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Notre Dame’s possession problem against Navy

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They are oddly-specific to Navy, and they can help fill some time this afternoon. Yes, that’s right, more reader questions have come in …

How much, if any, does playing a run-heavy team like Pitt help prepare the Irish for Navy following the bye? — @pe11iott

The running styles are so different, it hardly helps the defense. It does, however, help Notre Dame’s offense. Stick with me. The Irish had 10 competitive possessions against the Panthers. In the six other games, Notre Dame has averaged 12.5. The lack of chances to score stood out.

“You have to take that into account when you’re playing games, especially with Navy coming up,” fifth-year center and captain Sam Mustipher said immediately after the 19-14 victory. “… You have to be aware of it as an offense.”

The offense already wants to score every time it has the ball, obviously, but it needs to take every punt, turnover on downs or outright turnover as even more of a failure against teams like Pittsburgh and Navy. Squandered opportunities cannot be recovered from as easily. Adjusting to that mentality before the idle week was not a bad thing as it pertains to tonight.

With Navy next, what new wrinkles will the D put in to try and slow down or counter the option? And will the offensive coordinator go to a running game first since the offensive line outweighs the Navy D substantially, to shorten the game as Pitt just tried to do? — @tonyg_nj

Don’t expect any outlandish wrinkles from the Irish defense. It simply needs to stay assignment-disciplined. Perhaps that should not say simply. It is far more difficult than that, but it is the primary need more than ever.

As for the offense, no, Notre Dame wants to elongate the game. The longer the game, the more the talent discrepancy should stick out. Combine that with Navy’s terrible pass defense and an aerial attack becomes as preferable as ever. Consider the stat lines from the last two quarterbacks the Midshipmen faced:

Houston’s D’Eriq King: 25-of-38 for 413 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
Temple’s Anthony Russo: 23-of-31 for 300 yards and one touchdown with one interception.

Those are not usually that high-powered of passing attacks. Temple is no. 60 in the country with 239.1 passing yards per game. While Houston is No. 10, it averages 321.3 passing yards per game and 8.7 yards per attempt, not the 10.9 King managed against the Middies.

Irish junior quarterback Ian Book has averaged 284.5 passing yards per game in four starts this season. While running backs Dexter Williams and Jafar Armstrong should get theirs aplenty, there is no reason to think junior quarterback Ian Book might not have a chance to outdo his career best 325 yards set against Wake Forest or improve upon his already-absurd completion percentage of 75.2.