Mids’ triple-op­tion run­ning aground

Navy’s coach­ing staff be­lieves bet­ter ex­e­cu­tion will bring de­sired re­sults

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Bill Wag­ner bwag­ner@capgaznews.com twit­ter.com/BWag­n­er_CapGaz

Last sea­son, Navy’s triple-op­tion of­fense torched Cincin­nati to the tune of 622 yards, 569 of which came on the ground.

This sea­son, the Mid­ship­men man­aged only 171 yards (124 rush­ing) while be­ing shut out by the Bearcats.

Did Cincin­nati coach Luke Fick­ell and staff fig­ure out how to stop the unique at­tack over the course of one off­sea­son? Or is Navy sim­ply not run­ning the op­tion as ef­fec­tively as years past?

It’s prob­a­bly a lit­tle of the for­mer and a lot more of the lat­ter.

Ev­ery­one in­volved with Navy foot­ball knew it was in­evitable that teams in the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence, es­pe­cially those in the West Divi­sion, would gain a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the triple op­tion.

Nu­mer­ous Amer­i­can coaches have talked about con­duct­ing staff sum­mits to dis­cuss the best ways to com­bat Navy’s op­tion. Those same coaches also have men­tioned de­vot­ing prac­tice pe­ri­ods to hav­ing the de­fense work against op­tion schemes.

“You have to ex­e­cute your of­fense, whether it’s op­tion or spread or what­ever,” Navy coach Ken Ni­u­mat­alolo said. “If some­one stops a spread of­fense they don’t say the op­po­nent has fig­ured out the spread. They say the de­fense was just bet­ter that day.”

As Ex­hibit A we give you Ge­or­gia Tech, which leads the na­tion in rush­ing of­fense with 377 yards per game. This is coach Paul John­son’s 11th sea­son in At­lanta, which means the Yel­low Jack­ets have played the other six schools in the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence’s Coastal Divi­sion 10 times com­ing into 2018.

Last Sat­ur­day, quar­ter­back To­bias Oliver di­rected an at­tack that rolled up 461 rush­ing yards as Ge­or­gia Tech beat North Carolina, 38-28. Coach Larry Fe­dora is in his sev­enth sea­son at North Carolina and also faced the triple op­tion while at South­ern Mis­sis­sippi, which played Navy.

“Paul’s had a lot of good of­fenses down To­day, noon TV: ESPN2 Ra­dio: 1090 AM Line: UCF by 251⁄ there, but this is one of his bet­ter ones. They look re­ally good up front. It looks like they’re ex­e­cut­ing re­ally well. They look like they’re hum­ming pretty good right now,” Ni­u­mat­alolo said when asked this week about Ge­or­gia Tech’s rush­ing at­tack.

“What’s most im­pres­sive to me is what they’re do­ing against teams in the league that have seen the of­fense for many years. Do­ing that in a tough con­fer­ence like the ACC is dou­bly im­pres­sive,” Ni­u­mat­alolo added.

Not many coach­ing staffs in the West Divi­sion have played against the triple op­tion con­sis­tently since Navy joined the AACin 2015. Hous­ton, Mem­phis, SMUand Tu­lane have all un­der­gone a coach­ing change dur­ing the four sea­sons the Mid­ship­men have been in the league.

Navy’s never had any prob­lem pil­ing up yardage against Tulsa, which has been led by coach Phil Mont­gomery through­out that time.

“There are a bunch of smart coaches out there. At the same time, there’s only so much you can do against us and there’s only so much we can do against our op­po­nents,” Navy of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ivin Jasper said.

“At some point it comes down to ex­e­cu­tion: Block­ing peo­ple, be­ing as­sign­ment-sound, mak­ing the right reads and tak­ing care of the foot­ball,” Jasper added. “It doesn’t mat­ter how long we’re in a league or what a team does against us. If we ex­e­cute prop­erly, we should be able to move the ball.”

So why isn’t Navy mov­ing the ball and scor­ing points this sea­son? The Mid­ship­men rank 107th out of 129 Foot­ball Bowl Sub­di­vi­sion schools in to­tal of­fense (aver­age of 358 yards) and 97th in scor­ing of­fense (25 points per game).

“There are a lot of dif­fer­ent fac­tors. As coaches, we’re try­ing to put our fin­ger on what it is,” Ni­u­mat­alolo said when asked about the of­fen­sive strug­gles. “You keep look­ing at how we’re teach­ing it and ask your­self if the play­ers can com­pre­hend it. Can they ac­tu­ally do what we’re ask­ing them to do?”

“It all comes down to play-call­ing and ex­e­cu­tion,” Navy of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ivin Jasped said. “We’re go­ing to play against bet­ter ta­lent, but our of­fense is de­signed to level the play­ing field. We have to make those great ath­letes on de­fense one-di­men­sional. It’s all about be­ing as­sign­ment-sound, block­ing the right peo­ple, mak­ing the right reads and get­ting the ball where it’s sup­posed to go.”

Zach Abey (Arch­bishop Spald­ing) and Navy visit Cen­tral Florida to­day.

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