There are few offensive football schemes as both simple and complex as the triple option. From the outside, it seems harmless enough--the quarterback either keeps the ball, hands it off to his fullback, or pitches it out to the tailback. It’s an offense that requires precision and teamwork, which is why all three service academies--Navy, Air Force and Army--all run some variation on the triple option.
Steve Addazio, the head coach of the Temple Owls, has plenty of experience with the triple option. As a head coach at Cheshire High School in Connecticut, he was head coach of a team that ran the ground-oriented offense.
“I know that offense...there’s been changes over the years but I can quickly adapt to those,” he said on Tuesday at the team’s weekly media luncheon. “Maybe it’s a double-edged sword because I also know what it can do to you.”
What the offense can do to a defense is similar to the Chinese Water Torture of collegiate football. The triple option is not an offense known for the big play, but its ability to chip away yards on the ground, keeping the clock running and tiring out opposing defenses. The Black Knights have nine players with 20 or more carries on the season, averaging 5.6 yards per carry while rushing for a nation-best 352 yards a game.
Part of what makes the triple option attack dangerous on opposing defenses is the blocking style of the offensive linemen. Army’s linemen utilize the cut block, which involves cutting defenders off at the knees instead of the usual blocking schemes.
“You don’t practice (cut blocks) because if you practice that you risk your own guys getting hurt,” Addazio said. “Of course we are practicing it this week, so I am nervous about that, (but) you have to practice it or it’ll stun you in the game.”
Temple’s a team known for running the ball as well, ranking eighth in the country at 254.3 yards per game--just 98 yards behind Army. Temple is ranked 114th in the country in pass completions, having just 96 on the season, yet that’s more than three times as many completions as the Black Knights have (31).
Because the two offenses are both heavily based around the run, neither team wants to fall in an early hole on Saturday. A two-score deficit for either team would mean further reliance on the pass, as both offenses are used to ball control and clock management.
“What’s hard is they possess the ball for 34 minutes--you’re only gonna get so many cracks at them,” Addazio said. “They’re an expert at what they do--they wanna rush the football.”
Temple has beaten Army in each of the past two seasons, winning 27-13 at the Linc in 2009 before a 42-35 victory on the road last year. The defense did a better job in 2009, holding Army to just 181 yards on the ground, while it took a 226-yard, four-touchdown performance from Matt Brown to hold off the Black Knight attack last season.
-This will be the ninth time Temple and Army have met, with each team winning four games. Temple’s won four of the last five to tie the series, which is playing just its third game in Philadelphia against Temple since 1943.
-Temple junior back Bernard Pierce, who was out against Miami (Ohio) after sustaining a head injury in the game against Ohio, was practicing this week, according to Addazio. The coach wasn’t sure if that meant Pierce would play this week, but confirmed that he is out practicing.
-Tight end Matt Balasavage, who missed last week’s game with an illness, is back; OL John Palumbo, who’s battling leg issues, is “not yet” back at practice, according to Addazio
-In honor of Military Appreciation Day, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve will be collecting toys for children in the Philadelphia for its annual Toys for Tots drive. Fans are invited to bring new, unwrapped toys to the Marines at the Lincoln Financial Field gates between 11:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. (OwlSports.com)
-With a victory Temple’s senior class becomes the winningest in school history, with 29 victories
Josh Verlin is the college sports editor for BuzzOnBroad.com. Follow him on Twitter