are going to hear a lot about the triple option over the next week and
how hard it is to stop. Navy runs the old school offense, and they run
it effectively. The Midshipmen led the country in rushing last year
averaging 319 yards per game. That led to 34 points per game and an 8-4
record and a bowl win over Colorado State.
Sinking Navy will take a supreme defensive effort (or an explosive
offensive effort). You will hear ECU's coaches talk excessively about
"assignment football" and discipline. Each defensive player will have a
certain responsibility and can't worry about chasing the football no
matter how tempting that will be. Here is what they are up against.
Navy's success starts with its offensive line. The Midshipmen return
four starters including three seniors at left tackle, left guard, and
center. Ask any offensive lineman and they will tell you they
would much rather run block than pass block. Navy's o-line loves to pin
its ears back and go after defenders. They helped the Midshipmen set a
school record with 5.7 yards per carry last season.
The triple option starts with quarterback. He is the one that makes the
offense run with his split second decision making. At first glance this
looks like Navys weak point. Brian Hampton takes over for Lamar
Owens, but Hampton is a senior who has orchestrated the offense
in crucial moments in the past. He played quarterback in nine games
last season and rushed 40 times for 160 yards and two touchdowns while
throwing for 99 yards and another score.
The first option in the triple option is for the quarterback to hand
off to the fullback going right up the gut, and Navy is loaded at this
position. Senior Matt Hall (493 yards rushing & 6 tds) returns
after an injury benched him in the 9th game of the 2005 season. Junior
Adam Ballard filled in and rushed for 489 yards and three touchdowns in
The second option is for the quarterback to keep the ball and go off
tackle. If that is blocked, the third option is to pitch to the slot
back, and Navy has plenty of athletes who can get outside. Junior
Reggie Campbell torched Colorado State for five touchdowns in their
bowl game. Senior Trey Hines will start at the other slot back.
The other tough part about defending the option is for the secondary to
provide adequate run support, but not get burned by the play action
pass. Navy only attempted 12 passes per game last year, but
burned several teams with long td passes after the safety's got sucked
up into the line trying to help stop the run.
The architect for Navy's option is head coach Paul Johnson. The North
Carolina native has led the Midshipmen to eight or more wins in three
straight years (the first time that has happened in Annapolis since
1906-08) and his teams have led the country in rushing two of the last
three years. Sports Illustrated picked the Middies as the 59th best
team in the country and predicted they would finish 10-2.
But the good news is, ECU has faced an option team as recently as last
season (Rice, who they beat 41-28), and option teams aren't built to
come back quickly if they get behind in the second half. Navy did give
up 26 points per game last year and they are susceptible to the big
play (19 td passes allowed), so the Pirates should be able to score
This game has the makings of an offensive shootout, and turnovers will
probably play a big part in who wins the game. But stopping the triple
option will be foremost on all the Pirates minds until the final
whistle blows Saturday night.