Rachel Terlep
Rachel Terlep
Notre Dame beat writer Rachel Terlep offers scribbles and stories about Fighting Irish sports.

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Notre Dame will have to stop Navy's great running QB when they meet

Keenan Reynolds, who nearly pulled off the upset against Notre Dame last year, returns as Navy’s record-setting quarterback.

Posted on Aug. 25, 2014 at 1:14 p.m.

This ongoing series examines Notre Dame’s 2014 opponents as they stand in before the season. We’re going down Notre Dame’s schedule, so next up: The Navy Midshipmen.

Date: 8 p.m. Nov. 1 at FedEx Field (Landover, Md.).

Series history: Notre Dame leads, 72-12-1.

Last meeting: 2013 — Notre Dame won, 38-34.

2013 common opponents: Air Force (Notre Dame won, 45-10; Navy won, 28-10); Pittsburgh (Notre Dame lost, 28-21; Navy won, 24-21).

2013 in a nutshell

Navy fluctuated throughout 2013, struggling against Western Kentucky, Duke and Toledo but battle against Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and San Jose State. The Mids flat-out rolled over South Alabama, Army, Hawaii and Eastern Tennessee in its bowl game to finish a solid 9-4. In fact, Navy has been to 11 bowls in the last 12 years, an impressive feat considering the size, recruitment and budgetary restrictions service academies face.

Players/positions to watch

  • Keenan Reynolds, quarterback: Reynolds is already generating pre-season buzz as a potential Heisman contender this year. His 31 rushing touchdowns in 2013 set a college football record for most rushing TDs by a quarterback. He rushed for more than 100 yards in six games and more than 200 yards in two. Reynolds has talent as a passer, too, though he needs to do it more. He only completed 61-of-108 passes in 2013 (compare that to Golson’s 189-of-318 in 2012), but also only threw two interceptions the entire year. 
  • Linebacker: Navy is searching for new middle linebackers after graduating D.J. Sargenti and Cody Peterson. They combined for 252 tackles and 12½ tackles for loss last year. Bob Diaco operated the “bend-don’t-break” defense at Notre Dame, but Navy has thrived off of it. Middle linebackers are imperative to that type of defense, so Navy will need replacements to emerge.

Required reading

Way-too-early prediction

Reynolds very nearly pulled off the upset at Notre Dame Stadium a year ago, and that was against a much more experienced front seven. How he’ll fare against Brian VanGorder’s aggressive defense remains to be seen, but I doubt Notre Dame outright stops this third-year starter and a stable of fullbacks.

Navy is a team on the rise, and Notre Dame is a young team that only gets younger if the four players currently suspended during the academic investigation aren’t reinstated. The way the Irish win this one is building a comfortable lead early and hanging on to it. The Irish come off a bye week and win this one (though not by much) in a shootout.

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