Imperfect Perfection: Navy Instant Reaction

The first half was nearly perfect, the second half decidedly not, but the result was a relatively easy 44-22 ND victory over Navy that sent the Irish to 8-0 and, at minimum, a #3 ranking on Tuesday when the committee unveils its first top 25.

It looked very briefly like another annoying ND/Navy slugfest when Miles Boykin fumbled the ball to Navy on the first play of the game, but the Irish defense stiffened, as they would throughout the first half, and the rest of the half was exactly how you would hope ND would play against Navy: Ball control, effective short passing and pound-it running. 27-0 at halftime, game over.

Then the second half happened. Navy decided to unleash Malcolm Perry, and it was a 30-minute shootout. Luckily, ND had built such a lead that it didn’t much matter.

The biggest issue going forward is the health of Drue Tranquill, who was rolled up on (not cut-blocked, ND reporters eagerly made sure we knew) and did not return, but, gods be praised, appears to have ‘only’ suffered a high ankle sprain. Still clearly not good, but not enough to knock him out for the season. He was, as far as I know, the only ND injury of note (Asmar Bilal was briefly injured, but came back).

Let’s go over some of the big storylines from the game:

ND “out-Navy’s Navy”

Aaron Taylor, in between letting you know how many penalties ND was getting away with to make sure you knew his degree didn’t blind him from his job calling Saturday’s game, made a nifty point early on that the Irish were playing Navy’s game. They were passing more, obviously, but the ethic behind it – ball control – was pure Navy.

The offense, two turnovers excepted, was pretty close to flawless. The running game was consistently there, and when ND was pushed to third-and-long, Ian Book usually bailed the Irish out with some excellent throws. (Just in terms of throwing decently-long deep balls, it was a big step forward for Book since the Va Tech and Pitt games, I felt; the long scramble before hitting Jafar Armstrong for a first down in particular was impressive.) The back-shoulder game was there and Book hit several of them for key gains.

Fourth-down aggressiveness was a big factor. ND went for it three times and converted all three. Brian Kelly knew the Navy game was a different animal and coached like it tonight. Props to him. Would’ve liked to see him go for it on that last possession just to ice it and cap off the strategy, but no harm done there.

Hey, uh, let’s cover #10

ND seemed to have solved Navy right off the top – until, that is, Ken Niumatalolo recalled that Malcolm Perry was on his team. After being a virtual nonentity in the first half, Perry dominated the second and almost single-handedly kept Navy on the fringes of being in the game. It’s probably fair to say ND was feeling itself a little bit after an impressive first half on defense and didn’t quite keep their heads in the game in the second, though certainly Navy deserves a bit of credit for that too.

344 total yards for the game isn’t bad against Navy, even this version of them, but the Middies went for 6.1 yards a carry, albeit more like five outside of Perry’s big run to start the second half. Option being what it is, there’s not a ton to take from that into next week, but it was mildly frustrating seeing the Irish unable to deliver that final killshot to ensure a blowout tonight.

That being said, the defensive line made several nice plays on the interior, and Te’von Coney continues to be a dude. Nice to see Drew White get in on a couple plays after replacing Tranquill as well.

Dexter is fun, and it’s good to see Jafar

I’ve said before that Dexter Williams’ immediate emergence from suspended guy on the brink to utter mainstay of the offense is among my very favorite subplots of this season, and he gave me nothing to be disappointed about tonight. 142 yards on physical runs, open-field runs, good-vision runs…you name it, Dex did it tonight. Hope he has 6 more games like this in him.

As if that wasn’t enough, Kelly gave him credit for his blocking, the biggest weakness in his game prior to this season, and awarded him the game ball for the win.

He can’t do it alone, though, and Jafar Armstrong made an extremely impressive return to the lineup. Armstrong dealt with a knee infection that by all accounts was far more serious than originally discussed, and yet you’d never have known it Saturday. He was ND’s leading receiver, with five catches, seemingly all of them clutch, and also gained 52 yards on the ground, good for over 100 in total offense. We hadn’t seen a lot of his receiving game in past weeks, and if we can get used to that he’s going to be a very valuable Theo Riddick-type piece for this team.

Oh, hey, Doerer!

None of us really know whatever issues have been keeping Jonathan Doerer from being the kicker ND thinks he can be, but maybe he took a step in the right direction tonight. With Justin Yoon sidelined with a mysterious groin injury, Doerer missed a PAT to start the game and every ND fan recoiled. But Doerer never missed again, and by the end of the night seemed downright on his game, albeit never having to make a long kick. Hopefully we look back at this game at his turning point.

So here we are. 8-0. Very few but the most desperately optimistic would’ve thought this possible. There are land mines ahead – Northwestern will be coming off its best game of the season to date next week, Syracuse looks to be perhaps a legitimate top-20 team (we’ll see), and USC isn’t going to roll over and die for an 11-0 ND if we get to that point. We’re into November. The ride is in full swing. Stress about every second, yes, but in between, let’s enjoy a playoff race.

(Photo credit: South Bend Tribune)

By |2018-10-28T00:16:20+00:00October 28th, 2018|18S Reads|15 Comments

15
Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
9 Comment threads
6 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
12 Comment authors
Andy RobertsSD-Irishdannan14juiceboxMikeyB Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
nd09hls12
nd09hls12

This is fun. I think the other thing of note is how fired up Gilman was straight out of the gate – he looked great the first few drives and will be a serious asset against the option for the next couple years.

Also pleased that I was wrong to take the over on .5 regular-season ending injuries. I saw a tweet indicating that Tranquill is already out of his boot, so that has to be positive.

Interestingly, FiveThirtyEight’s system indicates that today was a net negative for ND – it had our playoff odds at 53% during the week, but now has us at 51%. I suspect that may have to do with Stanford losing and Georgia winning more than how our game went (it had us as 97% to win the Navy game, so us winning didn’t really help our playoff odds much).

Underthrown Shoelace
Underthrown Shoelace

Yep, also Cuse and Northwestern look more difficult after both taking out ranked opponents. But maybe offset by FSU and USC being talented dumpster fires. 538 giveth and taketh away. Yes I’m happy to cash out on the moneyline and happy to have held off on the spread.

8FP
8FP

I think taking the bye week before Navy rather than after worked out really well. Not only do you have extra time to prepare for the option game, but having prepared for and shut down the Navy offense, you keep them off the field and don’t need the recuperation time anyway, Tranquil notwithstanding.

The Ian Book reality is starting to set in. He is on his way to being the best QB of the Kelly era, and a guy who I can see playing in the NFL, which are things that would’ve seemed really unlikely a couple months ago.

Armstrong looking good is a huge relief. We won’t have to run Dex into the ground.

More Noise
More Noise

Amen to all comments, and really thanks Andy for posting this. The 2:00 a.m. start over here can be stressing, and my rooftop antenna to get AFN was being spotty with wind, and for some reason ustvnow would only record, not just play the damn game, so my watching was spotty and hyper stressful… hence your instant analysis was extremely good and reassuring to have before I called it a night at 6:00 a.m…
As for the game… the Navy coach has always been super on adjustments, and I suspect this will be a wakeup call for our DC. First time he has ever playcalled against an option team of this skill. “Don’t get cocky kid!”
And Drew stepping in for Drew like that is for me anyway simply amazing. For all the criticism of BK not developing players, this one has to be not only on the young man for persevering but on the coaches (linebacker guy especially) for having seen something. The new Greer Martini? Hopefully he has a wider range to offer, though I was a Greer fan.

tlndma
tlndma

I’ve been waiting for Book to throw more of those back shoulder throws. Is that a confidence thing for him or maybe even the coaches? He was 27-33, 330 yds., 2 TDs
Armstrong got better as the game went on. I thought the Oline used their physical advantage often. At times they looked plain mean. The front 7 dominated in the first half like I’ve rarely seen. Navy could not block them. Tillerey made an outstanding tackle for loss.
The announcing team was brutal. They seemed to have the same talking points but each was on a different page of the script.I don’t care about Neuheisal’s hair. Aaron Taylor should go into real estate. Who told him he was funny?

dannan14
dannan14

Who tells a dude that big that he isn’t funny? 😛

KG
KG

He needs to stick to calling Strongman Competitions on CBS’s equivalent of the Ocho.

KG
KG

Got out to a big lead, held them at arms length, and while we would have liked more style points, the game itself was never in doubt. With Navy, I’ll take it. Glad to hear Drue is probably going to be okay. Any other MASH unit updates?

I agree with More Noise, Lea has to be ready for Navy’s 2nd half adjustment. Anticipate it better, or at least recognize it better and make a counter-adjustment before they march down the field twice like that. Yes, it’s his first time as the DC against them, but Kelly’s seen this for the last 8 years, he should be coaching up his coach. That said, excellent D first half and it never really got close enough to worry about losing the game, it was just not as pretty as it could have been.

I’m worried about all our games left, though it’s weird that USC is the one I’m least worried about. Even as much as FSU looks like a dumpster fire, they’re really talented physically, and if they just stop being idiots for one day, it could be a problem. As it is, I don’t think we beat them by 49. Syracuse is the most dangerous team left, I think–they may actually be pretty good, and might be ranked. Northwestern is probably not nearly as good as the win against Wiscy would suggest, because Wiscy is not good this year, but at Evanston and Pat Fitzgerald always has it out for ND, so I’ll be nervous until I’m not.

I’d like to see us turn on the jets, beat these teams and get style points that suggest we can compete with a Clemson or a Bama, but I honestly don’t think we will. If I look at each game, I think we win NW, FSU, and USC comfortably, but kind of like yesterday–put up 40-something, give up 20-something, win but it doesn’t look like DOMINATION. I think Syracuse is going to be a bigger test. Bottom line, win and we’re in. Lose and I don’t think we are, because without 49-pt beatdowns we won’t get the benefit of the doubt.

More Noise
More Noise

I just watched the post-game pressures. BK kind of threw Lea under the bus a bit, with the repeated mention of going to zone because we were ahead — “probably not the best decision” — but he did also say that was all for off-season, because now we get ready for N-western. So I’d like to think it becomes a learning experience for our DC.
BK was also asked about whether Troy Pride was not feeling up to par –“you’ll have to ask him” is pretty telling. I hope that situation is OK.
Taking them one at a time is OK by me… anyone going to Chicago? I am going to fly in to NYC for the ‘Cuse game, but can’t make it to Evanston. But someone needs to be there to make … more noise!

HolyCrossHog
HolyCrossHog

Defense was awesome most of the time except for Pride’s whiff.

Btw I can never hear the press’ questions at pressers.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Dex and Jafar on the field at the same time is so much fun. Jafar looks like he could be a real weapon from the slot. And Dex really did look good in pass protection, albeit against Navy. There’s was a play where he completely took out a free rusher, then Book held onto it too long but managed to escape, and then Dex led him down the field too for an 8ish yard gain. Good for him for putting it all together this year.

juicebox
juicebox

It got so annoying when Taylor kept talking about how we wanted 11 possessions, but then we needed to slow down our play as much as possible to keep Navy’s offense off of the field. Does he not get that if both teams go really slow, that results in fewer possessions? He would not shut up about that.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

It was so inane. In Aaron Taylor found the last person who thinks the time of possession battle matters.

SD-Irish
SD-Irish

On injuries,
I kept seeing Claypool and Boykin cycling off the field with limps. Was there any word on their health?