Tumbling nine spots and out of the top 10 after their first loss of the season, the No. 15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-1) can get their season back on track against the Navy Midshipmen (4-0) on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.
Despite committing four turnovers, the Irish nearly forced overtime but quarterback DeShone Kizer’s pass on a two-point conversion failed with seven seconds remaining in a 24-22 loss to Clemson.
The sophomore Kizer threw for a career-high 321 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for another 60 yards and a score, with each touchdown coming in the fourth quarter as Notre Dame nearly erased an 18-point Tigers lead. But head coach Brian Kelly’s squad couldn’t overcome their early blunders and 128 Clemson kick return yards.
Still Kizer, who’s filled in well for injured Malik Zaire, proved he can pick the Irish up when necessary, and senior running back C.J. Prosise put up 150 total yards from scrimmage with a touchdown grab early in the fourth that started Notre Dame’s rally.
With wounded rival USC coming to South Bend next week and only one other ranked opponent left on their schedule, the Irish and their No. 40 ranked defense allowing 20.6 points per game do stand to run the table and improve chances of a major bowl bid.
However, Notre Dame hosts a Navy squad unlike any it’s seen it quite some time.
Typically a matchup with the Midshipmen has served as a difficult but winnable matchup for Notre Dame, but Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo is off to the best start of his eight-year tenure and the program’s first 4-0 mark since 2004.
The Irish have won four straight in the rivalry and own the all-time series at 75-12-1, but the Midshipmen have dominated their early schedule by an average winning margin of 23.5 points and the nation’s third-ranked rushing attack.
Tossing only 27 passes and completing just 14, senior quarterback Keenan Reynolds has instead ripped off a team-high 488 yards and nine touchdowns at 5.6 yards per carry. He’s followed by senior fullback Chris Swan’s 361 yards and four scores at 5.3 yards per attempt.
Last week Reynolds ran down 183 yards and threw his second touchdown of the season in Navy’s 33-11 victory over armed-services rival Air Force, and the Midshipmen defense generated four Falcons turnovers. With 73 scampers over his career, Reynolds is now a mere four touchdowns away from tying the FBS record of 77 set by former Wisconsin star Montee Ball.
Notre Dame’s already held one rush-first squad this season, downing then-No. 14 Georgia Tech, 30-22. But the Yellow Jackets still squeezed off 216 yards on the ground. On the season the Irish are allowing 4.2 yards per rush and seven total rushing touchdowns.
Betting Odds: Notre Dame -14
Over/Under: 56 points
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Live Online: NBC Live Extra