The Navy football team enters its Nov. 16 game at Notre Dame with history stacked against it, but Midshipmen head coach Ken Niumatalolo is optimistic about his team’s chances thanks to the leadership of his seniors and a new coaching staff.
Notre Dame leads the annual series against Navy, 76-13-1. Despite the lopsided look of the rivalry, Niumatalolo has always embraced the matchup during his time on Navy’s coaching staff. He views it as great opportunity for Navy football.
“If you look at the totality of college football and you were to rank teams, you have to say Notre Dame is [No. 1] as far as history,” Niumatalolo said on Glenn Clark Radio Nov. 13. “You’d rank Notre Dame as the No. 1 football team. So, for us to be in a yearly series with them, I think it’s an unbelievable honor for our football program. Going to South Bend, [Ind.], I always tell our guys, ‘These are experiences you will never forget.'”
Niumatalolo has also been on the winning side of this rivalry. Most recently, Navy put together a 28-27 victory against Notre Dame back in 2016. Navy was 5-2 coming into that game, and the Midshipmen have had a similarly successful start to the season this year. The Mids are looking to continue to build on that start.
Navy (7-1) currently is tied for the American Athletic Conference West Division lead with a league record of 5-1 behind standout senior quarterback Malcolm Perry, who has brought a new wrinkle to Navy’s triple-option offense by showing off his ability to throw the ball. Perry has been a true dual-threat quarterback. He’s thrown for 722 yards on 54.7 percent passing and also leads the team in rushing with 1,042 yards and 16 touchdowns.
But in order to get to where Navy is now, Niumatalolo had to make some wholesale changes during the offseason. Coming off a 3-10 season last year, Niumatalolo brought in seven new coaches to his staff, including new defensive coordinator Brian Newberry. With new life in the program and a solid collection of senior leaders on the roster, Niumatalolo feels that this team was bound to enjoy a great season.
“Things have worked out great, and I sensed some of it early on, though, when we first started and we got the new coaches in here,” Niumatalolo said. “… They are guys that we’ve hired and we’ve interviewed, but then you get to meet them and see what kind of people they are. You work in January and February and March and April and May and you start to see, ‘Wow, they’re not only great coaches, but they’re great people.'”
“Things are starting to blend and gel,” Niumatalolo added. “The kids are picking up. You see early signs that this has a chance. The kids were buying in and there’s great leadership from the seniors and all signs point to good things, but you’ve still got to do it.”
As the Midshipmen look forward to their matchup against Notre Dame, Niumatalolo believes his team’s focus and attention to detail has been like no other team he has coached. He thinks that gives them a chance to pick up a big win against the Fighting Irish.
“I think the one thing about this team that gives me great hope is we’ve had a great sense of 1-0,” Niumatalolo said. “From the standpoint of, ‘We’re moving to the next game.’ Just focused on the game at hand. Focus on this practice, focus on this weightlifting session. … They’ve been awesome at that.”
To hear more from Niumatalolo, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox