"In my 17 years of coaching, I've never been around a team that has been hit with so many injuries," Navy Coach George Welsh said today.
"We've not only lost starters but some key reserves, as well as a handful of freshmen players I planned to move up to the varsity. We're beat up and mentally tired."
Welsh, who gave his Mids Monday off and practice without pads Tuesday, was not optimistic about his team's chances in South Bend against 15th-ranked Notre Dame Saturday.
"On paper, it doesn't look good," Welsh said. "Their offensive line is intact and they have a great runner in Vagas Ferguson. They score a lot of points. These are the same guys who blew us out (27-7) last year."
Navy's depth chart has undergone a major revision. Defensive tackle Mike Matthes, who suffered a torn knee ligament against Pitt last week, was operated on Tuesday and is lost for the season.
The list of walking wounded that will not oppose the Irish includes defensive tackles John Merrill (broken foot bone) and Steve Chambers (knee sprain), defensive back Gregg Milo (knee sprain), tailbacks Mike Sherlock (hamstring) and Steve Callahan (knee sprain), and defensive and Reggie Trass (knee sprain).
Reserve cornerback Jon Ross, tailback Duane Flowers and several other players were bruised last week in Navy's 24-7 defeat, but are expected to play Saturday.
Defensive back Chris Boblit and defensive tackle Tom Burke will get the first starts of their college careers against the Irish.
In last year's game, Navy totaled 358 yards, while Notre Dame, with Ferguson netting 219 yards on 18 carries, amassed 530. This year the Irish have averaged 395 yards on offense while allowing 316.
Notre Dame has its own cripples.Twenty-six players have either missed a game or are out for the season. Ferguson, the all-time leading single-season rusher for the Irish, with 906 yards, and freshman end Tony Hunter were banged up in Notre Dame's come-from-behind 18-17 win over South Carolina last week. Both players suffered shoulder bruises but Coach Dan Devine said today they would play.
"We don't know how long Vagas can go," Devine said. "We can't afford to worry about Navy's injuries because we have our own situation to think about. We're down to our fifth fullback right now."
Notre Dame has been strong in areas where Navy has been weak. Rusty Lisch, the ninth-ranked passer in the nation, has completed 70 of 127 passes for 1,167 yards and four touchdowns.
Navy, stingy against the run (allowing only 78.1 yards per game), has given up more than 400 yards through the air the last two games.
"We don't plan to change anything on defense," said Navy linebacker Mike Kronzer. "We sor of expect Notre Dame to come out throwing against us. We just can't let them control the ball the way Pitt did.
"We have new people on defense, but it shouldn't be a problem. Everyone knows his assignment. Burke came in last week and did a good job."
Navy defensive end Charlie Thornton was selected for this week's All-East tem for his 14 tackles against Pitt . . . . Notre Dame holds a 42-9-1 series advantage over Navy; the Irish have won the last 15 . . . . Navy and Notre Dame have faced only one common opponent, Air Force; Navy struggled, 13-9, while Notre Dame cruised, 38-13.