Notre Dame Football: Trey Miller

The Everett Golson era got off to a great start Saturday for Notre Dame, which dominated Navy in a 50-10 season-opening win at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Golson completed 12 of 18 passes for 144 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Let's take a closer look at how it happened:

It was over when: Theo Riddick rushed for an 11-yard touchdown to cap an 11-play, 75-yard drive over 5:48. Nick Tausch's missed extra point was the only flaw for the Irish, who, unlike last season, completed a stellar opening drive and established their dominance early.

Game ball goes to: Starting in place of suspended Cierre Wood, Riddick rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, adding two catches for 25 yards. George Atkinson III added 99 yards and two TDs on just nine carries.

Stat of the game: Notre Dame outrushing Navy 293 to 149 certainly stands out, but the Midshipmen throwing for 192 might be more surprising, given the history of their ground game.

Unsung hero of the game: Stephon Tuitt had a sack and, in the play of the game, returned a Trey Miller fumble 77 yards. No one came within sight of the 303-pound defensive end, who made it 27-0 in the second quarter. Manti Te'o added a fumble recovery and an interception, both of which, surprisingly enough, were firsts for the senior linebacker.

Second-guessing: Golson will want back a second-quarter telegraphed throw to Tyler Eifert, which was picked off at the 4 by Parrish Gaines. It brought back bad red zone memories from a year ago. Still, better to get such gaffes out of the way early in a blowout.

What it means: Notre Dame couldn't ask for much more, as it took care of business and eliminated any doubt early. Golson looked good in his debut despite the interception. The Irish absolutely dominated in the trenches, and everyone got involved: From Dan McCarthy (fumble recovery) to Robby Toma (9-yard touchdown rush). Big questions remain at cornerback, with KeiVarae Russell at times looking like the true freshman he is, but it will be an enjoyable flight back to the States for Notre Dame.

ND's 2012 opponents, Week 1: Navy

July, 16, 2012
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Week 1: Sept. 1 versus Navy (at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland)
Time/TV: 9 a.m. ET, CBS
Series: Notre Dame leads all-time, 72-12-2
2011 record: 5-7
Head coach: Ken Niumatalolo (32-21, four years)
Returning starters: Offense: 4; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

QB Trey Miller, RB Gee Gee Greene, WR Brandon Turner, WR Matt Aiken, WR Casey Bolena, LT Graham Vickers, LG Josh Cabral, DE Wes Henderson, LB Brye French, LB Matt Warrick, LB Matt Brewer, CB Jonathan Wev, CB David Sperry, CB Parrish Gaines, S Tra'ves Bush, S Chris Ferguson, P Pablo Beltran

Key losses

QB Kriss Proctor, RB Alexander Teich, C Brady DeMell, G John Dowd, RT Ryan Basford, NG Jared Marks, DE Jabaree Tuani, LB Caleb King, LB Jarred Shannon, CB Kwesi Mitchell, K Jon Teague

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Proctor (914 yards)
Passing:
Proctor (787 yards)
Receiving: Turner* (300 yards)
Tackles: Warrick* (103)
Sacks: Tuani (5.5)
Interceptions: Mitchell, Bush*, Ferguson*, Sperry* (2)

Three questions for ... College Football Nation blogger Andrea Adelson:

Versus Notre Dame in Ireland, at Penn State (following a bye). One can think of easier ways to open the season, but Navy has laid a tough task ahead of itself. What can this program take away from those games and environments early on, and do the Midshipmen actually have a shot of stealing one?

Andrea Adelson: Navy is no stranger to playing tough games. This is a program that continually challenges itself. The Midshipmen nearly upset South
Carolina early last year, and have beaten Notre Dame twice in the last three years. If anything, I think opening the season with two incredibly tough games will set this team up for the rest of the season, even if it loses both. There are some young players that are going to get valuable on-the-job training against two traditional power teams and to me, there is no substitute for that as the season moves on. Can they steal one? Absolutely. Last time I checked, neither team is Alabama. I never count Navy out of a game.

Quarterback Trey Miller got thrown into the fire early last season following Kriss Proctor's injury. How much will that help Miller this year, especially with running an offense as sophisticated as Navy's?

AA: I spoke with coach Ken Niumatalolo during the spring, and he is really excited about having Miller start this year. Niumatalolo called Miller's performance against Notre Dame last year "baptism under fire," so I think he learned a valuable lesson from that experience. Any time you can go into the year with some game experience as the bona fide starting quarterback, it helps. But no question, opening the season on the road against the Irish is going to be a huge task for Miller and the entire offense.

There's no beating around the bush. Navy, due to turnovers and poor execution, often beat itself last season. (That may sound familiar to readers of this space.) With five of last season's losses coming by three points or fewer, just how close is Navy this year to getting back on track and returning to a bowl game?

AA: I think Navy will get back to a bowl game. What really surprised me about last season is Navy rarely beats itself. In fact, Navy is usually one of the most disciplined teams in all of college football. Niumatalolo basically went back to the basics this spring and stressed that discipline. "We are paying more attention to detail," he told me. "I know we lost close games last year and there are small little things we missed that cost us a game, and I think that resonates with our guys because they know losing five games by 11 points, they saw all the little things we could get better."

Early 2012 opponent power rankings

January, 10, 2012
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With 2011 in the rearview mirror, here is an early look at Notre Dame's 2012 opponents, with the game date and site in parantheses.

1. USC (Nov. 24, away): Matt Barkley's return makes the Trojans a trendy preseason national title pick and Barkley a likely preseason Heisman frontrunner. They host the Irish in the regular-season finale, and how sweet it would be for Notre Dame should they knock their rivals off with the highest stakes on the line.

2. Oklahoma (Oct. 27, away): Like the Trojans, the Sooners return their prized quarterback (Landry Jones) and will, at the very least, enter 2012 as the Big 12 favorite.

3. Michigan State (Sept. 15, away): Kirk Cousins and Keshawn Martin are gone, but the Spartans return four offensive linemen and plenty of production on the defensive side of the ball as they go for a third-straight 11-win season.

4. Michigan (Sept. 22, home): Denard Robinson and several key skill players likely return, but the Wolverines lose a lot on each line and will rely on several young players to fill the void.

5. Stanford (Oct. 13, home): Perhaps the biggest mystery entering 2012. We just don't know how much this team will drop off following the likely loss of Andrew Luck. Time will tell.

6. BYU (Oct. 20, home): Another wild card. Much will depend on the growth of dual-threat QB Riley Nelson and the Cougars' offense.

7. Purdue (Sept. 8, home): The Boilermakers finished 2011 with back-to-back wins for the first time this season and have a bit of momentum under Danny Hope. Some see them as a darkhorse Leaders Division contender in 2012.

8. Miami (Oct. 6, Chicago): The Hurricanes will likely be led by a defense that returns eight starters for Al Golden's second year.

9. Wake Forest (Nov. 17, home): Quarterback Tanner Price is back, but the Demon Deacons must eliminate the mistakes that cost them five of their final six games and two assistants their jobs.

10. Boston College (Nov. 10, away): The Eagles got better as the season went on and hope new offensive coordinator Doug Martin can bring the unit up to speed with the defense, which loses Luke Kuechly.

11. Navy (Sept. 1, Dublin): Can Trey Miller build off 2011, when he was forced in midseason for the injured Kriss Proctor?

12. Pitt (Nov. 3, home): New coach Paul Chryst will have his work cut out for him on a team with quarterback, protection and, at least in the past calendar year, coaching issues.

What to Watch: Week 9 vs. Navy

October, 27, 2011
10/27/11
10:30
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Keep an eye out for the following this Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium:
  • More music?: OK, maybe this should be what to hear. Still, I'm interested to see how much music is played again. Some of it was a pleasant surprise (Dropkick Murphys for opening kick) and some of it was a tad annoying (Ozzy, anyone?), but the game-day atmosphere has generated plenty of talk throughout the past week. I'm curious to see if there are any new -- or as many -- tricks rolled out for an afternoon game against Navy, as there were for a night game against USC.
  • Michael Floyd returning punts: He has to at some point, right? Granted, there weren't too many punts the last time Notre Dame played a team that likes to run the option, in Week 6 against Air Force, but at some point a situation must arise where we get to see what the dynamic wide receiver can do on special teams. The long wait has many anxious, and the Irish could certainly use the boost back there.
  • How Trey Miller responds: Navy's sophomore quarterback is making his first career start, and it is coming at one of the game's most legendary venues. He led a valiant second-half comeback attempt last week against East Carolina, but he also misfired on a potential game-winning touchdown pass on the final drive. How he responds in a vastly different environment against an Irish defense looking to bounce back from last week's showing at USC is anyone's guess.
And you thought Notre Dame was the victim of so many bad breaks.

Navy, the Irish's opponent this Saturday, is 2-5. It is in the middle of a five-game losing streak that has featured four games decided by three points or less -- a total of eight points covering four defeats.

The latest wrong turn in a Midshipmen season that has seen so many came in Saturday's 38-35 home loss to East Carolina, which ended with Jon Teague's 42-yard field goal bouncing off the right upright when time expired … which came two plays after Matt Aiken's seemingly good 33-yard touchdown catch was ruled incomplete and upheld … which came two quarters after starting quarterback Kriss Proctor left the game with a left-elbow injury -- and yes, he's a southpaw.

That loss came one week after blowing a 10-point second-half lead at Rutgers, which won by one point thanks in large part to a blocked field goal attempt with less than five minutes to play.

Two weeks earlier, Navy came back from an 18-point second-half deficit against Air Force to force overtime … where the Midshipmen lost by one thanks, again, in large part to a blocked extra point in overtime. That one came from the 35-yard line after Proctor received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after his one-yard touchdown run.

In Navy's game before that, in an attempt to go 3-0 and beat a top-10 team for the first time since 1984, the Midshipmen had a pass picked off in the fourth quarter, sealing a 24-21 loss at then-No. 10 South Carolina.

The losing continued from then on.

Proctor is a longshot to return Saturday, meaning sophomore Trey Miller will likely make his first career start. Miller completed 5 of 12 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns Saturday.

For two teams ready to take out the frustrations of seemingly mounting bad breaks, this Saturday probably cannot come soon enough.

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