Temple preparing for Navy's vaunted triple-option

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Navy quarterback Will Worth (15) cuts through the SMU defense to score a first-quarter touchdown at Ford Stadium in Dallas on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. Navy won, 75-31, as Worth ran for four scores and threw for another.

Much has been made this week of the triple-option, which Temple will attempt to solve Saturday when the Owls visit Navy in the American Athletic Conference championship game. Employing the triple-option, Navy is second in the nation in rushing at 342 yards per game.

Temple struggled with Army's triple-option in its season-opening 28-13 loss to the Black Knights, allowing 329 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

When Temple lost a 31-24 decision to visiting Navy in 2014, the Midshipmen rushed for 487 yards and four TDs.

The triple-option has been the Achilles' heel of Temple, but coach Matt Rhule said Navy has not received enough credit for its execution.

"It's not the offense, it is the players," Rhule said. "Others have run this offense, but Navy has done it so effectively."

The triple-option features the quarterback and three running backs - two slotbacks and a fullback. It is based on deception and toughness. The key is the quarterback.

Navy's Will Worth has rushed for 1,181 yards (4.6 average) and 25 touchdowns. He has also kept defenses on their toes by throwing for 1,363 yards and eight TDs.

"Any time you run the quarterback, you outnumber the defense in the running game," said Temple defensive coordinator Phil Snow, whose unit is allowing 17.8 points, which is 10th nationally. "They have an extra gap to start with."

Snow said the misdirection of the triple-option is another difficult aspect to defend. "There are guys pulling one way and running the other way," he said. "The blocking schemes are nothing we see all year because they cut you in the interior and the perimeter."

Couple that with a Navy team that could be among the most physical the Owls have faced.

"That offense line is really physical and they play really low and get after you," Snow aid. "The perimeter people get after you and you have to be tough to beat them, and the quarterback is just so tough."

After the loss to Army, Rhule and Snow said they thought the Black Knights were the tougher team. Temple prides itself on being mentally and physically tough. That wasn't the case in the opener, but the Owls (9-3, 7-1 AAC) have regained the toughness. They'll enter the championship game on a six-game winning streak.

"When playing the triple-option, it is all about being tough and disciplined," said Temple defensive end Praise Martin-Oguike, the reigning AAC defensive player of the week after recording two sacks and forcing and recovering a fumble in a 37-10 win over East Carolina. "When we played Army, we also missed a lot of assignments."

Snow believes that playing Army is benefiting the Owls as they prepare for Navy. (Army and Navy will meet in their annual clash Dec. 10 in Baltimore.)

"No question, it helped that we met Army and we should be a much better triple-option defense against this Navy team," Snow said.

Navy (9-2, 7-1) has a four-game winning streak and is coming off a 75-31 rout of Southern Methodist.

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

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