Nov. 17, 2017
By John Heisler
For the first time in two months, Notre Dame is rebounding from a defeat—and so how the Irish respond to that challenge will have plenty to do with the final home game of the season Saturday against a 6-3 Navy team. There’s plenty to play for as far as both programs are concerned. It’s a day in which the Irish seniors will be recognized and introduced prior to kickoff. It’s also a day to honor Knute Rockne for all he did in not only building the Notre Dame football program but also designing the original Notre Dame Stadium that opened again in 2017 with three new buildings surrounding it and a long list of new amenities offered to fans.
Here’s what to expect on Saturday in South Bend:
- Check out the attire. The Notre Dame team will wear all-blue throwback uniforms, with the name Rockne on the back of each player’s jersey. There’s a commemorative patch featuring Rockne’s signature. Special Irish helmets for this game are designed to look like leather—and the unique Under Armour cleats have a brown, old-school 1930s look to them. It’s all a tribute to the man who is primarily responsible for Notre Dame Stadium opening—with a dedication game against this same Navy program—back in 1930.
- These guys can run. These are two of the top six rushing teams in the country—with Navy leading the way at 369.8 yards per game and the Irish sixth at 303.2. Some sort of edge will go to the defense that does a better job of holding the other running game in check. The Midshipmen ran for 559 yards a week ago in their win over SMU and 569 in an earlier victory against Cincinnati. Notre Dame will be led by a pair of 2017 Outland Trophy semifinalists—senior guard Quenton Nelson and senior tackle Mike McGlinchey. Another key for the home team may be standout Irish running back and Doak Walker Award semifinalist (one of 11) Josh Adams who has combined for just 62 net rushing yards over the last two games. Meanwhile Navy has finished sixth or higher in the final NCAA team rushing stats each of the last 15 years (five teams finishing first). Both teams currently are ranked among the top 25 teams nationally in total offense—Notre Dame 22nd at 471.7 yards per game, Navy 23 rd at 468.4. The Irish score at a 38-point-per-game clip, Navy at 33.7.
- The last decade has been interesting. As rivalries go, this is the longest on the books for Notre Dame football. The Irish have played Navy each of the last 90 years. Notre Dame’s 38-14 win over the Midshipmen in 2006 in Baltimore marked 43 series victories in a row by the Irish, an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision record. The last 10 years have featured four wins by Navy—including two at Notre Dame Stadium (2007 and 2009). The average score in those 10 contests has been 37 for Notre Dame, 27.4 for Navy—so expect some scoring Saturday. The only time Navy has come to South Bend and defeated a Notre Dame team boasting a winning record came in 1957 (a 20-6 Navy win over an Irish team that ended 7-3).
- The visitors are capable of throwing it, too. Navy has played multiple quarterbacks to date in 2017, with varying results when it comes to throwing the football. Last week in a win over SMU, Malcolm Perry made his first start under center, attempted only one pass and ran for 282 yards and four scores himself. The week before, in a loss at Temple, Garret Lewis and Zach Abey combined to throw for 226 yards (both were six of nine passing). Navy leads the country in average yards per completion at 25.37 each.
- Thanks to the seniors. These are the 26 Irish senior players who will be introduced before the game Saturday (a number have the ability to apply for an extra year of eligibility): K Sam Kohler, TE Christopher Bury, WR Grant Hammann, DL Ryan Kilander, WR Keenan Centlivre, OL Sam Bush, DL Pete Mokwuah, OL Jimmy Byrne, WR Cam Smith, DL Jonathan Bonner, P Tyler Newsome, DB Nick Watkins, TE Nic Weishar, DL Jay Hayes, OL Alex Bars, OL Sam Mustipher, OL Hunter Bivin, QB Montgomery VanGorder, DL Andrew Trumbetti, TE Durham Smythe, WR Austin Webster, LB Greer Martini, LB Nyles Morgan, OL Quenton Nelson, LB Drue Tranquill and OL Mike McGlinchey. NBC will show the last handful of introductions live.