Navy junior safety Jeremy McGown was watching film of Notre Dame with his defensive teammates earlier this week and saw something he had never seen.
"It's like Notre Dame has defensive ends playing at wide receiver," he said. "Those guys are so huge they looked out of place. But then we watched them play, and I guess that's what it's like when you go up against guys in the NFL."
The 5-foot-11 McGown said he was a little worried about having to face Notre Dame's three 6-5 receivers -- junior wideouts Jeff Samardzija and Maurice Stovall and senior tight end Anthony Fasano -- when Navy (5-3) looks to end an NCAA-record 41-game losing streak against the Fighting Irish (6-2) tomorrow at Notre Dame Stadium.
Navy's starting secondary will literally be overshadowed as soon as it steps on the field.
McGown is joined in the backfield by 5-11 juniors Keenan Little at left cornerback and DuJuan Price at free safety and 5-8 sophomore right cornerback Greg Thrasher.
"As a cornerback, this is a game you dream about because you always want to know how you'd do against one of the best teams in the country," Little said. "Now we get to find out."
The biggest reason why Notre Dame has gone from mediocrity to one of the biggest stories in college football this season has been its ability to develop a lethal passing game led by junior Brady Quinn. Quinn has completed 195 of 299 passes for 2,647 yards and a whopping 23 touchdowns with four interceptions. Samardzija has 51 receptions for 877 yards and 12 touchdowns, and Stovall has 42 catches for 666 yards and six scores.
"If you look at their football team, they were all probably high school all-Americans," Navy Coach Paul Johnson said. "They didn't just go down to Podunk High School and take somebody that nobody was recruiting and all of a sudden coach them up. They are all pretty good players. Those two receivers, both are 6-5 and can run. It's tough to teach guys to be 6-5 and have speed."
The trio averages more than 13 yards per catch has done it against the likes of top-ranked Southern California, Michigan, Tennessee and Michigan State -- all defenses filled with some of the nation's most highly-recruited athletes. Notre Dame is averaging nearly 40 points per game and 474 yards of total offense.
"You just have to play," Johnson said. "You can't be afraid, just go play. What's the worst thing that can happen to us? We lose. Navy has done that 41 times before."
"All we can do is look at it as a challenge, and we can't hesitate out there because if we do, it's over," 5-7 freshman cornerback Ketric Buffin said. "First off, no one thinks we can win, so what do we have to be worried about?"
However, Notre Dame Coach Charlie Weis is wary of the Midshipmen, who are giving up an average of 182.2 passing yards per game and need to win one of their last three games to become eligible for a bowl game for the third straight year.
Weis said Navy frequently changes its formation in its front-seven -- going from three linemen one play and four the next -- enabling it to mask its coverage scheme. The change up front occurs by moving 6-2, 216-pound junior Tyler Tidwell, who has made a team-high 13.5 tackles for losses including five sacks, from outside linebacker to defensive end.
"Navy puts you in a position to be confused because they change their package up front and you don't know how they are going to cover you," Weis said. "Usually when a team plays with a four-man front you'll get the corresponding coverage, but you don't know what you're going to get from Navy until you get to the line of scrimmage."
Midshipmen Note: Notre Dame and Navy announced a 10-year contract extension that will maintain college football's longest rivalry through 2016. The series will include a game in Dublin on Sept. 1, 2012 .