Here are 5 objectives for Notre Dame against Navy Saturday in Baltimore
SOUTH BEND — No. 20 Notre Dame (6-3) tries to win its fifth consecutive game against Navy (3-6) in Baltimore. Kickoff is set for noon at M&T Bank Stadium and ABC will televise.
Dominate both sides of the line of scrimmage
Notre Dame's offensive line was trending in the right direction for weeks, but nobody expected the dominance it showed against Clemson as the Irish rushed for a season-high 263 yards against the Tigers.
The defensive line was just as impressive, holding Clemson to a season-low 90 rushing yards. This week's game against Navy will also be won in the trenches.
The Midshipman rank 10th in the nation with 2,132 rushing yards and seventh in rushing yards allowed per game at 88. If Notre Dame can control the line of scrimmage as it did against Clemson, it is hard to imagine a way for Navy to pull off the rivalry upset.
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Be weary of Navy's passing
Navy is going to run the ball for the majority of the game. That is its bread and butter. The Midshipmen are able to catch teams napping with its triple option to hit some big plays through the air.
Navy has completed 47 passes for 897 yards this season, though 42 and 787 of that belong to Tai Lavatai, who has been ruled out for the season with an injury. Maasai Maynor (3-for-5, 81 yards) and Xavier Arline (1-for-1, 3 yards) had a modest, but efficient passing day in the Midshipmen's 20-10 loss to Cincinnati last week.
The easiest way for Notre Dame to not get fooled by the unexpected throw is to keep Navy in obvious passing downs, meaning second, third-and-longs. That will allow the Irish pass rush to pin its ears back and get after the quarterback, which they had no problem doing against Clemson last week.
Limit Daba Fofana
The best way to defend the triple option is to limit what the offense can do. Notre Dame is catching Navy at the right time as Lavati's injury halted how fluid its offense can be.
The Midshipmen have fewer than 300 total offensive yards in back-to-back games, including a season-low 224 yards two weeks ago in a win against Temple.
The next biggest offensive threat is fullback Daba Fofana who has 500 rushing yards and five touchdowns in 140 carries. Most of Fofana's production comes on runs outside the tackles, which means Notre Dame defensive ends Isaiah Foskey, Rylie Milles (when he's not kicked inside) and Justin Ademilola will have to set a strong edge to limit explosive plays.
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An opportunity to work in more Drew Pyne
The fact Notre Dame dominated Clemson while completing just nine passes is a testament to its offensive line rather than issues with Pyne's play.
This could be a week to let Pyne air it out a bit. The Midshipmen have allowed 275 passing yards per game and 20 touchdowns. Only eight other teams in college football have allowed more.
Pyne hasn't thrown for over 200 yards since the UNLV game, and has only done it three times in seven starts. Notre Dame's rushing attack may not be as dominant as it was against Clemson every week, so Pyne making some plays could become a necessity.
Matchup to watch: Mbiti Williams Jr vs Notre Dame's receivers
This could also be the week to give Lorenzo Styles some confidence.
The sophomore receiver has had troubles with drops all season and is losing targets because of it. Styles has seen only three targets in the past two games, and dropped his lone opportunity against the Tigers. On Saturday, however, Styles will likely find himself lined up against one of Navy's worst cover cornerbacks, Mbiti Williams Jr.
Williams Jr. has allowed a team-high five touchdowns, 26 receptions on 45 targets and 364 total yards this season. Navy will line Williams Jr. out wide for the majority of the game. That should allow for some downfield opportunities for Styles, or other Notre Dame wideouts.