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Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Irish prepare for more option

By Matt Fortuna

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Last year, Notre Dame surrendered 367 rushing yards to Navy in a 35-17 loss, its third in four years to the Midshipmen.

Nearly three weeks ago, the Irish gave up 363 yards to Air Force in a 59-33 win.

This year Air Force boasts the nation's No. 2 rushing attack, with Navy right behind at No. 3.

"Big plays; keep the points down," Brian Kelly said. "Big plays, minimize, take away the big play, and keep the points down. Don't care about yardage. When you play an option team, you're going to give up yardage. You can't give up the big play, because you've got somebody with their eyes in the backfield and now here comes the slot on an arc release and he's running free down the middle of the field.

"So when you play option teams, the yardage is irrelevant. It's all about minimizing big plays and keeping the points down."

Navy is more of a traditional option team than Air Force, which just happens to really like to run the option, along with several other formations, throughout the course of a game.

Before this year's Air Force game, Kelly had said his team got away from who it was in the loss to Navy before it returned to its physical nature four weeks later in a win over Army.

"We obviously have bigger guys, faster guys across the board," safety Harrison Smith said. "So really like we say, whenever we play an option team, it just comes down to doing your assignment, and then when you get there, kind of imposing your will against them. If you have the physical advantage, if you can match them mentally, then you can really kind of capitalize on that physical advantage."

Despite having the third-best rushing offense and third-worst passing offense in the nation, Navy is just 38th in time of possession, though that is still 44 spots ahead of Air Force.

The Falcons turned the ball over twice in the second half against Notre Dame and allowed touchdowns on their first six defensive possessions. They were never able to keep up.

Navy has just nine turnovers this season. Its defense ranks 95th nationally.

"Well, you obviously don't want to give up yards, but at the end of the day, it's points versus points. That's the game," Smith said. "So if you can keep the points down, that's how you win the game. You know, especially against a team like Navy who, you know, average so many rushing yards and they make big plays through the air.

"So really, if you can cut out those big plays through the air, don't let them pop the long runs and kind of get them off track and get them into second-and-long, third-and-long, that's kind of where you can capitalize, and it's almost like they are going to get their yards. You just have to keep them off the board."