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Notre Dame Football

Instant Reaction | Notre Dame 34 Navy 6

November 6, 2021

The first couple of drives on offense might have made you cringe. That’s typically how it feels on defense when playing against Navy.

It was because of the defense that those two straight three-and-outs didn’t matter. Marcus Freeman and the staff had a solid plan and the players executed well. The defensive line was a constant in the backfield and shut down Navy’s inside run game.

The Midshipmen averaged less than 3.0 yards per play before Notre Dame put in backups when they were up by three touchdowns. Not including the two plays to end the first half, Notre Dame forced Navy into five three-and-outs on their first seven drives. Throw that in and it was three plays or less in six of eight.

On the two drives where Navy drove and got points, they held them to field goals on both of those possessions.

This isn’t a good Navy offense, but Notre Dame made them look even worse than they’ve been for most of the season. It was an important box to check for a defense that didn’t have their best day last Saturday.

- Kurt Hinish was a beast and when he hit ball carriers in this game, he finished. The North Carolina game was a rough one for him and the season has been a bit rough with an injury that kept him out of action and some struggles making plays.

He was the main playmaker for the defense today. There aren’t many games you can say that about a nose tackle.

- Playing multiple fronts was the right move because then Navy can’t get a beat on how to block from down to down. That was a smart decision by the staff.

- Using Jack Kiser at safety, a spot he played in high school in addition to being an option quarterback on offense, was a shrewd one by the defensive staff. It wasn’t like he filled the stat sheet, but his presence playing downhill was noticeable.

- I liked how all of the defensive tackles played and it was great to see Jacob Lacey back healthy. He made an impact.

He might have gone right back on the injury report when Navy’s left tackle tried to cut him while he was engaged on the left guard. It was an illegal play that could have seriously hurt him.

But that’s Navy. They do that kind of thing and Notre Dame was fortunate that the tackle missed him.

- The decision by Ken Niumatalolo to not go for it on 4th down on the first drive of the second half was curious to say the least. How many more chances did they think they were going to get in the game when they were already down two touchdowns?

- It’s difficult to nitpick when Notre Dame won by 28 points and averaged 7.0 yards per play on offense, but this definitely was not a vintage performance from the offense.

Navy defensive coordinator Brian Newberry had a rough game on his first visit to South Bend in 2019, but he did a great job with his game plan in this one. He had Notre Dame off balance with pressures and dropping eight defenders on 3rd down.

I think more of the issues were with Jack Coan not being as decisive as he has been throwing into tight windows than with the calls and there were plays where he probably could have run, but that’s typically not his first, second, or third choice.

- Why didn’t we see Tyler Buchner earlier in the game? Why didn’t Lorenzo Styles see any targets in the first half of the game? I don’t really understand why that happened with either of those players.

- We don’t know the extent of Avery Davis’ injury, but it didn’t look good. It’s heartbreaking for a player who has contributed so much to the success of the team.

With one less scholarship receiver and no obvious backup to Davis in the slot, we might see Styles get some run there if he can handle the transition. It may be a tough ask for a freshman, but he certainly has the tools to thrive there.

Perhaps Braden Lenzy can play some there? I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chris Tyree work there if they feel he is healthy. They have to feel confident in Logan Diggs with the way he has played and this can get all three of the top backs involved without taking Diggs out of the mix.

- I’m not going to get too excited about seeing Xavier Watts when we’ve yet to see him in coverage, but it was at least encouraging to see him get downhill and tackled with his opportunities.

That and Kahanu Kia lighting up the returner in the fourth quarter were nice developments.

- With Navy week, it’s more about getting it over with it with a comfortable win. They accomplished that, even if it looked far from comfortable to start on offense.

Now they head to Virginia to play a completely different offense and, possibly, a backup quarterback. Who knows what will happen in this weird Notre Dame season, but 8-1 with the defense playing well is what everyone would hope to see before playing a prolific offense next week.

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