Navy Defense Shines In Win vs. Tulsa

The Navy Midshipmen desperately needed a turnaround from the defense if they were to snap a three-game losing skid on Friday.

Mission accomplished.

Before Friday’s 20-17 road win against Tulsa, head coach Ken Niumatalolo stressed that the Midshipmen remained “encouraged” despite their struggles on defense.

“Guys are disappointed but also encouraged,” Niumatalolo said, per Kareem Copeland of The Washington Post. “Basically, three top 25 teams have been one-score losses. But you still lose the game.

“Our guys are down, obviously, from losing but also encouraged recognizing that…we can play with anybody on our schedule but we can also lose to everybody. So we’ve got to play better.”

Navy entered Friday’s game with a 1-6 record  Through the first seven games, there had basically been no improvement from a defensive unit that allowed a whopping 30.3 points per contest a year ago.

The Midshipmen surrendered 93 points during their three-game losing skid, but the group pieced together it’s finest performance of the season against the Golden Hurricane.

Navy held Tulsa to just 17 total points, the fewest they’ve given up all season. Davis Brin was held to 165 passing yards and was sacked three times. The Golden Hurricane also turned the ball over, while the Midshipmen offense posted a perfect “zero” in that category.

After trailing 10-3 in the second quarter, the Midshipmen rallied for 17 unanswered points to build up a 20-10 lead.

The Golden Hurricane made it a one possession game late when Brin tossed a two-yard TD pass to Ezra Naylor II, but Navy recovered the onside kick and successfully ran out the clock to move to 2-6.

Navy didn’t even record a single pass in the victory over Tulsa, and that was thanks to an unstoppable rushing game that racked up 302 yards.

The Midshipmen will look to make it two in a row when they visit the 7-1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. (3:30 p.m. EST). And, for fans interested in sports betting, Notre Dame opens as a giant 20.5 point favorite.

Preview For Matchup vs. Notre Dame

Coming off an emotional win over Tulsa, Navy will look to play spoiler when they visit their archrivals.

This will mark the first Notre Dame-Navy showdown since Nov. 16, 2019. The Fighting Irish have won each of the last three matchups, and eight of the last nine overall.

Notre Dame is coming off a third straight victory, avoiding a bit of a scare against the North Carolina Tar Heels by defeating them 44-34.  Their lone loss of the season came against the No. 7 ranked Cincinnati Bearcats on Oct. 2.

The heavily-favored Fighting Irish have released their depth chart ahead of Saturday’s game. As expected, senior quarterback Jack Coan will get the start against a vulnerable Midshipmen defense.

Coan has completed 63.8 percent of his pass attempts for 1,610 yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions.

For Navy, the key to an upset is to take advantage of a banged-up Notre Dame defense that is allowing 24.5 points per game. Star safety Kyle Hamilton — widely projected to be a top five pick in the 2022 NFL Draft — will be inactive as he recovers from a knee injury.

Although the injuries and recent struggles on defense are undoubtedly, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly expressed confidence in the group led by defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman.

“So, we have two of those people on board,” Kelly said, per Mike Hutton of Sports Ilustrated. “(Defensive line coach) Mike Elston has been through 10 of these and certainly, Marcus had what he felt was a good scheme that he felt comfortable with at Cincinnati. You can say the collaboration of that we’ll continue to move forward with. The successes of both of those you’ll see implemented in what we do on Saturday.”

Kelly also praised the Midshipmen’s recent improvement on defense, citing their success in the red zone.

“You got to get it down the field,” Kelly said, per Hutton. “They would love for you to check it down to the back every down and come up and make that tackle, because it’s going to take you a long time, and you may not get it in the end zone. Then they’re really good in the red zone. They have a good scheme. They do a lot of really good things down in the red zone and make it difficult for you to score touchdowns.”

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