Nov. 7, 2016

By John Heisler

Notre Dame and Navy battled nearly to a draw Saturday in Jacksonville-with the Irish playing three of their final four games of the 2016 campaign away from home.

Here are some Irish takeaways from their 28-27 loss to the Mids:

1.This looks a little like 1986.

Maybe it’s ironic that the Notre Dame-Stanford game program included a 30-year retrospective feature story on the 1986 team (Lou Holtz’s first at Notre Dame) that lost five games by a combined 14 points (two by one point, one by two, two by five-with three of those foes rated eighth nationally or better). The 2016 season now shows six defeats, all by eight points or less for an average of 4.8 points per game (one by one point, two by a field goal, two by a touchdown, one by eight points). Maybe it’s also worth remembering that the Irish helped salve that 1986 record with a season-ending win in Los Angeles against a ranked USC team. After assignments the next two weeks versus Army and Virginia Tech, the 2016 Notre Dame campaign ends in that same spot, the Los Angeles Coliseum.

2. It takes a village.

Consider that DeShone Kizer completed 10 straight passes for 117 yards over the course of the game against Navy. That streak included his last two throws in the second period, all five in the third (for 55 yards) and his first three in the fourth period. His .703 completion percentage (on 19 of 27 throwing) at EverBank Field marked his second best effort of 2016 in that category (behind only .833 on 15 of 18 against Nevada). But, thanks to Navy’s ball-control ground attack, the Irish managed only 29 rushing attempts of their own-their fewest in 2016. Notre Dame ran only 56 total plays against the Mids-after averaging 69 per game over its first eight outings. The Irish have lost twice as many games as they’ve won-yet they are averaging 2.2 more points and 22.8 more total yards than their opponents.

3. The young guys have numbers.

Notre Dame’s youthful defense has been well-documented, yet it’s worth noting that true freshmen have accounted for 113 total tackles so far in 2016-led by 31 from safety Devin Studstill, 29 from corner Julian Love and 19 from corner Donte Vaughn. Then there are another 19 from linebacker Asmar Bilal, a sophomore who never played in a game until this fall. Of the 30 players on Notre Dame’s current defensive depth chart, the only ones who are in their final years of eligibility are linemen Isaac Rochell and Jarron Jones, linebacker James Onwualu and defensive backs Cole Luke and Avery Sebastian.

Notre Dame senior associate athletics director John Heisler has been watching Irish football since he joined the athletics communication staff in 1978.