PISCATAWAY – In the game of football, games aren’t won and lost on Saturdays. As much as the execution on game day affects the outcome, so does the preparation during the workweek.
But when it comes to facing a team that runs the triple-option like Navy, more than three days of practice are needed. So Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano has been “stealing reps.” It starts in spring practice and carries over to training camp, and then into Sunday practices during the season.
“There are other things we'd like to be working on, but there is no way you prepare for this offense unless you do it in training camp in the spring and then weekly,” Schaino said. “to stay sharp, otherwise, there is no chance.”
One major facet the Scarlet Knights will have to stay keen on is eye discipline. Especially in the secondary.
Against a team that runs the ball an average of 60.8 times a game — second to Army, another triple option team — the defensive backs need to make sure they stay alert.
“They count on the big play. Corners falling asleep and the secondary falling asleep, that’s how they score points. They need to hit two or three of those a game,” cornerback Logan Ryan said. “That makes my job harder, just to be precise every play knowing that they might run the ball six or seven times before they throw it. That makes you’re job harder as a corner because you have to be on your A-game every play and not be caught by surprise.”
What won’t catch any of the Knights off guard is the physicality that Navy brings. The Midshipmen bring a fortitude that’s unlike any other.
”They come with the ball so hard. They’re the Navy. They protect our country so obviously they’re tougher than us so we just have to stay real disciplined,” middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais said
While Beauharnais aligns the defense for each play and makes sure the secondary stays attentive, he’ll rely on his defensive line to set the tone physically.
“It starts in the middle. We have to be physical up front,” nose tackle Scott Vallone said. “Me and Jay [Justin Francis] have to be dominant inside and not let them establish the fullback.”
That fullback would be Alexander Teich, who is averaging 102 yards per game. While he’s second in rushing on the team to quarterback Kriss Proctor, the fullback is also key in lead blocking for Proctor.
To negate the three-headed monster run game, winning the leverage battle up front is key.
“This is going to be the lowest that we play all year because when they’re coming off the ball they’re not afraid to fall down because they’re trying to win the pad level battle,” Vallone said. “If they can get off the ball and get two yards, that’s positive for them because they’re probably going to go for it on fourth down. If they can get three a pop that’s good for them.”
Navy’s offense is also evolving as they’re running more no huddle. That tweak makes the mental aspect that much more difficult.“They have a good plan that’s unique, and they execute it the best in the country,” safety David Rowe said. “We only get a few days to work on stopping that game plan so that’s definitely a hard thing to do.”