allow more than 105 yards rushing, and three times it held opponents to 25 or fewer. Senior striker John Marshall leads this scrappy Navy unit with 62 stops and 10 tackles for loss. The Midshipmen also entered their game last weekend ranked eighth in the country and first in the AAC with 9 fumble recoveries. Navy sophomore safety Rayuan Lane III, tallied 2 fumble recoveries against Temple Oct. 29. He also had forced 2 fumbles, made 48 tackles and broken up 4 passes. Advantage: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. NAVY PASS DEFENSE After playing some of his best football in con- secutive wins over North Carolina and BYU in mid- October, junior quarterback Drew Pyne hit a wall. Even in winning efforts against UNLV and Syra- cuse, Pyne combined in those two games to com- plete only 23 of 47 passes (48.9 percent) for 321 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. Pyne's miserable 9-of-19 passing performance for 116 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception against Syracuse Oct. 29 dropped the Irish signal- caller to 52nd nationally in passing efficiency, only three weeks after he peaked at No. 17 in the cat- egory following a solid performance against BYU Oct. 8. Irish All-American Michael Mayer continues to be Pyne's favorite target. The junior tight end eas- ily leads the Irish in receptions (47), receiving yards (580) and touchdown catches (6). He also led all tight ends in the country with 5.9 receptions per Staff Predictions Todd D. Burlage: Notre Dame 45, Navy 10 In his 16th season, veteran Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo had his program rolling with five wins in six bowl games between 2014 and 2019. More recently, Niumatalolo and his program have fallen on hard times with a 10- 20 record since the start of the 2020 season through their 3-5 start in 2022. Navy ranked seventh nationally in rush- ing offense (244.5 yards per game) through Week 9. But that was before the Midshipmen's standout dual-threat quarterback Tai Lavatai was lost for the season after suffering a leg injury. After dropping three of four games to Navy from 2007-10, Notre Dame has now won nine of 10 in the series, including four in a row. All Irish in this one. Steve Downey: Notre Dame 41, Navy 7 It is never "easy" to play Navy because of the unique nature of its triple-option attack, but Notre Dame has certainly made it look that way in recent years. The Fighting Irish have asserted their dominance in the trenches and won the last three matchups by an average score of 43-16. Despite the Irish's ups and downs during head coach Marcus Freeman's first season at the helm, there is no reason to believe that will change this season. The Midshipmen have made modest improvements on both sides of the ball, but the season-ending injury to start- ing quarterback Tai Lavatai and a Notre Dame ground game that has been clicking on all cyl- inders point to another lopsided Irish victory. Patrick Engel: Notre Dame 35, Navy 9 Navy remains stuck in its recent trend: An inefficient rushing offense with a defense that is prone to explosive plays. The Midshipmen have been better against the run this year, but not to the point where Notre Dame should struggle to move the ball against them. The Irish can beat them at their own ground-based game. Tyler Horka: Notre Dame 38, Navy 14 I don't see this one being particularly close. The Irish may sleepwalk a little in a noon kickoff one week after facing one of the top teams in the country, but in the end Notre Dame is just so vastly superior to Navy athletically. Navy had the No. 7 rushing defense in the country through Week 9, but the Irish will show the Midshipmen what a true north-south, ground- and-pound rushing attack led by an array of big, bruising offensive linemen looks like. Mike Singer: Notre Dame 42, Navy 14 Navy is not a very good football team, and the Irish shouldn't have much of a problem against them, especially considering how good Notre Dame has been away from home this season. Junior defensive end Jacob Busic recorded a team-high 6 sacks during Navy's 3-5 start. PHOTO BY PHIL HOFFMANN/COURTESY NAVY

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