Navy at Notre Dame 11-7-09

November 7, 2009

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Navy (6-3) at (19) Notre Dame (6-2)


Saturday, November 7th, 2:30 p.m. (et)

GAME NOTES: The 19th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish are slated to take on the Navy Midshipmen this weekend in the 83rd rivalry game between the non- conference foes.

A win by Navy this weekend would send it to the Texas Bowl on December 31st against a team from the Big 12 Conference. The Midshipmen have earned a bowl bid in six consecutive seasons, so this year’s success comes as no surprise. Last weekend, Navy had a five-game winning streak halted with a 27-24 loss to a red hot Temple squad.

As for Notre Dame, it has moved to 6-2 overall on the strength of back-to-back victories. The most recent triumph came over a woeful Washington State team last weekend by a 40-14 final. The only two losses suffered by the 6-2 Fighting Irish this season have come against Michigan by four points and USC by seven points.

Notre Dame holds a commanding 71-10-1 advantage in the all-time series with Navy, including a 27-21 triumph last season.

Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs has been tremendous this season, but the signal caller has a knee injury that may limit him or even keep him out of action against Notre Dame. The Midshipmen, who are scoring 29.4 ppg while gaining 351.4 total ypg, rely heavily on the quarterback to move the ball on the ground and through the air.

Navy is vying for a record fifth-straight NCAA rushing title this season. Prior to Midshipmen’s current streak of four in a row, no other program had ever won more than two straight rushing titles. Dobbs has rushed for 16 touchdowns, and he has completed half of his passes for 618 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Vince Murray continues to pace the Mids with 638 rushing yards.

In the loss to Temple last weekend, Navy had only 254 total yards, 227 of which came via the ground attack. Dobbs was knocked out of action early on, giving way to Kriss Proctor. The backup quarterback ran the ball 16 times, and while he did score a touchdown, Proctor finished with a mere 52 yards. Murray had 115 rushing yards in the clash, and while the Mids held the ball for over 35 minutes, they fell just a field goal short.

Opponents are scoring 21.4 ppg against Navy this season, and the team is allowing 315.6 total ypg. The Midshipmen have been fairly solid against both the run and the pass, although they certainly don’t excel in either area of the game. With just 11 sacks and 13 takeaways, it is clear that the defense hasn’t made many big plays. Ross Pospisil leads Navy in tackles with 65, including 5.5 TFLs and 2.5 sacks. He has forced a fumble and recovered one as well.

No one would have believed that Temple would outrush Navy last weekend, but that is exactly what happened. The Midshipmen allowed the Owls to churn out 274 rushing yards on 34 attempts, an average of 8.1 yards per carry. Navy was tremendous against the pass, allowing only 5-of-17 passes to hit their mark for 37 yards. The Midshipmen recorded a pair of interceptions and even recorded a fumble in the tilt, but a 100-yard kickoff return by the Owls proved costly.

Like Navy, Notre Dame is also dealing with an injury to its standout quarterback, but it appears that Jimmy Clausen will be able to play against the Midshipmen despite a toe problem. He may even have star wideout Michael Floyd back. Floyd hasn’t played since week three when he broke his collarbone.

Notre Dame is scoring 31.2 ppg this season to go along with 457.6 total ypg, numbers that will get the attention of even the nation’s best defensive teams. Clausen has completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 2,318 yards with 18 touchdowns and two interceptions, numbers that have garnered the signal caller some Heisman hype. Golden Tate leads the receivers with 56 catches for 927 yards and nine touchdowns, picking up the slack in Floyd’s absence. As for the ground attack, Armando Allen has rushed for 514 yards and three scores, while Robert Hughes has recorded four rushing touchdowns.

Opponents have been able to register 22.9 ppg against Notre Dame, which is surrendering 384.0 total ypg. So while Clausen and the offense have been strong, the defense has been solid at best. Opposing quarterbacks have been able to gain 13.5 yards per pass completion against a Notre Dame secondary in need of improvement. Against the run, the Fighting Irish are surrendering a mediocre 4.0 yards per carry.

In the victory over Washington State last weekend, Notre Dame exploded for 592 total yards, including 255 rushing yards on 48 attempts. Hughes, playing for an injured Allen, posted 131 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. As for Clausen, he completed 22-of-27 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns against zero interceptions. Tate only made four catches, but one was a miraculous 50- yard touchdown at the end of the first half between three defenders.

“It was probably one of the most phenomenal catches I’ve seen anyone make, ever,” Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said.

The Notre Dame defense limited Washington State to 19 minutes of possession time and 2-of-11 success on third down conversion attempts last week. The Fighting Irish permitted a mere 206 total yards in the clash, including 104 passing yards with a pair of interceptions.

“It was a relief,” Clausen said of the lopsided affair. “Close games all the time – it kind of gets old.”

Go with Notre Dame this weekend regardless of Dobb’s status. The Fighting Irish will pull away in the second half for a double-digit victory.

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