I’ve been watching, be it in person or on television, our Irish duke it out with the lads from the Naval Academy for nearly half a century. So, when asked what kind of game I can expect each year from someone, the answer is always the same. It’s going to be a dogfight because the Midshipmen do not know how to play any other way. Let me first start by mentioning that I, too, was a sailor some time ago. The fact that they continue to fight to the finish on the football field is simply a carry over for the way they live. This week will be no different. In fact, this week will reveal more about this Irish team than we’ve seen all season. Believe that.
Here comes the triple option, again.
Yes, Hell has not frozen over, thus Navy will bring with them the tricky, sometimes hard to contain, triple option attack. Who will be leading it is a little bit of a mystery since both of their field captains have been dinged up. However, when healthy, both have been in a dead heat battle for the skipper position. Of the two, though, Zach Abey is the more polished passer, and can also give defenses fits with his feet. There’s also a real deal threat in Malcolm Perry when he’s under center. One needs only to look at his numbers against SMU last week (282 yds. rushing, 4 TD’s) to know that he can pose some containment issues. Granted, this was against SMU, but I’ve found that with the triple option, it’s more about how well they run it, no who they run it against.
Cumulatively, their fleet of running backs this season have averaged approximately 4 yards per carry. Although this has been against lesser competition for the most part, we still need to be mindful of a couple of those backs, namely Chris High and Anthony Garguilo. Both backs have rushed for a combined 700 yards this season. Although that doesn’t seem like much, it is when it comes to the triple option.
The Midshipmen won’t be two dimensional, per usual, regardless of who is under center. There have been times in the past, though, when they have been effective passing the football. Not so much this year with only one serious threat in the receiving corps, Tyler Carmona. It won’t much matter if the capable passer, or difficult to contain runner is under center this week. Their passing game is still an area that we cannot ignore. Navy is tricky like that.
Bombs away for the Irish this week?
Let’s face it. This game is an opportunity for the Irish to show what they’re made of after last week’s unfortunate let-down. Does this mean that we’ll see an Irish team that is going to come out like a pack of wild dogs and abuse the 77th ranked defense in the country? I hope so, but this will be about ball control. Be explosive and score quickly and you put your defense on the field too much. They’ll hold on to the ball for stretches that don’t even end with reaching pay-dirt. On the flip side, we have backs that can peel off long runs that make quick work of drives as well. Either way, we have to manage the clock against a defense that will play absolutely nothing like what they’re ranked. They will play like each down depends on the National Championship, and rightfully so. These servicemen play with this game circled on their schedule, every single year.
This is a game where young Brandon Wimbush can truly have an early feast if he’s calm, patient, and smart with the football. Navy is ranked 91st in the country in pass defense, and although they have some good DB’s back there (Elijah Merchant, Sean Williams, and Tyris Wooten), Brandon should have some decent numbers through the air. The area of concern with these backs is how aggressive they are with the run defense. They will press, and they’ll be pesky around the box with the knowledge that we’ll be running the football early and often.
Our offensive line versus a defensive line that will do pretty much anything the level the playing field is another concern each year. This is where every single football game gets won and lost, and the competition doesn’t much matter. Especially when we’re talking about a team that knows of their deficiencies, but also knows how to overcome them as best they can. Regardless of what happened in South Florida, we have one of the best offensive lines in the country. Expect them to wear down a vicious, unrelenting defensive line that Navy will bring to this test.
So, what can we expect?
First and foremost, I expect to see a team that feasts on the opportunity to show how determined and disciplined they are against a team that has the same mindset every game. Especially against ND. Expect Josh Adams to show why everyone is proud to sport that 33 Trucking hat. Expect Brandon Wimbush to settle down and manage this football team like he’s capable of doing. And lastly, expect our defense to get off the field on schedule more often than not, especially if they come to play with a chip on their shoulder. I don’t know how else I would come into a game following the one last week. I’d pity the opponent that faced my team next, even a pesky one with a serious mission every year.