Thursday, November 13, 2008

Navy/Notre Dame This Weekend!!

As stated, we won't be in attendance but will be viewing from home. I wanted to post this editorial I just received from Lady. It's awesome! We'll get back to the blog after this message:

For Navy-Notre Dame, Things Have Changed
By Adam Nettina
Posted Nov 11, 2008

ab·er·ra·tion ­noun 1.the act of departing from the right, normal, or usualcourse. 2.the act of deviating from the ordinary, usual, or normal type.An aberration.
For Notre Dame fans, that's all that it was. That was all that is was supposed to be. Maybe not even that. A fluke, an accident, ajoke; the inevitable planet-aligning moment that comes maybe once in a fourdecade span. The one time of coach Danny O'Shea beating his big brotherKevin up Cherry Tree Lane in a bike race set to the backdrop of Disney's TheLittle Giants. The product of poor recruiting under a past coach, transfers, and the unfortunate reality of the ubiquitous "rebuilding year" more than anything else. No, that's all that it was, and perhaps more importantly, that's all that it would ever be. Quite simply it happened, it happened once, and as far as most Notre Dame fans would tell you, it was and is in the past. A year after the Naval Academy's historic upset of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend the question begs to be asked whether or not the Midshipmen can do it again. The consensus, for those who even bothered giving an answer, seems to have been a decided "no" even before the season started.

Such a response seemed validated when Notre Dame pulled out to a 4-1 start, while the Midshipmen struggled to get to 2-2 with losses to Ball State and Duke before winning in "lucky" fashion against a clearly down Rutgers club. For the preseason pundits, and indeed for anyone living the requisite 44 years, it just seemed unfathomable that another Navy victory could occur again, especially with the departure of Navy headman Paul Johnson, who for so many came to represent the only man alive who could win at a Service Academy in the 21st century. Throw in an injury to starting quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaeheaku-Enhada and the rapid, if not long-expected maturation of Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen, and suddenly it looked like the natural order of the universe would come to a quick and fairly nonchalant return.

On Contrairem Mon Frere

There's a reason we find ourselves debating this point several weeks later, and contrary to popular belief it doesn't necessarily have to do with a slight Navy-leaning bias on my own accord. In fact, all one has to do is look at Notre Dame's 1-3 record over the past month to see the Irish have hit something of a rough patch, while the Mids, winners of four out of their last five, have defied the early season skeptics once again to achieve bowl eligibility. And while wins and losses alone seldom, if ever, tell the whole story, a closer examination of the makeup of each team headed into the game may very well reveal the answer to our central question. So, could Navy possible do it again? To imply that the Irish have a Divine-mandated right to defeat the Midshipmen every year may be pushing it, but after winning 43 straight it wasn't like Notre Dame fans were going to the excess of hyperbole to define the streak as solidly one sided. That, I suppose, is the mindset of thosei ndividuals like writer Frank Vitovitch, who just this week called the Navy game an "easy win" for the Irish, who oh-by-the-way were held scoreless in a 17-0 loss to Boston College a week ago. Yet what Frank does not seem to understand - and indeed, what the majority of Irish fans are still unable to grasp coming into Saturday's game - is that things havec hanged between the two opponents, who maintain the longest intersectional rivalry in the game today. Don't believe me? Well, let's look past the obvious and yearly disparities we so often get hung up on. Let us, to actually be real, look at the make-up of the 2008 versions of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Navy Midshipmen. That is to say, let's challenge ourselves to look past that it's Notre Dame and Navy and to look at it more as Team A and Team B. After all, one can't ignore that after last year's upset some kind of blurring effect did take place, to the extent that the game can no longer be considered just a "showup and win number" for an Irish team composed of players who lost to essentially the same group of Navy players a year ago. When I look at this game I see two distinct teams. I see one with amazing potential; filled with some of the nation¹s top young athletes and brightest coaches. I see a team playing on the big stage of national TV every week,and one which has found success ­ however inconsistently- against some very good defenses. I also see a team which doesn't know how to finish games, tends to play to the level of its competition, and lacks a "killer-instinct" after suffering through a 3-9 year. I see a team horded by questions over offensive play-calling, lack of timely defensive stops, and one which may or may not be subjected to the (multi) million-dollar question of whether or not their head coach deserves to return.

On the other side I see a team which is painfully inconsistent on offense at times, injury-riddled, undersized, and attempting to find its way after the departure of the one man who could bring consistent winning to the program. I see a team with obvious physical limitations, one which masks defensive problems with timely turnover benefits, and a team that may be forced to start a wide-eyed sophomore quarterback who by the coach's own admission does not fully grasp the entire offense. Yet despite these shortcoming I see- as I have seen from the press box week in and week out- the single most resolute college football team in the country, one which will fight and crawl its way to the very end of every game with only one goal in mind; victory. I see a team, very simply, that knows how to win, and once more comes into this game having beaten their opponent a year ago.

So, is this still sounding like that crazy of a proposition? You see, if breaking down games were left up to only those who provided tangible and quantifiable numbers than there would be no reason to disagree with people like Mark May. To say that Notre Dame's 21st ranked passing offense should thrash Navy's 108th ranked pass efficiency defense is all well and good, but what does that actually tell me about the mindset of the teams playing? Not much. Now, if you want to talk about how Navy "somehow" found a way to beat Rutgers and "somehow" found a way to overcome Wake Forest - while at the same time providing for an explanation on how Notre Dame fell Pittsburgh despite a two touchdown halftime lead, well then we're talking. It may not be popular, it may not even be conventional, but in a sport defined more and more by the emotional mindset of team's there is no substitute for the intangible factors.

So, based on this knowledge I ask it again. Can Navy, ever the underdog even against a struggling Notre Dame team, possibly do it again? Don't get me wrong. The Mids are no Notre Dame, and the idea of Navy competing with the Irish on a year-to-year basis is an unrealistic expectation for even the most overzealous of Navy football fans. Yet to ignore the intangible makeup of each team going into Saturday's contest would be a grievous mistake. The fact remains that at their core, this year's Navy team and this year's Notre Dame team come into the game with different mindsets and different dispositions. One, to be perfectly frank, is coming in desperate; the other is coming in confident and with nothing to lose. Once more, Navy, having released the pressure of 43-years of futility, has a new lease on the meaning of the series, and a dedicated group ofupperclassman who expect to win on a consistent basis. All that, and they won the game last year on the road!You can talk about the matchups and numbers all you want, but when it comes to answering the question of whether or not Navy beat Notre Dame again this year, I think the dispositions of the two teams clearly indicates the answer.

Now it's only a matter of watching and waiting, and leaving the final outcome to be decided on the gridiron.

No comments: