Skip to content

Pregame Six Pack: Next up Navy

Nov 1, 2013, 5:33 AM EDT

Trey Miller Navy Ishaq Williams

As winners of three straight (and five of the last six), Notre Dame’s season is coming into focus after a rough start. The quarterback play of Tommy Rees has improved steadily since back-to-back tough games against Michigan State and Oklahoma. The defense has tightened considerably, playing its best football during the winning streak, with two consecutive second-half shutouts and three straight perfect third quarters.

While injuries have taken their toll on the team, Brian Kelly and the Irish enter November knowing exactly what they need to do: Win.

Now comes one of their most familiar opponents. Notre Dame and the Navy have played every year since 1927, one of college football’s longest running rivalries. After the longest winning streak in college football, the Midshipmen struck back winning three of four, until the Irish took back the power with two-straight 40-point victories.

Let’s dive into the pregame six pack. As usual, here are six tidbits, fun facts, leftovers and miscellaneous musings before Notre Dame and Navy do battle at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

History is vital in the appreciation of this rivalry. 

Notre Dame and Navy share a mutual respect that exists because of the rich history these two institutions share. Before Notre Dame was one of the most powerful and financially secure universities in the country it was a school that could’ve closed its doors when the war took its toll on enrollment and the student body.

Navy established a college training program in 1943 that saved the university, with enrollment numbers that were down to almost Great Depression era levels skyrocketing back to health. The Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, Notre Dame’s beloved former president, talked about how important Navy was to the university.

“All I can say is without the Navy during the war, this institution would have gotten down to a few hundred students,” Father Hesburgh said in 2010. “Instead of that, we were almost twice our normal size during the war, and we were able to contribute something to the Navy.”

If you’re wondering why the Irish will join Navy at the end of Saturday’s game in honoring their school, it’s because the Navy supported Notre Dame in its time of need. That’s something that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

***

Notre Dame’s staff might have been fooled once by Ken Niumatalolo. It hasn’t happened again. 

The loss in 2010 to Navy was one of the most lopsided in Brian Kelly’s tenure in South Bend. Sixty carries for 367 yards, a staggering 6.1 a clip. Since then? The Irish have held Navy under 4 yards a carry, with the Midshipmen failing to break 200 yards in either game since then, and held to just 149 in last season’s opener, Navy’s second-lowest output in a game since late in the 2010 season.

When asked about trying to forget that dreadful day in the Meadowlands, Kelly made it clear neither he nor his staff have forgotten the ugly 35-17 loss.

“I just think that we felt like there’s only been a couple of times since we’ve been here where we felt like we let the players down, and as coaches you never want to feel that way,” Kelly said when thinking back to that game. “I take full responsibility for that. You want your team prepared. That’s why we’re in this profession, to prepare our kids. We weren’t prepared properly. We redoubled our efforts based off that game to make sure that never happens again.”

***

It’ll be a fun game for the Robinson family, who can certainly be considered a house divided. 

Expect to see your fair share of David Robinson on the TV screen this weekend. The seven-foot NBA Hall of Famer is also easy to spot with a TV camera, but Navy’s most famous ex-athlete will also be supporting his son Corey, who will take on the Robinson family’s roots when he goes up against Navy.

Robinson likely always saw this game as part of his future — at least if he was going to play football in college. He just always thought he’d be playing for the other team.

“My whole life,” Robinson said, when asked if he saw himself following his father’s footsteps to Navy. “When Notre Dame offered me, I kind of opened up my mind a little bit.”

Our friends over at Irish Illustrated captured Corey’s interview on Wednesday this week, and the freshman was at least with the camera in his face, full of energy as he talked about the excitement that came with his first touchdown and playing against the Midshipmen.

***

Brian Kelly announced Everett Golson might be back with the team sooner than anybody expected. 

For Notre Dame fans eagerly awaiting the return of Everett Golson from his academic exile, Brian Kelly revealed that day may be coming sooner than anybody thought. When speaking after practice on Thursday, Kelly said that Golson would join the team (in practice) this season, not waiting until spring ball to begin to take reps.

“Let’s say he’s admitted back into school on December 15. He would be eligible to practice,” Kelly said. “If that’s the case, then we would practice him, but he would not, of course, be eligible to compete. Provided of course he gets readmitted.”

Getting Golson back on the field and working with the team would be great for jumping starting development, one of the key factors to Brian Kelly’s bowl preparations. If the Irish get to the BCS, there might not be a better scout team quarterback to face than Golson, who could replicate a dual-threat quarterback like Florida State’s Jameis Winston, or take the place of just about anybody to give the starting defense a good look.

On Thursday, Golson took off from his ten-week training stint in San Diego with quarterback coach George Whitfield. It’s the longest Whitfield has ever had to work with a single quarterback, and catching up with Whitfield, he said Golson’s physical, mental, and mechanical gains were incredible.

Golson’s physical strength also benefitted, gaining almost 15 pounds of good weight, checking in at 204 after joining Whitfield at 190. He’s also throwing the football using the laces, a relief for some Irish fans that worried about the young quarterback’s mechanics looking fairly freestyle.

***

More option, less Louis Nix. (But better depth eases the blow.)

Another week against an option opponent.  And another Irish defense without All-American Louis Nix. The 350-pound senior defensive tackle will sit out this week against the Midshipmen, pushing Kona Schwenke into the starting lineup again next to Stephon Tuitt, who shifts to defensive tackle in a four-man front.

The Irish will also be without defensive end Ishaq Williams, who injured a knee on a low block early in the game against Air Force. But the Irish depth on defense showed itself, with little used veterans like Kendall Moore and Justin Utupo playing very well, two guys that’ll likely see time on Saturday as well.

With Jaylon Smith locked in at outside linebacker, Ben Councell was spotted putting a hand on the ground as well. The Irish also have support with sophomore Romeo Okwara, so while guys like Sheldon Day and Elijah Shumate should be back and playing, there’s confidence being built in the depth chart, a beneficial thing this time of year.

Big defensive plays. Game-changing special teams. Expect the unexpected against Navy. 

Ever since former Notre Dame defensive end Renaldo Wynn ran back a 24-yard fumble for a touchdown in 1996, the Irish and Navy have been making plenty of big plays on defense and special teams. Ten times in the last 17 meetings Notre Dame or Navy has scored a touchdown on defense or special teams, with Stephon Tuitt supplying the highlight last season with his 77-yard fumble return.

Here’s a rundown of the highlights since 1996:

2012: Stephon Tuitt, TD Fumble Return (ND)
2008: Toryan Smith, TD Fumble Return (ND)
2007: Chris Kuhar-Pitters, TD Fumble Return (Navy)
2002: Vontez Duff, TD, Kickoff Return (ND)
2001: Gerome Sapp, TD Fumble Return (ND)
2000: Tony Driver, TD Fumble Return (ND)
2000: Tony Driver, TD Fumble Return (ND)
1999: Davede Alexander, TD Interception Return (Navy)
1999: Chris Oliver, TD Punt Block (Navy)
1996: Renaldo Wynn, TD Fumble Return (ND)

Making things all the crazier? For as many big touchdowns that have happened on defense or special teams, Notre Dame has only managed to punt just seven times in the past eight games against Navy, with three coming during the Irish’s 2008 victory.

The Irish lost in both 2007 and 2009 without punting the football, making them a ridiculous 2-2 against Navy when not punting.

  1. jerseyshorendfan1 - Nov 1, 2013 at 7:24 AM

    Someone mentioned the 2010 game at the Meadowlands. I was also there and was taking my seat as the Navy QB completed a pass to their fullback for a huge gain, right in front of us. I remember thinking that it was going to be a long day if they were using the option effectively to set up the pass. Turned out it was a long day for the Irish. I also remember the fun we had tailgating with some Navy folks before and after the game. They are a class organization with great fans and the team will be all jacked up and ready to play. ND 31-14. Go Irish!

  2. don74 - Nov 1, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    David Robinson may be the most notable Naval Academy athlete of this generation but Roger Staubach, Heisman Trophy winner, Super Bowl QB was pretty special. He also did his 5 years of service before heading to the Cowboys. Robinson was dismissed from duty due to his height, I think he was a submariner.

    • 1historian - Nov 1, 2013 at 1:26 PM

      A guy who is 7′ tall on a sub.

      Somehow I can’t picture that, nor can I picture him flying a plane, but surely he could have served somewhere?

  3. don74 - Nov 1, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    By the way, in all the years following football I don’t recall a stat “record when not punting”. Well done. Made me laugh.

  4. blackirish23 - Nov 1, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    Does anyone else think that the “real” reason Louis Nix is being held out for Navy (and was held out for Air Force) is that he, more than anyone else on our front three/four is susceptable to being really injured from how the service academies utilize “chop blocking” schemes?

    Just posing a question to see what others think.

    • notredameirish1980 - Nov 1, 2013 at 11:44 AM

      Very little doubt given an already banged up knee. You can’t blame Navy/AF/Army for bending the rules enough to give them some kind of chance, but when you see kids (Williams) getting hurt you have definitely crossed a line.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Nov 1, 2013 at 12:07 PM

      no doubt about it, and also that his shoulder probably still hurts from the big fall he took in the SC game when he was pursuing the qb and got blindsided and decleated. that’s a whole lot of poundage coming down on the shoulder joint.

    • bernhtp - Nov 1, 2013 at 12:53 PM

      Here are my reasons (not necessarily in order of importance):

      1. Louis is a bit banged up and we want him strong/healthy for the last two games.
      2. What he does well is less important against the option offense. For example, I don’t think that the step down from Louis to Kona is as big against the option is nearly as big as it is against a more pro-style offense like Stanford.
      3. He is susceptible to the cut blocks that will be consistently thrown against him, which returns us to #1.

      • tburke9601 - Nov 1, 2013 at 1:55 PM

        Lets not forget Nix’s comments regarding how much he hates playing against an option team. I’m sure that is also a factor in this.

      • bernhtp - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:13 PM

        But Louis’ hate is purely derivative of #1-3.

    • 1historian - Nov 1, 2013 at 1:30 PM

      agreed, also it’s a good idea to let him heal up by resting him against inferior opponents – let’s be honest here – while at the same time getting game experience for the subs

    • irishwilliamsport - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:13 PM

      Knee tendonitis my ass, it’s the sholder. I’ll bet he sits for Pitt also and gets another bye week to get healthy before BYU.

  5. returnofdamac - Nov 1, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    Nick Watkins – #13

    • scottatnd - Nov 1, 2013 at 12:45 PM

      Yes, Nick Watkins. The future is looking bright for ND.

    • andy44teg - Nov 1, 2013 at 3:24 PM

      Holy crap you guys check out his offer sheet??!! It’s the creme de la creme of lists! Runs a 4.49 forty, too. So he’s got that goin for him. Which is nice.

      • nducsb - Nov 1, 2013 at 3:38 PM

        Yep, stole him away from multiple SEC teams INCLUDING Alabama and LSU. Score one for our elite business school, which is what his HS coach sites as one of the main reasons for choosing the Irish.

      • nudeman - Nov 1, 2013 at 8:13 PM

        Has a buddy he might bring along, too. Same HS I think.
        Name is Hendrix, believe it or not. 3 star dude

    • papadec - Nov 1, 2013 at 7:24 PM

      return – I think you mean #17 or #18, depending on whether, or not, we count Isiah McKenzie as a commit.

  6. nudeman - Nov 1, 2013 at 8:11 PM

    This thread is entirely too civil.

    Would somebody please post something here that I can “report?”? Dying to try that feature out.

    Getsome/knutesghost – where are you?

  7. getsome99 - Nov 1, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    David Robinson served (2) years of active duty in the Navy. It’s complicated due to his height but he was only 6′ 8″ when he committed and still had to get a waiver since he was still too tall. He actually tried to get out early but was denied and forced to serve his term (or part of it). I believe he was a tech school trainer instead of having to serve at sea.

  8. getsome99 - Nov 1, 2013 at 8:25 PM

    @ Nudeman,

    I’m pretty sure Keith had you, you, you, and you in mind when he added this feature. Ironic that you would be the one to ask him the question about it. You and Dickasman have similar genetics when it comes to your social dysfunction. The only difference is Dickasman has no filter where you tend to be more passive aggressive when challenged by others. At the end of the day, you’re still just a couple of losers.

    But I’m proud to call you my best new friend nonetheless.

  9. rationalnd - Nov 2, 2013 at 12:30 AM

    I was listening to some of the Brian Kelly radio show Thursday night and picked up an interesting comment by BK.

    When asked how he envisioned the QB position next year he did not hesitate when mentioning Hendrix would add experience to the depth chart next year. From that comment it would seem a 5th year offer will likely be made.

    Another tidbit I caught was in discussing Corey Robinson. Kelly said he is a least 6’6 and not the 6’4 listed in the program. They also talked about how his dad had a huge growth spurt between his freshman and sophomore year. It would be unfortunate to see him get too tall/slow to play the position anymore.

    In regards to the comment situation, I think most here could stand to either grow up or grow a pair. It’s unnecessary to comment using race and/or sexual topics to get your point across. It adds nothing to the conversation and I would not want to be the father of a 10 year old who read one of dickasmans explicit comments. At the same time if somebody drops a couple F-bombs then whatever. I guess what I’m saying is there’s a big difference in saying “That’s what the fuck I’m talking about!” vs. talking about acts performed with hookers in 67. Perspective.

    Finally, and this is for NotreDan, if you don’t like Keith then don’t read his blog. There are a plethora of Notre Dame fan sites that you can go to. Perhaps you can find one with a writer you like. Until you do so, you’re just as bad as the Notre Dame “hater” who constantly reads and comments on ND related articles on ESPN. Have you no sense of irony? Why spend your time on something you dislike? Confounding.

  10. getsome99 - Nov 2, 2013 at 12:31 AM

    Good win for USC tonight at ORST. Can only help our cause by season’s end. UM, OK, MIST, ASU, USC, BYU, and Stanford are shaping up to be a respectable schedule after all. Could have 4-5 opponents realistically finish with 10 wins this year.

  11. rationalnd - Nov 2, 2013 at 12:32 AM

    I was listening to some of the Brian Kelly radio show Thursday night and picked up an interesting comment by BK.

    When asked how he envisioned the QB position next year he did not hesitate when mentioning Hendrix would add experience to the depth chart next year. From that comment it would seem a 5th year offer will likely be made.

    Another tidbit I caught was in discussing Corey Robinson. Kelly said he is a least 6’6 and not the 6’4 listed in the program. They also talked about how his dad had a huge growth spurt between his freshman and sophomore year. It would be unfortunate to see him get too tall/slow to play the position anymore.

    In regards to the comment situation, I think most here could stand to either grow up or grow a pair. It’s unnecessary to comment using race and/or sexual topics to get your point across. It adds nothing to the conversation and I would not want to be the father of a 10 year old who read one of dickasmans explicit comments. At the same time if somebody drops a couple F-bombs then whatever. I guess what I’m saying is there’s a big difference in saying “That’s what the F I’m talking about!” vs. talking about acts performed with hookers in 67. Perspective.

    Finally, and this is for NotreDan, if you don’t like Keith then don’t read his blog. There are a plethora of Notre Dame fan sites that you can go to. Perhaps you can find one with a writer you like. Until you do so, you’re just as bad as the Notre Dame “hater” who constantly reads and comments on ND related articles on ESPN. Have you no sense of irony? Why spend your time on something you dislike? Confounding.

  12. irishdog80 - Nov 2, 2013 at 1:51 AM

    I agree that Nix is less important against Navy and other option teams. Let’s get him healthy for BYU and Stanford plus save a little wear and tear on his body so he can finish strong, enjoy being a 1st Round Draft Pick and productive NFL player. Future d-line recruits will look favorably on how ND has handled Nix’s career and we all know every team can always use a few more high quality defensive linemen. Maybe ND can get back to cranking out quality d-linemen like in the ’70s.

    On another note, my Dad was a Navy V-12 Program student at ND during World War 2. He stayed for 2 years and left ND to enlist in the Navy and served on an aircraft carrier as a radiomen. He left due to feeling a sense of duty about fighting in the war and ended up seeing action in Okinawa, Midway and Iwo Jima. After the war, he was not able to return to ND but remained a fan for his entire life until he passed away in 1970. As a kid, the two songs I knew best were the ND Fight Song and Anchors Away.

    Navy against ND will always be a special game and a true rivalry born out of mutual respect. That said, Go Irish! Beat Navy!

  13. loadofwash - Nov 2, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    navy will keep it close, the Irish suck

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!