Midshipmen head overseas focused only on Fighting Irish

When they meet Saturday in Dublin, Ireland, in the Emerald Isle Classic, Navy and Notre Dame have little idea what to expect from the crowd, the turf, the weather, the atmosphere and the overall experience.

The trip has been compared to a bowl game, but Navy rejects that notion. A bowl game is a reward for a good season, reason to kick back and celebrate. Coming off a 5-7 season in which it failed to reach a bowl for the first time in nine years, Navy left Annapolis on Wednesday focused on the foe instead of the fun.

"It's a business trip," senior linebacker Brye French said. "It's our opening game of the season. This isn't December. After a full season, we're all beat up. This is the start of [pursuing] a lot of our goals."

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Navy vs. Notre Dame
When » Saturday, 9 a.m.
Where » Aviva Stadium,
Dublin, Ireland

No team reminds Navy of last year's shortcomings more than Notre Dame. After beating the Fighting Irish in three of the previous four seasons, the Midshipmen were thrashed by Notre Dame 56-14, an ugly reminder of the formerly one-sided series.

For Navy, the culprit in the game and for much of last year was the inexperience of the secondary and the offensive line. To reassert their edge, the Mids will count on improved line play to fuel their confounding triple-option offense.

"I think it really starts with our big boys up front," senior slot back Bo Snelson said. "There were some games last year when our offensive line came in with that mindset, and we just ran over some folks. By the same token, there were some games where we didn't come out ready and kind of got stuck, like last year against Notre Dame. If they come out with their minds right, they're gonna pick the rest of us up, and we're going to be forced to play at their level."

Another area where the Mids figure to be improved is at quarterback. Sophomore Trey Miller, forced into last year's game because of an injury to Kriss Proctor, completed five of 13 passes for 33 yards and rushed 19 times for 55 yards. Notre Dame's quarterbacks, meanwhile, went a combined 19 of 25 for 260 yards.

Last year's starter, Tommy Rees, will not be available for Notre Dame. Neither will running back Cierre Wood, who gained 1,102 yards last fall. Both were suspended, along with two other Irish players. Top cornerback Lo Wood (ruptured Achilles) also is sidelined. The Irish have experienced running backs to fall back on, but starting at quarterback will be redshirt freshman Everett Golson, who has never taken a snap in a college game.

The Navy defense will try to confuse Golson, a dynamic runner but untested passer. This much Golson can count on: He will be the subject of intense focus from the Mids.

"Obviously there's some administrative and some logistical things we have to take care of just because of the nature of the game and where it's located. If anything, that's just causing us to be more focused," Snelson said. "I feel like we're strapping on the horse blinders."