Navy is 3-6, they lost last week, in a relatively close game to 18 1/2 point favorite Cincinnati, 20-10. In two of their three victories, East Carolina and Temple, they had to go into overtime to take the wins. 4-8 a year ago, the Midshipmen have not seen a winning season since 2019, a year they went 11-2. Last year the Irish were 34-6 winners over the Middies in South Bend, 34-6.
In typical fashion, Navy averages 236 yards rushing per-game which ranks 9th in the nation, but they also average just 12 passes a game and 99.4 yards through the air, which ranks them at 129th. Junior quarterback Tai Lavatai who had taken over the position in the middle of last season had been effectively running the Navy option, but two weeks ago against Temple, he went down with a season ending injury. In the seven quarters since that injury, Navy has thrown just six passes, five of them by senior Maasai Maynor and one by junior Xavier Arline.
The leaders of the Navy ground game include fullback Daba Fofana (5-8, 205) who has gained 502 yards with 5 TDs and Maquel Haywood (5-8, 189) who averages 6.4 yards per carry, totaling 408 yards and whoever is playing quarterback. The combined yardage gained of Navy’s three QBs who have played is an even 500. Of their two active QBs, Maynor has been the passer and Arline is the runner.
The Middies’ leading receiver is Jayden Umbarger a 6-0 Junior with 16 catches and 2 touchdowns. He had one catch for 18 yards against the Irish a year ago, the only completion Navy had that day.
Defensively the Midshipmen have put up good numbers against the run and not so good numbers against the pass. 7th nationally in rushing defense, they give up an average of just 88 yards on the ground per game. Against the pass however they are 114th and give up an average of 275 yards per game. This unbalanced aspect of the Navy defense was quite obvious in the final statistics in the Cincinnati game. On the day Cincinnati gained 299 yards through the air but gained just 55 yards on the ground. The best rushing numbers on the year against Navy have been put up by Air Force (200) and Houston (180). On the other extreme Delaware rushed for just 13 yards, Temple 20 and Tulsa 25.
Navy’s leading tackler and most effective defensive weapon has been linebacker, John Marshall. Marshall has totaled 72 stops on the season and five sacks.
Navy has been able to hold points allowed down at 24.8 per game, by controlling time of possession and limiting their opponent’s possessions. A formula that Notre Dame fans should be well aware of from years past. On the season Navy is controlling an average of 34:46 on the clock per game, which is the fifth best mark nationally. Last week Cincinnati had just eight possession in the entire game.
Navy is doing some things well, particularly on defense, where they have been very strong against the run. Their special teams are solid across the board and they are the least penalized team in the nation. Offensively, as usual they are winning the time of possession stat, but their inability to mount any kind of passing threat since they lost their starting quarterback seems to have made them more one dimensional than usual.
Notre Dame must guard against the impact of the inevitable post Clemson letdown, but this is not a vintage Navy team, and the matchup may present opportunities for Michael Mayer to continue solidifying his place in the ND record book.
Notre Dame is a 15.5-point favorite and the Over/Under is 39.5
The Fighting Irish Preview Pick: ND 34 Navy 14