Notre Dame LB Greer Martini at home defending the option

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There’s just something about the triple-option offense that fits Greer Martini.

In three previous football games against option teams, Notre Dame’s 6-foot-3, 240-pound junior linebacker had 26 tackles.

He maintained that production level in Saturday’s 28-27 loss to Navy.

Martini was everywhere when it came to trying to contain the Midshipmen. A very physical player who has a knack for finding the ball, Martini collected 11 tackles, including one for loss, while the Irish defense was forced to contend with 56 running plays (for 320 yards).

“Greer is a good player,” said Irish coach Brian Kelly. “(He) has a good sense of the triple (-option) and does a really good job. I thought, by and large, though, (all the defensive players) had a really good sense of where they needed to be.

“We were a little late on the backside with our safety to the pitch. That was really the only thing we needed to get a little bit better play from. It got better late. It just took too long for them to really feel comfortable seeing it.”

Martini and the rest of the Irish defenders were forced to contend with a brute of an athlete in Navy quarterback Will Worth. At 6-1 and 205 pounds, Worth was a battering ram that was hard to bring down. He accounted for 175 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

“He ran hard,” Irish linebacker James Onwaulu said of Worth. “He played hard all day. There were some plays I was trying to rip the ball, he’s holding on tight. Good for him.

“They’re good at what they do. They get four yards a play, then all of a sudden they pound out a lot of first downs.”

Likewise, Martini was impressed.

“(Worth’s) more of a fullback back there,” Martini said. “(Former Navy quarterback Keenan) Reynolds was more of a juke guy. Worth runs a lot downhill. We adjusted to it, but he’s a good ballplayer.”

So is Martini. He put together this impressive effort just a few days after being cleared through the team’s concussion protocol from an injury suffered last week against Miami.

He refused to allow the health issue to be a factor.

“Going into Navy, you know you’re going to make a lot of tackles,” Martini said. “You know it’s going to be a physical game. I just went out there and played 100 percent; wasn’t worried about anything else but getting a win.”

This was too much of an opportunity for him to be slowed by an injury. It’s his specialty.

“It’s more of an effort thing: Running to the ball,” Martini said. “I just have a feel for it. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s kinda been my thing.

“I knew I was always going to be used against options. I needed to perfect my craft to be able to get onto the field.

“This game’s all about effort. You run, you’ll make plays and stop the offense.”

Problem was, the Irish just didn’t stop the Midshipmen often enough.

“We had some opportunities to get off the field at the end of the game,” Martini said. “It came down to third-and-long. They made some plays. We didn’t. It definitely takes away some momentum.

“It’s all about us: Keep our heads up and move on. We’ve gotten so much better this year.”

Notre Dame linebacker Greer Martini, top, brings down Navy running back Dishan Romine (28) after a short gain during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Jacksonville, Fla. Navy won 28-27. (AP Photo/John Raoux)