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Notre Dame Football

Niumatalolo Has Faith Notre Dame Game Will Be Played

July 29, 2020

Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo will be the first to admit life on the football field is very different than the last time his team took the field. 

The Midshipmen and college football are starting to work through the NCAA’s offseason plan, but there are quite a few challenges. 

“We're doing all we can,”  Niumatalolo over a Zoom call. “We just had our first walk-through yesterday, which was interesting. You're trying to have a walk-through with social distance. It was different, but I just told my guys, 'it's just the way the world is right now.' We're going to have to do the best we can with whatever rules are given to us."

In the world of college football, coaches swap strategies and learn from each other every offseason. It’s common to see Tom Herman to come to Notre Dame to pick Brian Kelly’s brain. However, Niumatalolo states that the coaching fraternity is now sharing information to combat Covid-19. 

"We talked to guys all the time,” Niumatalolo explained. “I'd rather not say who, but you try to steal ideas from people too. There are just so many things about how to drink water. How do you dispense it? Most people have their own bottles and if you have to fill up your bottle, then there are only certain people who can fill them up. All those other things - I'm sure people have thought through things we haven't thought through and vice versa.

"Nobody has a game plan on this. I don't care how long you've been coaching. Nobody has a blueprint on how to get ready for this, so we're all kind of learning on the run. There has been a lot of sharing of ideas from different places. Different trainers talk to different trainers. Team doctors talk to different team doctors. You read from the media what people are reporting. 

"To me, it's been kind of interesting from the coaching profession. We're always kind of copycats anyway, but especially in this case. Any good ideas that can help you keep your people safe, we're all implementing." 

Navy is set to host Notre Dame to open the college football season and it will be the first trip to Annapolis for the Fighting Irish. Fans or not, Niumatalolo knows it’s a special moment for the program. 

"I think it's pretty sweet,” said Niumatalolo. “To be able to play Notre Dame here would be a great honor for us. We're excited about it. Right now, all the things Chet Gladchuck, our Athletic Director, is doing - they've been working on it for months, a game plan to keep people safe and the amount of people they can have here. He's told me some of the details of it and even at that, it's a lot more elaborate than the things he's told me. 

"He talked about the general things of the bubble. Who will be allowed on the sideline, spectators and all those kinds of things. The superintendent feels good about it. It's still got to pass through government officials.” 

Niumatalolo admits he’s stayed up to date on what the Irish are doing this offseason in regards to Covid-19, which makes him confident in both teams being ready to play. 

"I feel pretty confident it's going to (to be played),” stated Niumatalolo. “I read up with what's going on with Notre Dame. They have all the resources to make sure that they're testing and doing all they can. I know they have access to all the best doctors, scientists and medical advice. 

"I definitely know they're doing everything and they have a great plan. Having played against Coach Kelly all these years - the guy is as detailed of a coach as there is out there in our profession. I know there has been no stone unturned in their preparation and detail. 

"The final decision will come from government officials. The governor of Maryland and the mayor of Annapolis will be the final piece." 

Niumatalolo might be excited to host Notre Dame, but he also knows his team will likely have its hands full. 

"We're excited about Notre Dame coming and we're really excited about playing them until you watch last year's tape,” Niumatalolo stated. “Then you realize we had a really good team and we're 7-1 and went over there. They spanked us pretty good. 

"We're excited. It's a new year. We're a new team and they're obviously a different team. We're a really good football team. All the things you read, there are a lot of people projecting them to be a final four if there is a playoff. We know it's going to be a really good team. 

"They have the quarterback coming back and Coach Kelly is one of the premier coaches in the country. It's a great challenge for us and we're looking forward to it." 

While the world waits to see if there will be football, Niumatalolo continues to have faith that the season will at least start. 

"If there is any game I feel good about playing, it's the first one,” said Niumatalolo. “I know who we're playing and what they're going to do. I know what we're doing and I know the precautions that are taking place at The Academy." 

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