Notre Dame football: Keys to the game

AL LESAR
South Bend Tribune

REMEMBER THE LESSONS

Take the Air Force option, add a quarterback that knows what he's doing, and that's the challenge awaiting Notre Dame's defense against Navy. The Midshipmen average 292 rushing yards and complement that with 104 passing. Losing mobile linebacker/end Ishaq Williams (knee injury) removes a key athlete who understands the assignments for the Irish.

COOL KEENAN

He might not be Ricky Dobbs — the guy who mastered the art of the option offense a few years ago — but Keenan Reynolds adds his own unique touch to the Navy attack. He has rushed for 546 yards and 11 touchdowns, and has thrown for 667 (39 of 74, only 2 interceptions) and 4 TDs. If Notre Dame plans to have success against the Midshipmen, containing Reynolds is imperative.

RUN THE BALL

In order for the Notre Dame offense to gain any sort of steam heading into the stretch drive of the season, a ground game is essential. The Irish generated just 135 yards against Air Force last week, one of the worst run defenses in the country. If George Atkinson (6 carries, 18 yards last week) and Amir Carlisle (3 carries, 3 yards) can't produce, it's time to turn to Cam McDaniel (91 carries, 417 yards this season) and Tarean Folston (22, 116). Navy yields 188 rushing yards a game.

DON'T LOOK AHEAD

Brian Kelly knows his way around November — 10-1 in his three years as head coach at Notre Dame. Lately, though, there has been a lot of discussion about how four wins might creep the Irish into a BCS game. Tuesday, Kelly mentioned that sort of talk, which was normally taboo, was happening this season. But, 10 wins won't happen Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium — only win No. 7. Maintaining that focus is mandatory.

CUT, NOT CHOP

Navy has a unique way of blocking, especially along the offensive line. To compensate for significant size deficiencies, the Midshipmen use the "cut block" technique in which an offensive player lunges low at the defender's knees and ankles to clear the road. That is legal. A "chop block," which is illegal, happens when one player goes low and another goes high. The Midshipmen pride themselves on staying on the legal side of that blocking scheme.

Notre Dame may need to turn to the likes of Tarean Folston to establish its ground game.  SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER