Navy's triple-option offense is on point

Record-setting attack is rolling up yards, touchdowns

November 12, 2010|By Gene Wang, The Washington Post

Top-ranked Oregon hasn't done it. Neither has No.2 Auburn or No.3 Texas Christian. Even fourth-ranked Boise State, the No. 2-rated scoring offense in the land, hasn't come close.

The it in this case is scoring 76 points, which Navy hung on East Carolina in a victory Saturday that qualified the Midshipmen for a bowl game. Navy's scoring spree was a singular accomplishment, setting it apart from some of the most recognized programs in the country and validating the triple option as an offense that can compile points as prodigiously as any spread or run-and-shoot.

Navy's point total not only was the most for the academy in 91 years -- the school record is 127, set in 1918 -- but also a field goal better than anyone else this season. Ohio State, ranked seventh in scoring, rolled up 73 points in a victory over Eastern Michigan on Sept. 25. The only other Division I-A team to amass 70 points was Wisconsin, which hit that number on the nose in a win against Division I-AA Austin Peay.

"That's a ton of points," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "Like I said after the game, I thought the offense did a good job in scoring. It's hard to rush for 500 yards."

The Midshipmen ran for 521 yards, fifth-most in school history. Junior fullback Alexander Teich had 157, for an average of 11.2 yards per carry. Over the past three games, Teich, who began the season as an understudy to senior Vince Murray, has 400 rushing yards.

Navy's outburst against East Carolina bumped it up 30 spots in scoring offense to 49th nationally and from 10th to seventh in the country in rushing. The Midshipmen's average rushing yards per game increased by almost 30, and they climbed 12 spots in total offense to 48th overall.

Navy's 142 points are the third-highest total in regulation since Oct. 23, eclipsed by only the Ducks (163), ranked first nationally in scoring, and Tulsa (144). Illinois scored 152 in its last three, but one of those games went into triple overtime.

"Guys are doing a great job of executing," said Teich, who ran for 210 yards in a 35-17 victory over Notre Dame three weeks ago to become the first fullback in school history to gain at least 200 yards in a game. "I think that's the biggest part that we weren't doing early on in the season. Guys are making key blocks that are bouncing big runs."

Right guard John Dowd sprang Teich on his career-long 64-yard touchdown run against the Pirates in the first quarter that tied the game at 14. Left tackle Jeff Battipaglia and left guard Josh Cabral opened a hole for Murray on a 42-yard scoring run in the third quarter that stretched the lead to 55-28.

Navy has scored 100 points over its past five quarters. In between Notre Dame and East Carolina, the Midshipmen suffered a mystifying 34-31 loss to the Blue Devils at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Navy has scored on its past 23 chances inside the 20-yard line. Twenty-two have gone for touchdowns, a turnaround from the first four games, when the Midshipmen reached the end zone on seven of 19 trips.

Navy's offense is drawing comparisons to the 2007 team, which scored at least 30 points in 11 of 13 games. That team set the academy's previous modern-era record for single-game points in a 74-62 win against North Texas in the highest-scoring regulation game in NCAA history. It scored 147 points in three games, the most in that span in regulation against I-A teams during the triple-option era.

"That was a well-oiled machine that year," said offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper, whose play-calling has been a significant factor in Navy's recent offensive might. "Things are going great right now, but you know what, there's a lot of important games to be played … so we've just got to keep our focus and keep grinding."

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