Grades: Notre Dame Defense vs. Navy
The Notre Dame defense dominated during the team's 52-20 blowout victory over Navy, continuing its recent trend of stellar play on that side of the ball.
Notre Dame held Navy to a season low in points, total offense, yards per play, third-down conversion rate, rushing touchdowns and a season-high in tackles for loss allowed. The rushing yards and yards per rush numbers were the second lowest of the season for Navy.
Early on there were some issues with the quarterback run, as it appeared there was some confusion by the defense on who should play the quarterback. Navy QB Malcolm Perry had runs of 6, 10, 9 and 8 yards on his first five carries to start the game, but the Irish adjusted and his final three carries of the drive went for 2, 3 and -3 yards.
So on Perry’s first five carries, he had four runs of at least five yards. On his next 20 carries, Perry had just three carries of at least five yards.
Notre Dame attacked Navy from the outset with a diverse game plan. The Irish mixed up their looks, but it was clear that the game plan, after the first several plays, had a clear plan on who was supposed to take which part of the option, and the players executed well.
Shutting down the fullback was a key to success for the Irish. The top two fullbacks - Nelson Smith and Jamale Carothers - combined for 107.5 yards per game and 6.1 yards per rush while racking up 15 touchdowns in the first seven games. Notre Dame held that duo to just 48 yards on 12 carries (4.0 YPC).
The Irish defense did a good job tackling and limited big plays, especially in the pass game, while building up a 45-3 lead. There were mistakes and coverage miscues late in the game, which dragged the grade and made it an A- grade.
DE #53 Khalid Kareem - Grade: A — 3 tackles, 2 TFL’s, 2 forced fumbles, 1 break up — Kareem was a major impact player for the Notre Dame defense. He did a lot of dirty work like setting the edge, but when put in position to make plays the senior captain certainly did that. Kareem had two forced fumbles and both came on excellent plays.
The first was a backside hustle play where he forced a fumble while blowing up an attempted reverse. The second came on a snap where the quarterback was trying to cut inside of Kareem, but the veteran defender reached his hand out and knocked the ball away from the quarterback. Kareem also had a pass break up and finished the game with two tackles for loss.
DE #44 Jamir Jones - Grade: C+ — 1 fumble recovery — Jones didn’t make any plays in this game, and his first series started a bit rough, but after that he settled down and played solid football. He was decent on the edge and didn’t lose leverage.
DE #91 Ade Ogundeji - Grade: B- — 1 tackle — Like Jones, Ogundeji didn’t make a lot of plays against Navy, but he did his job effectively. He was physical at the point of attack and set the edge extremely well. He got a good push against the run, showed discipline on the backside and helped clog up the interior run lanes.
DE #29 Ovie Oghoufo - Grade: B — 3 tackles, 0.5 TFL’s, 0.5 sacks, 1 break up — The sophomore filled in admirably for injured captain Julian Okwara. Oghoufo played just 39 snaps in the first nine games of the season, and he matched that total against Navy. Oghoufo looked confident and comfortable, and I was surprised how physical he was on the edge. When given a chance to attack off the edge he made his presence felt.
DT #95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa - Grade: B — 2 tackles — The junior defensive tackle had a quality performance against Navy. Early on he had some issues holding up against double teams, but the deeper Notre Dame got into the game the better he played. Tagovailoa-Amosa played a key role in limiting the success of the Navy fullbacks by crashing hard whenever he saw dive, which either resulted in the defense eating up the fullback or forcing the quarterback to pull the ball and get outside.
DT #41 Kurt Hinish - Grade: C — 1 tackle — Navy was able to knock Hinish off the ball much more than we’re accustomed to seeing him get knocked off the ball, especially early in the game. Navy’s fullbacks had 13 yards on back-to-back carries on the opening drive due to the line blowing Hinish off the ball. He battled all game, but it wasn’t his best performance of the season.
DT #57 Jayson Ademilola — 3 tackles, 1 TFL — A second quarter ankle injury kept Ademilola was having a very high grade and once again having one of the best games of his career. He crashed the backside of the run game extremely hard and the play before he went down he shot into the backfield and brought down the quarterback for a 4-yard loss.
DT #54 Jacob Lacey - Grade: B+ — 4 tackles — Lacey has been a bit banged up recently, and the result has been his game taking a dip. Against Navy, however, we saw Lacey at his best. Instead of playing the nose like he has all season, Lacey was either on the guard or tackle for much of the game, and it allowed him to use his quickness to a much greater degree.
Lacey was extremely quick off the ball and got into the backfield on multiple occasions. He attacked the dive aggressively and his penetration constantly threw off the timing of the Navy run game. Lacey’s quickness and physicality at the point of attack also forced Navy’s linemen to stay on their double teams against him, which allowed the Irish linebackers to get through the line without getting blocked.
DT #55 Ja’mion Franklin - Grade: B — 1 tackle — Franklin played a career-high in snaps and he made the most of his playing time. Outside of two snaps, I felt Franklin held up at the point of attack quite well. He used his leverage effectively and kept his pads low on most snaps, and when he did that the Navy linemen had trouble moving him. Franklin was quick off the ball when asked to shoot gaps, and his block destruction was effective. He had a strong penetration to force the quarterback out to Ademilola for a tackle for loss.
DT #56 Howard Cross III - Grade: B — 5 tackles — Cross had a career-high in snaps, and the freshman had the best game of his young career. The biggest surprise for me was how well he held up inside. Navy couldn’t move him as effectively as it moved other players, which Cross showing the ability to anchor effectively and to pay with good pad level.
When not being asked to eat up blocks, Cross was able to shoot gaps and get good penetration. His ability to get off blocks and get into the backfield was impressive. He lacks the measurable of other players at his position, but against Navy we saw Cross use a combination of quickness, toughness and advanced technique to shine.
A strong case could be made that the backups - Cross, Ademilola, Lacey and Franklin - were by far Notre Dame’s most effective interior players against Navy.
LB #22 Asmar Bilal - Grade: B+ — 5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 fumble recovery — Bilal had another effective game for the Irish. The first thing that stood out was how physical he was getting downhill, and when when the defensive tackles ate up blocks it was Bilal who often shot through the gaps to impact the football. He blew up a perimeter run early in the game and forced a quick pitch later in the game, which allowed his teammate - Drew White - to blow up the run.
Bilal handled the edge effectively as well, and outside of one poor angle he was highly effective on the perimeter and in space.
LB #40 Drew White - Grade: A- — 10 tackles, 1 fumble recovery — White was outstanding against Navy, making plays inside and outside against the option. He did an excellent job attacking downhill with authority, but also hitting the right gaps, which helped the defense limit the big plays between the tackles. He played with good inside-out angles, did a good job keeping contain when he got in space and his ability to close on the football was impressive.
White led the Irish defense with 10 tackles - including six solo stops - despite playing just over two quarters of football. White made plays using a combination of aggressiveness, speed, instincts and toughness.
LB #6 Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah - Grade: B+ — 3 tackles, 1.5 TFL’s, 1.5 sacks — Owusu-Koramoah was asked to do a lot against Navy, and he handled it extremely well. The junior was asked to play in space at times, to play with physicality setting the edge in the run game and at times he was asked to blitz off the edge. No matter what Notre Dam asked him to do, Owusu-Koramoah did it well.
He did a good job not losing leverage outside and he tackled well in space. Despite being just 215 pounds, Owusu-Koramoah was physical on the edge in the run game. On Kyle Hamilton’s 4th-and-1 stop, it was Owusu-Koramoah first and then safety Jalen Elliott that blew up the edge and forced the bounce that Hamilton cleaned up.
Owusu-Koramoah’s first sack was an impressive edge rush. It showed off his much-improved ability to get off blocks, but this time it was against a much bigger defender than we’re used too seeing him go toe-to-toe with.
LB #13 Paul Moala - Grade: A- — 2 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 forced fumble, 1 touchdown — Moala made the most impressive defensive play of the game, tipping a pitch and then hauling it in before turning it for a touchdown. It wasn’t his only impressive play of the game. He had a sack and showed good discipline when Navy tried to run gimmick plays in his direction.
S #11 Alohi Gilman - Grade: B — 4 tackles — Gilman wasn’t around the ball much by design, but he and Elliott did a good job limiting the wheel and seam throws that Navy likes to throw.
S #21 Jalen Elliott - Grade: B- — 2 tackles — Like Gilman, Elliott wasn’t around the ball all that much. He did a good job filling downhill and outside of one early missed tackle he was effective against the run. He took on blocks aggressively and his fill clogged up a run lane that forced the QB outside on a fourth-down play that Kyle Hamilton made.
Elliott was blamed for the 43-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, but I’m not sure it was his responsibility. Based on how Notre Dame had played that route early in the game, Elliott was supposed to play the wheel and the backside safety was supposed to take the seam throw, so I’m not as quick to put that big play on Elliott.
S #14 Kyle Hamilton - Grade: B — 2 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 break up - Hamilton had one of the big plays of the game, making a crucial open-field fourth-down stop. He also had a pass break up in the game, but outside of those two plays he wasn’t asked to be around the ball as much. Where Hamilton and the other safeties made their biggest impact was what I mentioned in the Gilman breakdown, and that was limiting Navy’s downfield throwing game.
CB #5 Troy Pride Jr. - Grade: B — 1 tackle — Pride fell down on the one pass attempt that was thrown at him, which allowed for a 14-yard reception. Outside of that I thought Pride played well. He ate up deep routes on the few pass plays Navy ran, but I was most impressed with how physical he was on perimeter run support. His ability to limit Navy getting outside forced the ball carriers back inside where the help was.
CB #28 TaRiq Bracy - Grade: B — 5 tackles — Like Pride, I felt Bracy was aggressive coming up in run support. He, Elliott and Owusu-Koramoah all played a key role in forcing the quarterback outside on the fourth-down stop Hamilton made. There was one miscommunication between Bracy and a safety in coverage, but other than that I thought he played good football.
CB #20 Shaun Crawford - Grade: C+ — 3 tackles — Crawford had a coverage mishap as well, but fortunately the pass rush got to the quarterback early. He got out-leveraged and missed a tackle on an early outside run by the quarterback.