In these pass-happy days, teams are still finding success with the triple-option, a run-oriented offense based on quickness, toughness, with a huge emphasis on deception.
In its next two games, Temple will take on two of the top triple-option teams in the country. At noon Saturday, the Owls (3-4) will visit Army (5-2). After a bye week, the Owls will host Navy on Nov. 2, a Thursday night game at Lincoln Financial Field.
Army’s motion and shifts in the triple-option are “just to mess with your eyes,” Temple coach Geoff Collins said Tuesday.
The top three rushing teams in the country run the triple-option. Navy leads with 397.5 rushing yards per game, followed by Army (378.4), and Georgia Tech (362). Those teams are a combined 13-5.
“It is almost like you are playing a different sport,” Army coach Jeff Monken said about the triple-option in a phone interview on Wednesday. “… Your job description changes when you play the triple-option.”
Temple, which needs to go 3-2 in its final five games to become bowl-eligible, has emphasized defending the triple-option this week and being more efficient on offense.
“I don’t know if their triple-option affects our play-calling, but it does your sense of urgency,” said Temple offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dave Patenaude. “You say, ‘If I give the ball back to them, I won’t see it for a while.’ ”
That was the case for Eastern Michigan last week, when the Eagles had just three second-half possessions in a 28-27 loss at West Point.
In the fourth quarter, Army went on a 16-play, 83-yard drive that took 8 minutes, 59 seconds and gave the Black Knights the lead, 28-21, with 5:06 remaining.
That’s when Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton decided that if his Eagles answered with a touchdown, they would go for two points, he said after the game. They did score with 49 seconds left, but Army stopped the two-point conversion.
For the game, Army held a time-of-possession advantage of 37:02 to 22:58.
Last season, Army opened with a 28-13 win over Temple at Lincoln Financial Field. The Black Knights rushed for 329 yards and four touchdowns on 67 carries.
“Against the triple-option, everybody has to do their job and stay disciplined,” said Temple safety Sean Chandler, who had 10 tackles in that game. “It is very difficult if you don’t do that.”
Defending the triple-option is especially challenging for the secondary, because while it’s tempting to always play the run, there could be an occasional pass.
Army completed 2 of 5 passes for 11 yards in that win.
“You need eye discipline,” Chandler said. “You know they are going to run the ball, and they want to lull you to sleep.”
Collins said he enjoys the triple-option, with one exception.
“As a college football fan, it is fun to watch what they do,” Collins said. “Getting ready to play it is a different story.”