A new week brings a new chance for Notre Dame to solve another triple-option offense. The Fighting Irish (3-6) walked away from last week’s 28-27 loss to Navy with a giant shamrock-sized blemish after failing to stop the option.
Things aren’t likely to get much easier for Notre Dame this week against Army’s option. The Black Knights’ (5-4) own triple-option attack boasts the second-best rushing total (320.6 ypg) in the nation entering Saturday’s Shamrock Series game in San Antonio.
Navy’s offense relied heavily on the powerful running of quarterback Will Worth in last week’s win in Jacksonville, Florida. The 6-1, 210-pound signal-caller bulled his way to a game-high 175 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries against the Irish.
Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw’s 600 rushing yards are the second most on his team this season, but he uses a more subtle style than his Navy counterpart. Worth has more Mike Tyson-like power to his game, while Bradshaw’s style more resembles the finesse and footwork of a Sugar Ray Leonard.
“He wants to get on the edge,” Kelly said of Bradshaw at his Tuesday press conference. “(He is) not as physical, but he’s quick. He’s elusive.”
Worth’s efforts almost single-handedly gave the Midshipmen the edge in time of possession. Navy held a 33:53-26:07 advantage for the game, but it held the ball for more than 20 minutes in the second half, allowing Notre Dame just two offensive possessions in the final 30 minutes of the game.
The back-breaking plays for Notre Dame came on third and fourth down, when Navy kept the chains moving and kept the Irish defense on the field. The Mids converted 8 of 13 times on third down and 4 of 5 tries on fourth down thanks to third-down plays that gave them favorable short- yardage situations on fourth down.
“Instead of 4th and 3 it’s 4th and 1,” Kelly explained.
“So that’s where it becomes, mentally, a little bit more difficult when it’s 4th and 1. You get them 4th and 4, now go ahead. Let’s see what you got. It’s the 4th and 1s where you’re really not successful on 3rd down when it’s 4th and 1.”
The Fighting Irish effectively negated Navy’s fullback last week by allowing Chris High just 28 yards. Army fullback Andy Davidson leads the Black Knights with 707 yards and seven touchdown runs this fall. Notre Dame found out the hard way last week that simply relying on shutting down one facet isn’t good enough against the option.
The last time Notre Dame lost to two service academies in the same season was 2007. The Fighting Irish fell to Navy and Air Force in back-to-back games in November and finished the season with a 3-9 record.
The Irish, at 3-6, don’t want to repeat history.