Tale of the tape: Who has the edge when No. 20 Notre Dame battles Navy Saturday?

Mike Berardino
South Bend Tribune
Notre Dame quarterback Drew Pyne (10) hands off to Notre Dame running back Audric Estime (7) during the Notre Dame vs. Clemson NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.

When Notre Dame has the ball

After gashing Clemson’s 11th-ranked rushing defense for 263 yards (5.6 average) last time out, the Irish face a Navy run defense that’s 13th-ranked in per-carry average allowed (3.18) and seventh in total rushing yards allowed (88.0 per game). Notre Dame ranks 28th in rushing offense at 195 yards per game. … Quarterback Drew Pyne completed just nine passes in each of the past two games, but Navy is tied for 124th in passing yards allowed per attempt (8.8). … Pyne stopped his personal streak of games with at least turnover at four last time out. His only other game without a lost fumble or interception was in Week 4 at North Carolina. … Navy has 15 takeaways, including nine fumble recoveries (out of 10 forced). The Midshipmen are tied for 14th in fumble recoveries.   

Edge: Notre Dame

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When Navy has the ball

Nov 5, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Navy Midshipmen quarterback Xavier Arline (7) runs with the ball against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the first half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

With four interceptions, two for touchdowns, over the past two outings, Notre Dame has climbed to 98th in turnover margin (minus-4). The Irish managed just three takeaways (two fumble recoveries) in their first seven games.  … Navy, which leads the FBS with 542 rushing attempts, has lost eight fumbles. Notre Dame has forced just five fumbles all year. … Navy ranks 82nd in yards per carry (3.93) and 48th in run blocking efficiency, per Pro Football Focus. .. Notre Dame trails only Michigan in tackling efficiency, per PFF.com, after finishing sixth in that metric last season. … Navy is tied for 108th in converting red-zone trips into touchdowns (13 of 26) and has come away empty five times (80.8%) to rank 87th in scoring percentage. ... Xavier Arline has replaced Tai Lavatai at quarterback after the junior's season-ending knee injury on Oct. 29 against Temple.

Edge: Notre Dame

Special Teams

Notre Dame defensive lineman Jordan Botelho (12) blocks Clemson punter Aidan Swanson (39) during the Notre Dame vs. Clemson NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.

Just three special teams have a higher PFF.com efficiency rating than Brian Mason’s group: Mississippi State, Clemson and Oklahoma State. … Notre Dame has a modern school-record six blocked punts in 50 tries, but Rutgers (50 attempts) and South Carolina (43) are close behind with five apiece. … The all-time mark for blocked punts at Notre Dame is seven, set in 1932 and again in 1933 by coach Heartley “Hunk” Anderson’s teams. … Navy ranks 38th in special-teams efficiency and emphasizes the punt block. … Former linebacker Diego Fagot’s 4-yard run on an accidental fake punt on fourth-and-1 from the Navy 34 in the fourth quarter helped the Middies beat Army last year.

Edge: Notre Dame

Coaching

Nov 5, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman talks to quarterback Drew Pyne (10) after Pyne scored a touchdown against the Clemson Tigers in the second quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

As defensive coordinator at Cincinnati, Marcus Freeman split two meetings with Navy, including a 42-32 loss in 2017. In the same role last year at Notre Dame, the Irish rolled 34-6. … Freeman is 6-4 as Irish coach, including the Fiesta Bowl loss; against teams unranked at any point this season he is 2-1. … Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, 108-81 (.571) in 15-plus seasons, is 3-10 against the Irish after taking two of the first three matchups with wins over Charlie Weis (2009) and Brian Kelly (2010 and again in 2016). … Defensive coordinator Al Golden went 1-3 as Temple’s coach against Navy from 2006-09, splitting the final two meetings after Niumatalolo replaced Paul Johnson. Temple allowed an average of 32.3 points in those four matchups. From 2011-14 at Miami, Golden went 3-1 against Johnson’s modified triple-option at Georgia Tech, allowing an average of 25.3 points. The Yellow Jackets, however, rushed for 13 touchdowns and 940 yards (5.1 yards per carry) over the final three meetings.  

Edge: Notre Dame

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Predictions

TOM NOIE: Notre Dame 45, Navy 10 —The Irish have come too far to take a step back now and have the Clemson game be dismissed as a fluke, so it's another November win for ND.

MIKE BERARDINO: Notre Dame 42, Navy 9 — Notre Dame rolls to its fifth straight win in the long-running series (fourth this year) and even gets a few snaps of experience for the freshman backups.

JUSTIN FROMMER: Notre Dame 34, Navy 12 — Notre Dame is playing its best football of the season and won't get stumped by Navy's triple-option attack

MICHAEL WANBAUGH: Notre Dame 41, Navy 7 — The Irish seem most at home on the road this season and Navy doesn't have the guns to stop their momentum.

Follow Notre Dame football writer Mike Berardino on Twitter @MikeBerardino.