Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Notre Dame Football 2006
Issue 8: Navy

Navy Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

Navy brings in a disciplined option attack that's second in the nation to West Virginia in rushing offense - by a mere 17 yards. Unfortunately, they lost quarterback and leading rusher 3 Brian Hampton last week against Rutgers. Hampton averaged 21 carries and 92 yards per game, and had 10 rushing TDs on the season. Replacing Hampton will be 10 Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada (hey, what if he married Nora Rose Cooper-Surma?). KNKE (as soon as I find the blog that came up with this nickname, I'll give them due credit) has averaged 8 rushes for 17 yards a game as a backup so far. Without Hampton, Navy's next two top rushers are familiar faces from last year. Fullback 22 Adam Ballard is averaging 15 carries and 85 yards per game. Surprisingly, he's not used on the goal line much, as he only has one touchdown on the season. That one touchdown was an impressive 81-yard scamper. Slot back 7 Reggie Campbell averages 6-7 carries and 57 yards per game. He also has 4 touchdowns. Backup fullback 34 Matt Hall is averaging 4 carries and 25 yards per game spelling Ballard. Backup slotbacks 26 Shun White and 28 Zerbin Singleton both see about 2 carries a game.
The Irish linebacking corps gelled last week with the addition of Joe Brockington, and it may have been just in time. Defending the option requires discipline. The best I've seen it done was about five years ago when Gerome Sapp was assigned to the pitch man and had a breakout game. One would think that Chinedum Ndukwe and Tom Zbikowski have the skill sets to have similar success. Last year Navy was Corey Mays' breakout game. Will it be a breakout game for Brockington or Travis Thomas? Or will this young linebacking corps lack the discipline to get the job done? Bruising Navy fullbacks have tortured Irish linebackers over the past few years - even the good ones. How will this small, fast unit fare? Will Derek Landri and Trevor Laws be able to repeat last year's performances to aid the linebackers?

ND Rush Offense vs. Navy Rush Defense

Against another good defensive line last week, Darius Walker again averaged under 3 yards per carry. Still, he's averaging 82.7 yards per game on the year. Coach Weis will likely repeat last year's strategy against Navy and plot long, time consuming drives. That will give Walker plenty of opportunities to boost his numbers. It should also give James Aldridge and Munir Prince a chance to show what they can do, too.
The Navy defense is giving up 128 yards per game on the ground, a number only slightly worse than Notre Dame's. Navy's leading tacklers are linebackers 57 Rob Caldwell with 60 and 40 David Mahoney with 55. The two have combined for 10 tackles for a loss.

Navy Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

Navy is averaging a mere 53.6 passing yards per game. Of course, with a running attack like that, who needs to pass. Brian Hampton was averaging 3-for-7 passing for 43 yards per game. KNKE is 4-for-11 for 53 total yards on the season. 2 Jarod Bryant appears to be a "passing specialist." In five games, Bryant has passed 10 times and only rushed 4 times. However, Bryant has only completed 2 of his 10 attempts, for 20 yards. The talented Reggie Campbell is the team's leading receiver with 8 catches for 124 yards and a 77-yard touchdown. Wideout 87 Jason Tomlinson also has 8 catches, but for only 86 yards. No other Midshipman has more than 3 catches. Besides Campbell's TD, receiver 80 OJ Washington has the team's only other touchdown catch.
Notre Dame has the talent to match up with Navy's passing attack. However, the key is the element of surprise. If the safeties - and the corners - pay too much attention to the run, they can be and will be burned by a well-timed pass. Again, discipline is key. Perhaps Rick Minter can dust off the playbook Coach Yonto used to shut down the Texas wishbone in the 1970s.

ND Pass Offense vs. Navy Pass Defense

Sports pundits are finally realizing again that this Brady Quinn kid is actually pretty good. Quinn's average game to date is completing 25 of 40 passes for 277 yards and 2-3 TDs. Jeff Samardzija used the UCLA game to reclaim his spot as ND's top receiver. Samardzija is tied with Darius walker for the team lead in receptions with 42. He's also tied with Rhema McKnight for the team lead in touchdown catches with 7. Samardzija, Walker, and McKnight are each averaging 6 catches a game. Samardzija is averaging 70 yards per game; Walker, 40; McKnight 75. Tight End John Carlson is not far behind with 4-5 catches a game, for 64.9 yards per. David Grimes coming off a superb outing against the Bruins. He's now averaging 2 catches and 22 yards per game.
Navy is one of a limited number of Division 1A teams that runs a 3-4 defense. That's just one more thing the struggling Irish line has to worry about. Quinn will again be getting pressure from both sides, as LOLB David Mahoney and right defensive end 95 John Chan share the team lead with 4 sacks. Navy has only 4 interceptions (led by DB Jeremy McGown with 2), but they do have an impressive 9 forced fumbles and 10 fumble recoveries on the season. That means the offense will have to be disciplined, too - no carrying the ball like a loaf of bread.

Special Teams

39 Joey Bullen and 90 Matt Harmon share field goal duties for the Midshipmen, and there doesn't appear to be any pattern to Coach Paul Johnson's use of the two. Both have long kicks of 39 yards. Bullen has made 2 of 3 attempts, while Harmon has converted 5 of 7. For the Irish, Carl Gioia has now converted 5 of 9 tries. He's 5 of 6 from inside 40 yards - not bad for a walk-on.
Navy's punter is 31 Greg Veteto. Veteto is averaging 38.4 yards per kick, with a long of 57. Interestingly enough, he's already had 2 kicks blocked this season. Geoff Price finally shanked a punt for ND last week, but that didn't hurt his average too much. Price is averaging 45.3 yards per punt, with a long of 62.
Jack-of-all-trades Reggie Campbell (and he's only a junior!) returns kicks for the Midshipmen. Campbell is averaging an impressive 26.5 yards per return with a long of 72. Unfortunately for Campbell, he wasn't able to find the end zone on that long return. For the Irish, Bobby Renkes has been out with an undisclosed injury, so freshman Ryan Burkhart has taken over as the kickoff specialist. Burkhart is averaging 60.7 yards per kick with 2 touchbacks in 14 tries. ND is giving up 17.7 yards per kick return, giving opponents an average start at the 22 yard line.
David Grimes and George West share kick return responsibility for Notre Dame. Grimes is averaging 24.7 yards per with a long of 46 yards, while West is averaging 20.9 yards per return with a long of 33. Matt Harmon kicks off for Navy. He's averaging 61.3 yards per kick, with 8 touchbacks. Navy opponents are averaging 18 yards per return, giving them an average start at the 22.
Jason Tomlinson returns punts for the Middies. He's averaging 7.5 yards on 11 tries, with a long of 18 yards. Notre Dame is surrendering a mediocre 10 yards per punt return.
When healthy, Tom Zbikowski returns punts for the Irish. He's averaging 7.2 yards per with a long of 25. In his stead, George West has two returns of 2 and 3 yards. Navy's punt coverage team is holding opponents to an impressive 5.8 yards per return.

Look for a big game from Walker, Samardzija, Landri, Victor Abiamiri, and Brockington.

ND 34, Navy 17: Walker, McKnight, Samardzija, Aldridge, and two by Gioia.