Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly will never forget the first time he led the Irish against Navy.
The Midshipmen ran for 367 yards, the most ever by Navy against Notre Dame, as they defeated the Irish 35-17 on Oct. 24, 2010, in East Rutherford, N.J.
Since then Notre Dame has become a much stronger team against the run, and the Irish (6-2) enter Saturday's home game against the Midshipmen (4-3) ranked 42nd in rush defense, giving up 144.1 yards per game.
Kelly told reporters Thursday that the loss to Navy in 2010 didn't directly lead to Notre Dame's improved run defense, but it is a game that has stayed with him.
"I just think that we felt like there's only been a couple of times since we've been here where we felt like we let the players down, and as coaches you never want to feel that way," Kelly said. "I take full responsibility for that. You want your team prepared. That's why we're in this profession, to prepare our kids. We weren't prepared properly. We redoubled our efforts based off that game to make sure that never happens again.
"I think that's true, in terms of our focus and preparation, but I don't know if that game was an event that caused us to be a better run defense. I think it just really focused us on our preparation and attention every single day to the smallest detail."
Notre Dame held Navy to 149 rushing yards in last year's 50-10 season-opening win in Dublin, Ireland, and the Irish held the Midshipmen to 196 rushing yards in a 56-14 home win in 2011.
But Kelly said that doesn't mean the Irish have figured out how to stop a Midshipmen offense that is 10th in the nation in rushing with 292.1 yards per game.
"We're trying to prepare for this week with more answers to the quarterback, some more answers to lead-option," Kelly said. "Some of their basic bread-and-butter plays, and how they're going to get them whether they're in unbalanced or snug or different formations. Being prepared to stop those plays, because they're still going to come to the same plays, they're just going to be in different looks. Having answers or stoppers to those is really the things that we're looking at."