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Navy Vs Notre Dame Game Preview: Same Rivalry, Different Circumstances

Written By Ryan Fravel I Recruiting Analyst & Reporter I Twitter: @Fravel_Ryan

Photo via ESPN


The wait for the return of Notre Dame Football is finally over this week as the Fighting Irish start their 2023 Campaign this weekend across the pond in Dublin, Ireland to take on a very familiar foe in Navy. While Notre Dame and Navy is a very familiar rivalry, this year brings a lot of new faces and changes to both sides of the 96 year rivalry. Both Notre Dame and Navy have changed a lot since the Irish hung onto a narrow 3 point win over the Midshipmen in Baltimore, MD last season.


While we all know about the changes on the Notre Dame side of things from the loss of Former Notre Dame Offensive Coordinator Tommy Rees and Former Irish Quarterback Tyler Buchner to the Crimson Tide, along with the acquisitions of top Transfer Portal Quarterback Sam Hartman and promotion of Tight Ends Coach Gerad Parker to Offensive Coordinator. This article is to get Irish fans acquainted with the new look Navy team as we will go over key notes such as Navy's plan to play two different Quarterbacks on Saturday, who are some Midshipmen players to know and look out for, as well as 3 keys to victory for the Fighting Irish.



Photo via Navy Sports

WHO IS NAVY SENDING OUT AT QB?

Last week it was reported that Navy plans to play two different Quarterbacks against the Irish, having them alternate series throughout the game. Now why are they doing this and who are these guys? Well to answer the first question, Navy's projected starter Sophomore Teddy Gleaton took the first-team reps in the spring, but he fell behind after missing several practices due to his summer class schedule.


This opened the door of opportunity for guys like senior returning starter Tai Lavatai and sophomore Blake Horvath to win the starting job. While both have shown flashes neither have been able to take the reigns and win the job outright, when asked about why he decided to play both quarterbacks, first year Navy Head Coach Brian Newberry said " It's kind of 1A and 1B right now, you want to feel good about at least two, maybe three guys that you can go and play with, and the nature of the position is it’s hard for those guys to stay healthy all year, so I like where we’re at."


Now, who are Tai Lavatai and Blake Horvath? Well, if you're thinking you have heard or seen of Tai before you would be correct, the senior started eight games this past season for the Midshipmen, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury against Temple on Oct. 29. Lavatai has started in all 18 games that he has appeared in for the Midshipmen, including against the Irish in 2021. Blake Horvath on the other hand is very much an unknown to the the College Football World. What we do know is that he will start the game for Navy on Saturday due to an impressive fall camp.



Photo via AP News

WHO ARE NAVY'S KEY PLAYERS?


Navy has always had a great running back and a solid gritty defense, and 2023 is no exception. When you are talking about who the Midshipmen's key players are, you can not do so without mentioning junior Fullback Daba Fofana. If there was one guy as a defense you have to key in on, that would be Daba Fofana. Notre Dame fans will remember him well after he ran all over the Irish in the 2nd half of last years game, where he finished with 15 carries for 133 yards and 1 touchdown, averaging 8.9 yards per carry.


On the other side of the ball, you have to mention 2023 Preseason All-American Conference First Team Selection junior Linebacker Colin Ramos. Last season, Ramos was named to Phil Steele’s All-American Athletic Conference Third Team and was a starter in 10 of the 12 games in which he played, he was second on the team in tackles, tied for second in tackles for loss (8.5) and tied for third in sacks (4). Ramos was also among 7 different players on the team who had an interception and one of only 5 different players to force a pair of fumbles. Against Notre Dame, he was a huge part of why the Irish mustered just 66 yards rushing, the fewest by the Irish in the series since they rushed for just 60 yards on Nov. 7, 2009. Navy held the Irish to just 12 yards in the second half.


Photo via Baltimore Sun




NOTRE DAME KEYS TO VICTORY?


Finally, we will discuss what the Fighting Irish must do to take care of business and secure a win over the Midshipmen.


1.) Control The Flow Of The Game


I know this is a pretty cliché statement in almost every sport, but when your are playing a team like Navy, this is especially true. If you are Notre Dame heading into this game, you do not want to let Navy play to it's comfort zone. Navy wants to run the ball, chew clock, and make Sam Hartman and the Irish offense sit on the bench for as long as possible. If you are Notre Dame, you cannot allow that to happen. What the Irish need is to get off to a quick start and jump out to an early lead and force the Midshipmen to play from behind. If that happens, Navy's offense isn't built to play that sort of game, and a Notre Dame win will almost be assured.


2.) Stay Away From 3 and Outs & 3rd and Shorts


Navy loves getting you in 3rd down and 3 yards or less, as a defense you must get tackles for loss against the Midshipmen as the odds of their offense converting a 3rd and 3 or less is almost inevitable. Notre Dame has to get into the Navy backfield and create some havoc at the point of attack, otherwise it could be a long day for the Irish defense.


Now as an offense, 3 and outs or stalled drives go hand and hand with not allowing 3rd and shorts. If you are offensive coordinator Gerad Parker, you always want to stay on schedule, especially against an Triple Option Offense like Navy. You just cannot afford to go 3 and out or have drives stall without points, with how Navy plays you are very limited on how many possessions you get. Notre Dame has to capitalize on almost every series they have, even if it is a field goal.


3.) Get The Passing Game Going Early


Finally, we know everyone outside of Notre Dame has one question about the 2023 Fighting Irish team, and that is our wide receiver room and our passing attack. One would assume that teams including Navy will not respect Notre Dame on the outside. So if you are the Irish, you have to make them pay for that and the way to do it is to get Sam Hartman and this young receiver core going early. If they can accomplish that, it will open so much more for Audric Estime and the rest of the Notre Dame offense.


Photo via Wikipedia



Navy Preview Wrap Up


Overall, this is a historic rivalry and one of those types of games that get whacky sometimes with the most unexpected results. However, if Marcus Freeman and the Irish expect to live up to their College Football Playoff potential, you cannot drop a game against Navy in which you are favored by 20.5 points. Notre Dame Football has returned, and hopefully our guys come home with a special Ireland Irish Victory!















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