I understand that, being service academies, people are always going to draw certain parallels between Navy and Army. But holy hell this is ridiculous. It was bad enough listening to both the NBC broadcast and the Notre Dame radio team make the Army=Navy argument all night long, but I figured that they’re just idiots. Surely the coaches wouldn’t try to say such nonsense, right?

But this game belonged to the defense. Kelly and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco scrapped their normal 3-4 look and turned outside linebacker Darius Fleming back into a defensive end.

The 4-3 front also included third cornerback Robert Blanton playing essentially a drop linebacker position.

“I thought we clearly needed to be more physical,” Kelly said, “As the game slowed down, we could chase the football down. This scheme was about being more physical.”

It also was about redemption for Diaco, who has been muted from the media for the past couple of weeks and his critics were anything but.

I think it just allows us to say (Navy) was an anomaly,” Kelly said, “Listen, we haven’t given up a touchdown in the month of November. You don’t do that by accident.”

I’m sure that the Navy game is a real stain on Brian Kelly’s first season as Notre Dame’s head coach, so he has to play the spin game a little. I get it. But really? A fluke?

Army is not the same team as Navy. They run a different offense and a different defense with different players led by different coaches. One team is about to play in its eighth consecutive bowl game, has two 10-win seasons in the last six, is still in the hunt for another 10-win season, and is graduating a class that already had two wins over Notre Dame before Kelly even knew the job was available. The other team is Army. Anyone who thinks that a win over one has any bearing on the other is clueless.

I don’t know if Notre Dame’s coaches really believe they’ve found the magic option answer or if they’re just trying to save face, but I PRAY that they line up against Navy next year the same way they did against Army in Yankee Stadium last night.


  1. krafty81

    I liked the “pre-whine” comment by Kelly about discussing “cut blocks” with the refs prior to the game. It just never ends from ND types…

  2. Navyfan111950

    Given the comments made by the Notre Dame coaching staff after the Navy-Notre Dame game this year, I am not surprised by their comments now. Not surprised, but equally ticked off. This blatant arrogance should ensure that we should see the same or a very similar defensive scheme next year. Hopefully, even though I graduate this year, I can find a way to get myself to next year’s Navy-Notre Dame game so I can continue to say that every time I have been to South Bend, I have seen Navy win.

  3. Eric

    Isn’t this the same kind of arrogance Corwin Brown pointed out last year when KN said we thought we knew how they’d line up? Careful Mike, you’re sounding a little cocky here.

  4. Navy05

    I wonder if the NCAA will let Notre Dame change their record from 6-5 to 7-4 now. While they’re at it go ahead add two more wins and make it 9-4 because beating Army is like beating Air Force and Georgia Tech too.

  5. Kevin LeBlanc

    Hey, I was wondering, Mike. When you say you pray they line up the same was against Navy next year, is it because they seemed to lock the strong safety on the pitch man (something you’ve proven pretty much doesn’t work) or was there some other issue? I figure it’s probable that they come up with a better defense against Navy next year. However effective that will be, who knows. Also, does Army run through the same gaps as Navy typically does on its bread-and-butter plays? It looks like Army is hybrid of Navy’s offense and traditional Power-T / Wishbone offenses.

  6. Dave'69

    Unfortunately, next year ND plays Air Force three weeks before they play us. That will give them a chance to test their theory that they have discovered the answer to the TO. (AF = Army = Navy). Although they have a bye week after AF, the following week they play USC followed by Navy. Should be interesting.

  7. DJ

    In 2009, Navy opened up with a hard fought loss at a highly ranked BCS opponent, Ohio State. Later that year, Navy won on the road at a ranked BCS like opponent, Notre Dame. Even later that year, Navy demolished a BCS opponent that is highly ranked this year, Missouri.

    So, does Navy get credit for the “anomaly” in Columbus with a win, you know, because ipso facto they beat Ohio State?

  8. Dave

    I’m with Kevin LeBlanc. I’m eager to read how Army’s offensive scheme is “different”.

    If Ellerson could run all the same stuff he did at Cal Poly I get it. But he doesn’t because he can’t. Army’s scheme looks a lot like Navy’s to me.

  9. Kevin LeBlanc

    Mike, was I at least onto something with my half-Power-T / half-Navy-spread observation? People are forgetting that Army is terrible at passing and Notre Dame could play with basically 10 guys in the box, which had to have led to their success. I know the offenses are different, but what are the basic differences? Looks to me like Army is closer to the Power-T than the Navy Spread.

  10. Dave

    Kevin, I’d guess that the big question is whether the ND ILBs were shooting the same gaps that they did against Navy. That was the major point Mike made in the original post. Considering Ellerson’s lineage I’d think Army’s attack at least resembles Navy’s.

  11. Kevin LeBlanc

    Dave, I don’t think they were shooting the gaps like they did against Navy. Plus, Army runs outside more and their offense appears to be more based on bringing one or both of the running backs to the point of attack. Like running isolation in the Power-T. Looks like they took one of the backs in the Power-T and brought them down to the slotback position. They don’t use motion as much as Navy and they don’t run a symmetrical spread like Navy does. So I guess unless Mike contributes a nugget, we’re only speculating I shouldn’t have deleted the DVR of the game to make space. haha.

  12. Dave

    I didn’t get to see the game, and I’m hoping we’ll see an analysis, even though its not Navy.

    I spent a good deal of time a couple of years ago poring over Cal Poly’s 2008 game against Wisconsin. Ellerson ran a decent amount of I-formation stuff, often motioning a slotback behind the fullback. Not a spread formation mind you. But bringing the slotback to a full stop behind the fullback.

    And of course Ellerson threw much, much more at Cal Poly than he is ever likely to do at Army.

  13. Kevin LeBlanc

    I suppose that throwing the ball at Army is a difficult situation because it is harder to get the athletes. But I suppose that may be just an assumption. Anytime you get teams from conferences that are not used to playing against a traditional option-based offense, it’s always fun to see how the defensive coordinator handles it. In Notre Dame’s case, Diaco’s squad got smoked. They’ve played well in every other game. It’s obvious he just didn’t understand it.

  14. EKWJR

    Looks like the bottom line is that until Navy goes to South Bend next season and repeats the “fluke”, we are going to have to listen to it.

  15. Kevin LeBlanc

    @EKWJR: As an ND fan, I can tell you that most ND fans don’t think it’s a fluke. A lot of Notre Dame fans that I talked to were honestly torn on whether or not Notre Dame could beat Navy this year. Part of it is that we lost a few times lately, part of it is blind cynicism (Oh, we can’t even beat NAVY now…woe is me…), and the other part is that Navy has continually been an improved team over the past 10 years. It may not be the sort of recognition that Navy fans want, but Notre Dame doesn’t think you’re a joke. I guarantee that ‘ol Diaco will go to option school and be ready for next year. But I have the feeling that Coach Jasper will have some wrinkles ready…possibly even the veer. ;)

  16. usmc53

    Why get upset by this? We have scoreboard on them for 3 of the last 4 years, including knocking them out of BCS contention in 2009. Beautiful. To me, it just makes them look pathetic; not something to be upset or annoyed about.

  17. 901458

    I’m sure IJ will throw in some quick slants to the Tight Ends along with the veer to give Notre Lame something new to look at next year.

  18. Dave

    Kevin, I think there is a small chance that Diaco won’t be the DC next season. Chuck Martin could be next guy. Of course there are still a couple of kinda important games to go.

  19. Kevin LeBlanc

    @Dave: I’m not worried about Diaco because the defense has been better than usual, even when taking into account the Navy game. If you look at how God-awful they were last year, the fact that they’re holding some decent teams to low scores says something. I don’t think they’d get rid of him unless there was some serious conflict between him and the head coach. I’m at the point where I just trust Kelly & Co. They’re the people in the best position to make that kind of call.

  20. SnickyD87

    While I am a USNA graduate and a die-hard Navy Football fan, I have always maintained a degree of respect for Notre Dame football…until the past few years as the ND whine factor has increased exponentially. Mediocre (at best) records, cheap shots on and off the field, and just an overall (as my teenage son would say…) “lameness” to the program and coaches. Regardless of what defense they will present next year, I hope we fuel the sniveling with another stomping. Go Navy!

  21. Anonymous

    Not sure why you guys are reading Kelly’s post game comments as a slam against Navy. I recall Kelly being gracious in defeat and applauding Navy’s game plan and effort.

    Fact is that Diaco has been on the hot seat big time since his horrible gameplan against Navy as well as his brutal Q and A with the press afterward. You may recall that he admitted that there was no “backup” plan in that Q and A. I think all Kelly is saying is that, on the whole, the defense has been improved this year, and that the performance against Navy was an anomaly in that respect. Doesn’t mean that they would stone Navy if they played them again, or that they will stone them next year. Diaco and the team fucked up against Navy, but that doesn’t mean the entire year has been a lost cause for the D.

    I know you guys hate Army, but you are reaching for an insult here. Army is a damn good rushing offense, and ND shut them down. Kelly is merely giving credit to his defense.

  22. Anonymous

    He’s not talking about losses, he’s talking about the way the defense played. Cripes, if you’re going to take the time to let something this silly get stuck in your craw, at least read the quote properly and in context.

    Navy is the only game this year where ND’s defense shat the bed, in comparison to the opponent’s season average. In that respect, it is an anomaly.

  23. BCR9751

    @Anonymous … you hit the nail right on the head. Typical Notre Dame spin none of the credit goes to Navy. As you point out, Navy won because “the [Notre Dame] performance against Navy was an anomaly” and “Diaco and the team fucked up” not because Navy is a better team that beat some Notre damn butt.

    And by the way, we don’t hate Army. Most of us would love for Army to be 11-1 every year, with that loss coming to Navy.

  24. 98AV8TR

    @Anonymous (if that is your real name)–First of all, most Navy fans don’t “hate” Army. We reserve that emotion for air farce and nd.

    Second, just because you are paranoid, does NOT mean they aren’t out to get you–Kelly doesn’t NEED to defend his other losses. He has to defend the Navy loss for some reason. Couple it with the silly cut block argument (“Dirty Mids…They’re trying to hurt us….”) and we get a good insight into their true feelings for Navy. Noble, but not really worthy. Yes, Diaco took a beating, and he should have (even if only for his interview Monday Morning) but why is it still coming up.

    Third, Looking forward to some more analyses. Any chance of a good A-N analysis prior to the game?

    Nice work on the blog, Mike.

  25. EightyFiver

    “Navy is the only game this year where ND’s defense shat the bed, in comparison to the opponent’s season average.”

    Actually, the ND game was probably closer to the statistical mean/median for Navy’s offense than you might think, particularly for those played in the second half of the season.

  26. 90

    I know it’s not what Kelly meant, but he’s right, Navy’s offense is an anomaly…a discrepancy or deviation from an established rule, trend, or pattern…one that arrogant DCs have a difficult time understanding.
    Here’s hoping that arrogance makes it 4 out of 5.

  27. Kevin LeBlanc

    @Bearshark: Tulsa’s offense didn’t put up many points against Notre Dame. I believe 14 of those points were an INT for a touchdown and a punt return for a touchdown. Diaco couldn’t do anything there.

  28. GoalieLax

    lol Navy didn’t just abuse Notre Dame’s defense…Navy punished your offense as well.

    BTW, nice job shrugging off giving up 400 yards of offense to Tulsa in South Bend.

  29. Kevin LeBlanc

    I’m not “shrugging anything off”…that game went poorly for a lot of reasons. But that’s probably Tulsa’s average per game. So all it suggests is they didn’t play particularly well. And considering ND lost their starting quarterback at the beginning of the game, it’s easy to see why turning the ball over a bunch contributed to that a little. Not a great game, but they still didn’t break much. I’m not trying to get into a pissing contest here, but if you want to be all cocky for beating what is now a 6-5 Notre Dame team, be my guest. I like Navy too, so I’m glad they’re having a pretty good season. Both teams have their pronounced flaws.

  30. Navy72

    ND beats Navy in 43 consecutive games. Then ’07 comes and Navy blows up the ND narrative of “Noble winners”. Then ’09 and ’10 come. Uh, oh.

    We’re ND. We don’t lose to a team with pint-sized running backs, playing a high school offense and using under-sized linemen.

    Disillusion takes hold. “They” play dirty. Navy’s head coach doesn’t appreciate our genius-like defensive schemes. “They” don’t play fair because they used an “unbalanced line” and employed the deadly “veer”.

    ND wonders: God might not be dead, but He’s sure as hell isn’t paying attention.

    The earth is no longer flat. These things take time to settle in. ND fans shift to the indifferent God postulate.

    Navy fans: kick up your feet, pop the bottle, and enjoy the show. We’ll stick with St. Paul (Johnson).

  31. Kevin

    @Bill The Goat:

    Yes, the “cut” blocks were a big discussion this year. Yes, they were a talking point that was annoying because people still don’t know the difference between a cut and a chop block. But people talked about cut and chop blocks before the 2002 Notre Dame / Air Force game as well. I remember it well because it was when I started watching football and I didn’t know what either term meant. What it boils down to, and this will irritate people, is that whoever that Navy player was that blatantly chopped the ND player after the play was over last year brought this all on. That was what Corwin Brown was pissed off about after the game and that is was brought it to the forefront. Anything involving Notre Dame football is magnified, good or bad. Yes, I agree it’s different when we’re talking about line blocking, but Brian Kelly was clear to say (a few weeks ago) that the option football style of play is what leads to more *accidental* chop blocks…not that Navy or Army try to sneak them in. So it’s not all bad. Navy just needs to keep winning. Obviously the officials know there’s nothing wrong with a cut block, so that’s all that matters.

  32. Eric


    That play has been discussed ad nauseum on here and other blogs. For someone who laments the people who don’t know the difference between a cut and a chop block, you should know that a chop block requires two blockers.

    The hit from last year’s game was not a chop block–it was a from-the-side cut block executed by one player, and was NOT after the whistle. It was questionable because it was away from the play and possibly a clip, but the whistle hadn’t blown. The WR was flagged for it–what more do you want?

    A single questionable hit isn’t indicative of the way we play any more than #56’s gut-stomp in this year’s game is indicative of ND being dirty.

  33. Kevin

    @Eric: Hey, I’m not comparing whose players are dirtier. I think you see less of that stuff out of teams like Navy and Notre Dame, so it’s all equal. I’m saying that’s what started all the extra discussion this year.

    But you’re right. In an ironic twist, I used the wrong word. I meant the word “chopped” in the literal verbal sense, not the football sense. But in my mistake, I illustrate my point even better: people don’t know what it is and categorize them all together. I know what a chop is…I’ve spent the last two weeks explaining why there’s nothing wrong with Navy’s play and what a chop block penalty is. It’s been a fun conversation each time, too, especially when it gets to “Why don’t they just be MEN and block high”…fun conversations, indeed.

  34. Kevin

    @hunkerdawg: You’re acting like everything you hate about teams like Notre Dame. Shows you how quickly success can turn people…

    Be proud of the tradition we have. It’s something beyond a football victory.

  35. gary BALLARD

    As a navy fan for more than fifty years and a grad, i have followed N-ND over the entire slate of games. We always had high respect for ND for their quality teams, high academic standards and sportsmanship, but it has been disheartening to see what appears to be a bit of poor loser syndrome from coaches, fans and South Bend press alike. ND always had great respect for Navy and the tradition so long as ND was winning. For my part, the member of the ND team I have respect for is the big safety who said that Navy didn’t run the “veer” or anything new, that “we just didn’t defend it.” As for chop blocks, that is the way we blocked in the old days, but is now illegal. Cut blocking is a great equalizer since it is difficult to tackle the runner if you are on the ground. Let’s bury the hatchet and get back to a more gentlemanly way of playing together between two schools with high standards.

  36. shaun

    the Whining Irish strike again. Please please bring on next year so the mids can clean their clocks again, and we at the schadenfreude brauhaus can sit back, drink a few and listen…joy to the suffering of the insuferable as they lamely attempt yet another round of gaming of the refs pre and post game. The degree to which they did that pre-Army week was sad. Very sad. How the mightly have fallen.

  37. Gary

    Fact is ND was “fine” after we broke the streak and blamed it all on the “Weiss ERA(error). The though being that even David slayed Goliath one time and eventually it had to come.
    But now its just full on denial and bad sportsmenship all around from ND team-staff journalists and many if not most of their fans.
    I cannot explain the total disgust these fans showed by losing yet again to Navy in NJ-Though it was beautiful.
    So they took it out on Army as if that would erase the loss as it seems to have done from their memory banks.
    Ah see we played the way we should have against Navy-Bring em on again!.
    Sorry ND(no nobody here “hates” Army-beat em-Hell Yes- But when all your scribes try to lump us in with them-thats just pure denial-stupidity and a total insult to what we have built since PJ !
    If they cant get over it then we should let the Coast Guard Academy take our place!
    What the hell=they really “LOOK THE SAME”‘

  38. gary BALLARD

    my football was limited to high school, but back in the fifties, we often double teamed, with one guy hitting the defender high and the other low to take him out of the play. offensive linemen could not use their hands and the refs didn’t often call foul for blocking someone below the waist, even if he was being blocked by another player. if you want more info you will need to talk to someone who knows a lot more about football than i do.

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