One key to stopping unusual offenses such as Army’s triple-option attack is being disciplined enough on defense to stick to doing your job and try to not do more than what you’re supposed to do on any given play.
“You have to be assignment-sound and read your keys,” Miami sophomore nickel back Mike Brown said .
RedHawks coach Chuck Martin agrees with the approach while at the same time recognizing a challenge.
“The paramount thing is discipline, but you’re trying to out-discipline Army or Navy – probably the most disciplined guys on the planet,” Martin said.
That’s one of many challenges the RedHawks face Saturday at noon at Army’s Michie Stadium in West Point, N.Y.. The RedHawks will to extend their winning streak to three games and reach .500 with their overall record at 4-4 against a 4-2 Black Knights team that has won its last two games by a combined 94-16 – both on the road and the first by 42-13 against a Buffalo team that currently leads the Mid-American Conference East Division with a 3-0 record.
Army went into this week second in the country with an average of 313.5 rushing yards per game and leading the country with an average 39 minutes, 44 seconds time of possession. The Black Knights get the ball and don’t give it up while incessantly running the ball.
The problem for opponents is they rarely face triple-option attacks, which puts a premium on getting the most out of practice during the preceding week.
“I’ve been fortunate enough and unfortunate enough to have to coach against triple-option teams,” Martin said. “When I was at Grand Valley State, there was a team in our league that ran it, so we saw it every year. At Notre Dame, we always played one or more of the service academies every year. It’s no fun. It’s not like anything else you see.
“This is the opposite end of the spectrum from Kent State,” he added, referring to the team Miami walloped, 31-6, last Saturday. “Kent State is a crazy spread offense. Playing Army is like playing rugby. They’re crazy old-school. They’ve been successful with it for a long time. The reason most teams quit playing it is it’s not exciting enough, but it’s a nightmare to try to defend, nevermind trying to defend it for one week.”
Martin also pointed out Army’s 55.1 percent third-down conversion percentage and 90.48 percent fourth-down rate. The Black Knights have converted 19-of-21 fourth downs into first downs.
“You can’t get them off the field,” he said.
Many high schools still utilize the triple-option offense, Martin said, and he was asked if Miami players who saw it in high school could use that experience on Saturday.
“Maybe,” he said. “That’s a good question. Maybe moreso if they played on a team that ran it and saw it every day in practice. The first thing to stopping it is knowing how hard it is.”
Martin, a college teammate of Army coach Jeff Monken at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., believes the football atmosphere is different at the military academies than at university’s such as Miami, where being on scholarship makes the sport more like a job.
“This is their kids’ recess,” he said.
This game marks the opening of the most grueling stretch of Miami’s schedule. West Point, N.Y., is the second-longest trip the RedHawks will make to play a game this season, behind only the trip to Minnesota in Week 3, but they also face journeys to the two MAC teams most distant from Oxford – Buffalo on Oct. 30 and Northern Illinois at DeKalb, Ill., on Nov. 14, sandwiched around a home game against East Division favorite Ohio on Nov. 7.