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Navy triple option to challenge defense

Matthew DeFranks | Thursday, August 30, 2012

Before last season’s 56-14 drubbing of Navy, Notre Dame had lost three of the previous four games against the Midshipmen because of one key culprit – the triple option.

In the three losses, the Irish failed to hold Navy to less than 35 points twice and allowed the Midshipmen to rush for at least 257 yards in each victory.

Since Oct. 23, 2010, when Navy beat Notre Dame 35-17, Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco has seemed to figure out how to stop the triple option. The Irish have played three option teams since then (Army, Air Force and Navy again) and earned three victories, winning by an average of nearly 31 points.

Heading into this year’s opener, Navy will be breaking in a new quarterback after losing departed signal caller Kriss Proctor, who was the only Midshipmen player to top 1,000 yards on the ground in 2011. Junior Trey Miller will take the reins of the option attack for the Midshipmen.

Miller earned his first and only career start against Notre Dame during Navy’s 42-point loss a year ago. Miller was 5-for-13 for 33 yards through the air while rushing for 55 yards during the defeat.

Navy will not only need Miller’s production on the ground but also his prowess through the air to keep the Irish from stacking the box against the Midshipmen’s green backfield.

Senior slot back Gee Gee Greene, however, will help stabilize a Navy offense under new direction.

“[Greene] makes their offense have that ability to get on the perimeter,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “So it’s going to be a great opportunity for us. I’m excited to see our football team play.”

Greene, who caught four touchdown passes in 2011, is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. With leading returning receiver Brandon Turner not traveling with the team, Greene’s 11 receptions from a year ago are the most by any Midshipman playing in Dublin on Saturday.

Unlike most offenses, Navy’s attack features four players (the quarterback, the fullback and the two slot backs) that will carry the ball. Their scheme relies on misdirection and deception that has fooled the Irish before.

“[Navy is a] very difficult opponent to play, especially in your opener, but any time,” Kelly said. “Ken Niumatalolo, great coach, obviously does as well as anybody in the country at taking his talent and getting it to execute on both sides of the ball, and they have shown that they can do that week in and week out.”

Navy also loses former fullback Alexander Teich, who torched Notre Dame two years ago for 210 yards in helping the Midshipmen compile 367 rushing yards. Unproven sophomore Noah Copeland will try to replace Teich at fullback. Copeland only had two carries during his freshman campaign.

Starting opposite Greene at the other slot back position will be senior John Howell, who had 340 yards rushing last season.

The Irish will try to stop the triple option for the second straight year when they open their season against the Midshipmen on Saturday morning at 9 a.m.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu