SOUTH BEND – Time is not on Notre Dames side as it tries to stem the tide against Navy.
The Irish (4-3) will use a group of young defensive linemen to try and stop the Midshipmens confounding triple-option offense Saturday.
Senior defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore is out for the season with a knee injury, and senior defensive end Ethan Johnson didnt play in the last two games while recovering from a high ankle sprain.
Notre Dame is turning to three freshmen to help shut down a Navy offense that is third in the nation in rushing with 325.1 yards per game. Aaron Lynch has started in place of Johnson the last two games and has 12 tackles. Stephon Tuitt will make his first start in place of Lewis-Moore this weekend and has nine tackles. Chase Hounshell has played in one game and has four tackles.
You are not allowed any more time to get the players ready, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said of getting the freshmen ready for Navy. They are locked in, and they are preparing hard. Coaches are working on being as creative as we possibly can to maximize every (permissible) second of the allotted time that we are allowed with them. They will be ready.
The Irish are also young in the defensive lines interior as sophomore nose guard Louis Nix will be playing in his eighth game.
I just got to be aggressive. All the academies that play, they are always aggressive and strive for perfection, said Nix, who has 13 tackles. I got to work on being perfect myself.
Notre Dame was perfect in compiling a 43-game winning streak against Navy (2-5) from 1964 to 2006. The Midshipmen, however, have won three of the last four games.
Our record the past three years hasnt been the best against Navy, Johnson said. If you look back the last 46 years or so before that, we definitely want to get back on a winning streak against them, or start a winning streak against them.
Notre Dame hasnt been ready to stop Navys triple-option attack recently.
The Midshipmen embarrassed the Irish with a series-record 367 rushing yards in Navys 35-17 win last season. Navy ran for 257 yards in a 46-44 triple-overtime win in 2007 and for 348 yards in a 21-13 win in 2009.
Notre Dame has improved against option teams, beating Air Force 59-33 this season and dominating Army in a 27-3 victory in Yankee Stadium last season.
Irish coach Brian Kelly said success against option teams comes from worrying about the final score.
You obviously dont want to give up yards, but at the end of the day, its points versus points, safety Harrison Smith said. Its almost like they are going to get their yards. You just have to keep them off the board.
The Irish will be dealing with a different quarterback. Navy coach Ken Niumataloo ruled starter Kriss Proctor (elbow) out for Saturdays game, and sophomore Trey Miller will make his first start, according to the Capital in Annapolis, Md.
Miller has played in four games, throwing for 172 yards and running for 38.
This is one system where you dont go in and go, If quarterback A plays we do this, and if B is coming in then we got to do that, Kelly said. So there is no difference as it relates to the two quarterbacks.