Let's just hope, for drama's sake, that this game goes down to the fourth quarter. We know what has happened the past two years, when Navy twice held leads, and twice let them slip away. Last year's 27-24 Notre Dame victory ended with D.J. Fitzpatrick's 40-yard field goal as time expired. But if the Midshipmen enter the fourth quarter with a lead today, there is some evidence that they might be able to hold it. Navy's defense seems to tighten as the games go on. Opponents convert 62 percent of third downs in the first quarter, 35 percent in the second and third quarters, and just 24 percent in the fourth. Evidence that the Midshipmen could get that key stop? Perhaps.
There is a reason that both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today college football polls are called "the Top 25" -- because they include 25 teams. Glad we cleared that up? Now, moving on. Check the fine print of both polls this week. Navy received seven points in the coaches' poll (ESPN) and 41 in the writers' poll (AP). Notre Dame, incidentally, was just ahead of the Midshipmen in the coaches' poll (10 points) and just behind Navy in the writers' poll (13 points). A victory today could put the Midshipmen back in the national rankings for the first time since Oct. 22, 1979, when they were No. 17.
Navy FB Kyle Eckel vs. Notre Dame LB Mike Goolsby
Eckel, in some ways, is the heart of Navy Coach Paul Johnson's triple-option offense, and he needs just 29 yards to move into fifth place on the Midshipmen's career rushing list. He may not make an array of glamorous cuts, but when Eckel runs well, the whole offense becomes more dangerous -- as when he gained 152 yards against Army last season, leading to 359 rushing yards for Navy. Enter Goolsby, one of a slew of Notre Dame defenders who have spent the last week going over Navy's attack in their sleep.
Goolsby, a senior who leads the Irish with 8.5 tackles per game, said he's "looking forward to" facing Eckel. "He's a hell of a player," Goolsby said. When a fullback and linebacker look forward to facing each other, watch out. We could be in for a few hits.
Getting It Done
Navy place kicker Geoff Blumenfeld has made just one of five field goal attempts this season, and that was from 30 yards out. But that hasn't matter much once the Midshipmen have moved the ball inside their opponents' 20-yard line. Navy has scored touchdowns on 15 of its 19 trips inside the "red zone," including 12 of its past 14.