BULLS – GOAL LINE STAND : NAVY
By Leo Haggerty
Archived under Featured Articles  – College & University of South Florida

South Florida is on the road again this weekend.  The Bulls travel up to Annapolis to take on Navy in an American Athletic Conference battle.  USF enters the contest with a 3-3 record, 1-1 in conference play, coming off a come-from-behind victory over BYU in Tampa.  The Midshipmen are 4-1 on the season, 2-1 in the AAC, after a 45-17 road conquest of Tulsa.

The Middies present a unique challenge to the Green & Gold because the are a true run-oriented-triple option offense.  Not something HC Charlie Strong and his charges sees on a regular basis at all.

Can the the Bulls, a double-digit dog, pull off the upset?  Check out my four keys to victory that will go a long way to getting South Florida back in the championship hunt.

1ST DOWN – ELIMINATE THE OPTION

Now, I’m going old school on this one.  You have to hit the quarterback on every play whether he has the pigskin or not and here’s why.

I’ve asked our resident quarterback expert, Troy Odegaard who was a college option QB back in the day, what’s the one thing he hated to see from an opposing defense.  He has, without fail, answered the same way every time.

His response is always if the one job of the unblocked end defender that I was reading was to hit the QB on every play, I was in for a long afternoon.  By the middle of the second quarter, I was taking one step and pitching the football.  By the middle of the third quarter, I was just pulling and pitching immediately.

USF has to take the option away from Navy.  They have to force the quarterback to either hand off to the dive back or pitch it to the trailing back every time.  The South Florida defenders do that by tackling the FB then hitting the QB in the mouth.   That way all the rest of the defense has to do is rally to the football and arrive in ill-humor.

South Florida has to play assignment football.  Do you job and trust your teammate to do theirs.

2ND DOWN – GET OFF THE FIELD

The Navy offense is designed, for lack of better terminology, to wear you down.  They want to go on long sustained drives and chew up the clock preferably by running the football.  They are banking on one player, during that drive, not following their assignment and allowing for a big play to occur.

South Florida has to get off the field when they have the opportunity.  The Bulls have to make sure that, when they have the Middies in a third-down situation, they keep the Navy offense short of the 1st down marker.

3RD DOWN – NO TURNOVERS

The Blue & Gold, along with the rest of the service academies, live and die on takeaways.  Because of their size restrictions, the Naval Academy cannot go toe-to-toe in the trenches for 60 minutes.  The bigger opposition offensive lines will just wear them down.

South Florida has to make sure that they win the turnover battle by protecting the pigskin.  No fumbles or interceptions because the Midshipmen will take advantage of every opportunity.

4TH DOWN – LEAVE NO POINTS ON THE FIELD

This one is huge.  The Bulls have to turn every scoring opportunity into points.  USF has to come away with points, whether it’s a field goal or touchdown, on all trips into the red zone.

The philosophy of the Naval Academy is that as long as we have the football, you cannot score.  The Middies want to control the clock on offense and that limits the number of opposition possessions.  Not a bad idea, right?

South Florida cannot leave points on the field.  If they do, the outcome will probably be not to their liking.

So, it’s time for my pick.  When I asked HC Charlie Strong how hard will it be to prepare for Navy, has answer summed up what needs to happen.  He said, “It’s going to be very tough.  After you’ve played six games, and now you come to a true option teams, your outlook changes.  Now you have to played disciplined football.”

This pains me but I think trying to stop this offense and playing in front of a hostile crowd will eventually lead to the Bulls demise.  Navy, 31-27, in a game that’s close until the end.

Is that how it will play out?  Let’s gather around the TV and see, shall we?  Enjoy.