Army hopes to keep Notre Dame on skids

Seek­ing a bowl game, Cadets look to bounce back from loss to Air Force at ex­pense of Fight­ing Ir­ish

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By John Kekis AP Sports Writer

Army and Notre Dame have at least one thing in com­mon this sea­son: Each has had trou­ble against op­tion at­tacks.

When they meet on Satur­day in San An­to­nio at the Alam­od­ome, Army (54) just might have a small edge. The Black Knights use the clock-chew­ing triple op­tion, and the Ir­ish (3-6) are reel­ing from a one-point loss to Navy, their third set­back in four games in what so far is the worst of Brian Kelly’s seven sea­sons as head coach.

The chance to play in a bowl game is still a pos­si­bil­ity for both teams. Kelly said he planned no changes.

“We’re all go­ing through a tough spot, but we’re per­se­ver­ing,” Kelly said. “It’s not where any­body wants to be. But we’re han­dling the sit­u­a­tion as best we can and we’re try­ing to make cer­tain that ev­ery­thing that we do makes us stronger for right now and for the fu­ture.”

The Black Knights are com­ing off a 31-12 loss at home to Air Force, whose op­tion was in high gear. De­spite a sub­par show­ing against the Fal­cons — 144 yards on 40 car­ries — Army still ranks sec­ond na­tion­ally in rush­ing (320.3 yards per game), av­er­ag­ing 5.3 yards per carry.

“De­fen­sively, an­other chal­lenge of play­ing a triple-op­tion team that ... runs the ball very, very well and can be op­por­tunis­tic throw­ing the foot­ball,” Kelly said. “So, fo­cus is on, ob­vi­ously, the de­tails and the ex­e­cu­tion. In a large de­gree, we were able to do a lot of those things well last week, but not as well as Navy.”

Notre Dame’s six losses have come by a com­bined 29 points (4.8 per game), and all were one-pos­ses­sion games.

“That hap­pens,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “They’ve had op­por­tu­ni­ties to win a lot of foot­ball games and just haven’t had a break go their way or the other team has made a play. That’s sports.”

Last week, trail­ing 28-24 mid­way through the fourth quar­ter Kelly opted for a 31-yard field goal in­stead of gam­bling on fourth-and-4 deep in Navy ter­ri­tory. He made the call even though his de­fense had not forced

a punt, and Notre Dame never got the ball back, fin­ish­ing the game with just six pos­ses­sions.

Navy ran out the clock with its triple-op­tion of­fense, con­vert­ing two huge fourth-down plays on the fi­nal drive.

“We learned quite a bit the last week. We def­i­nitely learned how to value our pos­ses­sion on the of­fen­sive side of the ball,” Notre Dame quar­ter­back DeShone Kizer said. “When you have the op­por­tu­nity to take shots, you’ve got to be suc­cess­ful with them be­cause your pos­ses­sions are limited when you’re play­ing against a triple-op­tion team.”

Other things to know when Army plays Notre Dame on Satur­day:

KELLY-HOLTZ CON­NEC­TION

Kelly will tie Lou Holtz for the most losses at Notre Dame with his next de­feat. Holtz had a 100-30-2 record in 11 sea­sons at South Bend. Kelly is 58-29 in seven sea­sons at Notre Dame and just 14-13 in his last 27 games with the Ir­ish. Char­lie Weis is next in losses with a 35-27 record in five sea­sons.

STOUT DE­FENSE

The Army de­fense is fifth in the na­tion in pass­ing yards al­lowed per game (166.6) and sixth in to­tal de­fense (286.4). It’s also 13th in the coun­try in scor­ing de­fense (18.1 points).

NAVY HAN­GOVER

Notre Dame has of­ten strug­gled in the week af­ter play­ing Navy, go­ing 3-6 the past nine sea­sons. The streak in­cludes losses to Air Force in 2007, Syra­cuse in 2008 and Tulsa in 2010, nar­row vic­to­ries against Wake For­est in 2011 and Pur­due in 2012, losses to Pitts­burgh in 2009 and 2013 and Ari­zona State in 2014. The Ir­ish beat USC 41-31 last sea­son.

SHAM­ROCK SE­RIES

Notre Dame is 7-0 in Sham­rock Se­ries games, which are of­fi­cially home games played at neu­tral sites. The se­ries was started in 2009 when the Ir­ish beat Wash­ing­ton State 40-14 in the Alam­od­ome. San An­to­nio is the first re­peat site for the game, and Army is the first re­peat op­po­nent. The Ir­ish beat the Black Knights 27-3 at Yan­kee Sta­dium in 2010.

HISTORY LES­SON

In this sto­ried ri­valry , Notre Dame has beaten Army 14 straight times and the last time it lost to Navy and Army in the same sea­son was 1944. That year, the sec­ond-ranked Ir­ish lost to No. 6 Navy 32-13 and a week later, af­ter drop­ping three spots in the AP poll, they lost to top-ranked Army 59-0 in the largest loss in Notre Dame history.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, left, and Army head coach Jeff Monken.

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