Notre Dame is aiming to bounce back this week after a disappointing loss at Miami that very likely derailed its chances of landing a College Football Playoff berth.
Navy heads to South Bend this weekend looking to defeat Notre Dame in consecutive years for just the fifth time in the history of the series (1933-34, 1956-57, 1960-61 and 2009-10). The Midshipmen won 28-27 last season in Jacksonville, Fla.
Head coach Ken Niumatalolo’s team snapped a three-game losing streak last Saturday with a 43-40 win over SMU. Sophomore quarterback Malcolm Perry led the charge, rushing for 282 yards and four touchdowns in his first career start.
“Obviously, we have another challenge coming up against Notre Dame,” Niumatalolo said during Monday’s American Athletic Conference teleconference. “Year in and year out, one of the best teams and programs in the country. We know them very well. We play them every year.
“So we know how good they are and how well coached they are. Coach Brian Kelly is one of the best coaches in the country. It’s going to be a tough challenge for us, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Even though the Irish are coming off a tough loss that can deflate many programs, Niumatalolo knows he and his team are going to have to be prepared in order to take down Notre Dame in South Bend.
“Notre Dame is Notre Dame,” Niumatalolo stated. “They’re always a really good football team. Whether they won or whether they lost [in the prior contest], this is going to be a tough game for us. It always is. They’re still a really good football team. Just like any team — and we all say the same thing —you have to move on. Whether you win or lose, you can’t let one loss turn into two losses. You can’t celebrate a victory.
“All of us know that. … I know he’ll get his guys ready and this is going to be a tough challenge. To me, that game has no bearing. It’s going to be a hard game for us to win.”
When Notre Dame’s 4-8 record in 2016 was brought up during the teleconference, Niumatalolo was quick to point out the record didn’t reflect how those games played out. Niumatalolo also noted he doesn’t see much of a change from Notre Dame in terms of their style, outside of more of an emphasis on running the football.
“They had a lot of close losses last year, though,” Niumatalolo said. “We barely beat them by a point. … This year, they’re winning and got some confidence. They’ve always been Notre Dame. People just look at their record last year, but they lost a lot of close football games. They’re not doing that this year. They’re playing a lot better.
“They’re running the ball a lot more on offense now than they’ve done in the past. They’ve always been physical and run the football, but they’re running the ball more. Other than that, they’re the typically really, really good Notre Dame football team.”
Navy defensive coordinator Dave Pehrson believes his unit won’t face a better offensive line than the group the Irish boast blocking for junior running back Josh Adams.
“Adams is a big, strong, physical runner. He breaks a lot of tackles and is very tough to bring down,” Pehrson told The Capital Gazette on Monday. “That offensive line is absolutely unbelievable. Definitely the best we’ll play this year. They’ve got some real monsters up front.”
After defeating Navy a NCAA record 43 straight times from 1964-2006, Notre Dame is 6-4 against the Midshipmen since 2007.