SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The respect is matched only by the unique difficulty. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly opened his week discussing the tradition of playing Navy and the “incredible amount of respect” he has for both the Midshipmen and this series, about to kick off its 94th meeting. His very next sentence, the second one of his week, acknowledged the triple-option’s frustrations.
“It’s a hard game, it’s a difficult game, I’ll be quite honest with you,” Kelly said. “These games are never easy because you’re playing a style of football that goes contrary to what you’ve been teaching for the past four months. It’s a challenge to the coaches and the players to prepare themselves, and you’re preparing against great competitors.
“They know their strengths and they know their weaknesses, the Naval Academy, and so they play to that.”
The weaknesses usually derive from the obvious recruiting limitations of a service academy, but this year they have also stemmed from the Midshipmen not having a transcendent quarterback, a la Keenan Reynolds or Malcolm Perry. Without such a star, Navy has struggled to a 2-6 record while averaging fewer than 20 points per game.
TIME, TV: 3:30 ET on NBC. The game will also be streamed on Peacock.
Clear skies will keep game-time temperatures in the 50s. Even when the sun sets, the evening will be ideal for football.
That sunset will come at 6:33, so a bit after when the fourth quarter would be expected to start, which may dampen any thoughts of a third-straight week with an amplified Stadium atmosphere before the final frame. Then again, Notre Dame’s light shows of late were always unlikely to become weekly occurrences.
Before the game, four F-18s will fly over Notre Dame Stadium.
PREVIEW: In no other week at no other school does a secondary scout-team quarterback get so much notice as the Irish triple-option specific scout does each year before facing Navy. Some years, that is a freshman on scholarship who is expected to end up as a receiver down the line, but in his first season, uses his high-school experience as a triple-option quarterback to help Notre Dame. Some years it is a veteran walk-on who has become known for the expertise.
This year, sophomore walk-on running back Chase Ketterer serves in the role, the exact role he was sought for as a preferred walk-on.
Kelly was watching his son, Kenzel, play Ketterer’s school — New Prairie High School, about 20 miles west of South Bend — when Ketterer caught the Irish head coach’s eye a few years ago.
“I just really liked the way he competed,” Kelly said Thursday. “I liked his athleticism. We’re always looking for that preferred walk-on quarterback that can help us with the triple-option, and I thought he’d be a great fit. …
“Certainly glad that night happened, got a chance to see my son play and found our quarterback to help us with Navy. He helps us in other areas, as well. He’s a really valued member of our football team.”
Notre Dame relies on its scout team this week in preparation for Navy, probably more heavily than any other week. And the guy Brian Kelly is counting on to run the scout team offense, is former @NewPrairieFB
standout @ChaseKetterer5 https://t.co/YNnBS5ScG0
— Pete Byrne WSBT (@PeteByrneSports) November 4, 2021
Ketterer and a few other scout-team players work on the triple-option throughout the summer, trying to hone the timing of the scheme so as to give the first-team defense the most accurate representation. He has also picked up more duties for the Irish in a more traditional scout-team quarterback role since the announced transfer of Brendon Clark cost Notre Dame its primary 2021 scout-team passer.
But it is the Navy-specific prep that sets Ketterer apart, a duty needed only because the Irish know they will face the Midshipmen each and every season, pandemic aside.
PREDICTION: Kelly may speak of the difficulty of facing Navy, and he may get distracted while watching his son because he sees a possible future asset to help beat the Midshipmen, but the fact of the matter is, Notre Dame has had little trouble against Navy of late.
In their three meetings during the Irish resurgence since the start of 2017, Notre Dame has won by an average score of 40-20. Kelly has beaten Navy eight of 10 times, with one of those losses coming in his first season in South Bend and the other during the 2016 debacle.
He has learned what it takes to beat the Midshipmen, even if that includes scouting preferred walk-ons during family outings.
That shouldn’t change today, particularly not with the Irish favored by 21 as of early Saturday morning with a combined point total Over/Under of 47.5. To cover that spread, Notre Dame’s offense will need to lean into its newfound “hurry-up Jack” offense, but the efficiency displayed the last two weeks gives reason to think that is exactly what will occur.
Not enough credit will go to Ketterer & Co. for the scout-team work, not when Jack Coan directs the Irish offense to 40-some points rather than the 34 suggested by the spread and total. But then again, in no other week at no other school would a secondary scout-team quarterback come up at two press conferences in the same week as Ketterer did this week.
Notre Dame 45, Navy 17.
(Straight up — 7-1; Against the spread — 6-2; Over/under — 6-2.)
"What's your #NotreDame handicap this weekend?" – @TeddyGreenstein / @PointsBetUSA
The Answer is … pic.twitter.com/hvy1bvoguj
— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer) November 5, 2021
INSIDE THE IRISH
— Notre Dame ranks No. 10 in Playoff committee reveal; Cincinnati outside looking in
— Kyren Williams’ collegiate close more than stats and highlights, but leadership
— Banged-up JD Bertrand finding rest when he can before ND faces Navy’s triple-option
— And In That Corner … Navy and its triple-option return as ND’s longest-standing annual opponent
— Things To Learn: In Notre Dame vs Navy, little ever changes, even after a year off
— New Prairie’s Chase Ketterer key to Notre Dame’s prep for Navy
— Navy football looks to rebound against Notre Dame after getting picked apart in 2019
— Football in Ireland: Why Notre Dame, Navy pushed to play overseas in 2023
— Freshman WR Lorenzo Styles just scratching surface of his potential at Notre Dame
— Navy weekend traditions honor deep history between institutions
— Brian Kelly is confident in Marcus Freeman’s résumé against Navy
— Mapping out the (slim to none) chances the Irish have at the top 4
— Akron football coaching job profile with Tom Arth out
This might be the best ND campus foliage and football weather combination for a November game weekend… ever? pic.twitter.com/fVnArRXHll
— Brian Fremeau (@ndfremeau) November 5, 2021