Mids’ triple-option running aground
Navy’s coaching staff believes better execution will bring desired results
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.