No real op­tion when it comes to stop­ping ‘O’

Mid­ship­men’s at­tack al­ways a huge prob­lem for East Carolina

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Bill Wag­ner

No op­po­nent has strug­gled to stop Navy’s triple-op­tion of­fense more than East Carolina.

The Mid­ship­men have run roughshod over the Pi­rates, pil­ing up yards and points at an as­tound­ing rate en route to win­ning six of seven meet­ings.

By far the most eye-pop­ping per­for­mance came in 2010, when quar­ter­back Ricky Dobbs di­rected a 76-35 de­struc­tion of East Carolina at DowdyFickl­en Sta­dium.

It was a sin­gle-game school record for points by the Mid­ship­men, who amassed 596 yards of to­tal of­fense.

Full­back Alexan­der Te­ich rushed for 157 yards and Dobbs added 100 as Navy scored on 12 of 14 pos­ses­sions. Backup quar­ter­back Kriss Proc­tor and

backup full­back Vince Mur­ray came on to score four touch­downs for the Mids, who fin­ished with 521 rush­ing yards.

That was first of many blowouts by Navy in the

lop­sided se­ries, which re­sumes Satur­day in Greenville.

In 2012, Navy re­turned to Dowdy-Ficklen Sta­dium and routed East Carolina. This time, record-set­ting quar­ter­back Keenan Reynolds rushed for three touch­downs and threw for two moreas the Mid­ship­men sank the Pi­rates 56-28.

Slot­back Gee Gee Greene rushed for 131 yards and Reynolds added 81for Navy, which scored on nine of 10 pos­ses­sions. The Mid­ship­men rolled up 563 to­tal yards, 512 of which came on the ground.

Navy and East Carolina met for the first time as mem­bers of the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence in 2015. Reynolds ran for 142 yards and five touch­downs as the Mids rolled 45-21. Full­back Chris Swain (123 yards and a touchdown) also had a big day as the triple op­tion pro­duced 415 rush­ing yards.

The Mid­ship­men were rude guests once again in 2017, the last time they trav­eled to Greenville. Quar­ter­back Will Worth and full­back Shawn White com­bined for 309 rush­ing yards and seven touch­downs to lead a 66-31 de­struc­tion. Fi­nal of­fen­sive num­bers for the Mid­ship­men that day were 593 to­tal yards and 480 rush­ing yards.

For those keep­ing score at home, Navy has av­er­aged 66 points on the strength of 584 yards of to­tal of­fense in its last three vis­its to Dowdy-Ficklen Sta­dium.

Mike Hous­ton be­came the fourth East

Carolina coach to get beaten badly by Navy since the se­ries started in 2006. Last sea­son, the Mid­ship­men amassed 468 to­tal yards in a 42-10 pound­ing.

An in­abil­ity to stop quar­ter­back Mal­colm Perry and Co. was par­tic­u­larly both­er­some to Hous­ton, who has an ex­ten­sive back­ground in triple-op­tion foot­ball. Hous­ton em­ployed the of­fense dur­ing stints as coach at Lenoir-Rhyne and The Ci­tadel.

How­ever, Bob Trott served as de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at East Carolina in 2019 and he was far less fa­mil­iar with the tricky at­tack.

Hous­ton de­cided to change de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tors, and the hir­ing of Blake Har­rell to re­place Trott came with Navy in mind. Har­rell served as Hous­ton’s de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor for three sea­sons at The Ci­tadel and was also on his staff at Lenoir-Rhyne.

“We’ve been pre­par­ing for this game as a staff since Coach Har­rell was hired,” Hous­ton said this week. “Cer­tainly, a back­ground and phi­los­o­phy against the triple op­tion was a big part of the process of the hir­ing of our new de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor. I re­spect Blake’s knowl­edge as it re­lates to de­fend­ing the triple.”

Hous­ton noted that two other de­fen­sive as­sis­tants — Roy Tesh and Tripp Weaver — also have ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence go­ing against op­tion of­fenses.

“We have more peo­ple in the room that have ex­pe­ri­ence ver­sus this style of of­fense and that’s proven valu­able al­ready,” he said.

Navy coach Ken Ni­u­mat­alolo be­lieves East Carolina will do a much bet­ter job de­fend­ing be­cause of the re­vamped coach­ing staff.

“I think Har­rell is a re­ally good de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor and he’s go­ing to have a good plan,” Ni­u­mat­alolo said this week. “Coach Hous­ton has seen the op­tion a ton. There’s no doubt those two guys will have their team ready. They know op­tion foot­ball.”

Har­rell served as de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at Ken­ne­saw State, which em­ploys a tripleop­tion sys­tem sim­i­lar to Navy’s. That’s be­cause coach Brian Bo­han­non is an­other Paul John­son dis­ci­ple, hav­ing been his as­sis­tant at Ge­or­gia South­ern, Navy and Ge­or­gia Tech.

“Any time you get a chance to see a cer­tain of­fense ev­ery day in prac­tice, it helps you be fa­mil­iar with how they’re try­ing to at­tack you,” Har­rell said. “It’s all about un­der­stand­ing what they do and why they do it.”

Har­rell was hired at Ken­ne­saw State to re­place Brian New­berry, who left to be­come de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at Navy. Those two had a re­la­tion­ship af­ter meet­ing at clin­ics and New­berry rec­om­mended Har­rell.

“Coach New­berry is a great foot­ball coach, a great friend and an even bet­ter man,” Har­rell said. “He’s been a great sound­ing board over the years, one of those guys you like to talk ball with. Coach New­berry was in­stru­men­tal in help­ing me get the op­por­tu­nity at Ken­ne­saw State.”

PAUL W. GILLE­SPIE/AP

My­chal Cooper and the Navy of­fense left East Carolina de­fend­ers grasp­ing at air last sea­son.

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