The Navy game is over, which means we can all stop thinking about the triple option. That is, we can stop thinking about it after this trip into the Film Room.
Larz discussed Notre Dame’s option offense earlier this week, and today we’ll look at how the Irish defended Navy’s option offense.
The First Half
Notre Dame played essentially a 5-2 defense against Navy. The Irish lined up with three down linemen in the middle with the Drop End and the Rover standing at the ends. The game plan appeared to be to use the interior linemen to occupy the offensive linemen so they couldn’t get to the second level, while using the defenders on the edge to force a quick pitch from the quarterback. The linebackers were tasked with watching for a fullback run first and then flowing to the outside. Meanwhile, the safeties played hyper aggressive. Both safeties followed the pre-snap motion to the outside to play the pitch.
This was fairly similar to what Mike Elko used last year, though I think the safeties were more aggressive this year. That aggressiveness may have caught Navy off guard.
Here’s a good example of that defense in motion.
It’s 3rd and 2 in the first quarter. Navy runs a speed option – a double option between the quarterback and the slot back. Asmar Bilal (yellow circle) is the optioned defender. The play side slot back blocks Alohi Gilman and the fullback loops around to block Te’von Coney.
Navy sets up their blocks, but Jalen Elliot took of towards the sideline at the snap. Notre Dame has three defenders against two blockers.
Elliot flies into the backfield and the slot back has nowhere to go. Gilman and Coney both do a nice job fighting off their cut block so this might have been a stop either way. But playing so aggressive with the safeties allowed the Irish defense to get an extra defender on the edge to stifle Navy in the first half.
Here’s the entire play:
Second Half Adjustments
After halftime, Navy brought out some adjustments to counter Notre Dame’s defense. Specifically, they focused on taking advantage of the safeties with misdirection.
Everyone has probably seen this play a million times, but let’s look at Malcolm Perry’s long run on Navy’s first play of the third quarter.
Navy puts the slot back on the left in motion before the snap (red arrow). This draws the attention of both safeties. Navy will run triple option away from the motion. The fake to the fullback draws both linebackers inside as well.
The motion has taken both safeties (yellow circles) out of the play. The wide receiver, instead of blocking Troy Pride (yellow star), goes inside to block Elliot. His intent is to block Elliot will also pulling Pride with him. If everything goes right, there should be no one between Perry and the end zone.
But Pride doesn’t follow the receiver and is in prime position to make a tackle for a short gain. Instead he does this:
Navy made a good adjustment to Notre Dame’s defense, but there was still an opportunity to make a stop. But one missed tackle turned it into a long run.
Here’s the full play:
Finally, let’s look at how Navy used this same concept to spring their fullback for their last touchdown.
The slot back to the quarterback’s right goes in motion, making it look like Navy is running the option to the left. But instead, the fullback will take the handoff and follow the pulling guard to the right.
Gilman (yellow arrow) follows the fake and takes himself out of the play. The real culprit here is Drew White (yellow star). As the guard comes up to the second level, White tries to go around him. This leaves the guard free to block Jalen Elliot and the fullback easily runs right past White. If White at least engages with the guard, Elliot can still make a play. It’s probably still a first down, but it’s not a touchdown.
But the guard swallows Elliot (yellow circle) and the fullback takes it in for a touchdown.
Here’s the full play:
I know I highlighted two negative plays and only one positive play, but the defense played extremely well on Saturday. The Irish defense held Navy to only 21 plays in the first half. They didn’t have a chance to make adjustments until the score was 27-0. That’s a win in my book.