There will be no surprises, no new wrinkles, no tricks up the sleeve.
When Temple plays Navy in Saturday’s American Athletic Conference championship game, the Midshipmen will line up and run the triple option over, and over, and over again.
“This is a team in the Naval Academy that challenges you to your core,” Temple coach Matt Rhule said Tuesday. “They physically come at you every single play.”
Navy has the No. 2 rushing offense in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Midshipmen average 342 yards rushing. They ran for 496 yards and nine touchdowns last week in a 75-31 win over Southern Methodist and rushed for 460 yards and nine touchdowns against East Carolina the week before in a 66-32 win.
Their triple-option attack forces opposing defenses to play mistake-free football. Each defensive player is responsible for one offensive player, which results in 11 one-on-one matchups on the field. If one guy is out of position or misses a tackle, the Midshipmen break off a big play.
“Nobody stops them,” Rhule said. “They have an answer in this offense for everything, no matter what you’re in. If you watch, every week somebody comes up with something different and they have an answer for it. It’s going to come down to, in our mind, whether we can get off the blocks and tackle.”
“It’s mainly going to be us with technique and it’s just us getting off blocks, making a big tackle that we need to make and knocking them back,” redshirt senior linebacker Avery Williams said.
The Owls last played Navy in 2014 when Temple lost, 31-24. The Midshipmen rushed 63 times for 487 yards and four touchdowns in the game.
Temple got another taste of the triple option earlier this season when the Owls faced Army at Lincoln Financial Field in their season opener.
It didn’t go too well.
The Black Knights ran 67 times for 329 yards and four touchdowns in Temple’s 28-13 loss.
Since then, the Owls have grown into one of the best defenses in the country. Temple ranks No. 3 in the FBS in total defense and No. 10 in scoring defense. Only Alabama and Michigan rank higher in both categories.
“I think we weren’t expecting a fight,” senior linebacker Jarred Alwan said of the Army game. “This game we've definitely got to expect a fight until the end.
“I think we’re one of the best defenses in the country anyway. So I don’t know, I mean, this offense is going to be tough to stop, we've just got to play our technique and just do what the coaches tell us. Watch extra film, watch tape and just prepare like every other game.”
Temple’s best defense against the triple option might be its offense. The longer Temple can sustain drives, the longer the Owls can keep the Midshipmen offense off the field.
The Owls rank No. 5 in time of possession, holding the ball for more than 34 minutes per game.
“To have a chance, we need to play well on offense,” Rhule said. “You have to control the clock, you have to put up some points and score, so your defense isn’t consistently under siege.”