According to senior captain Andrew Adams, the best way to stop the triple-option offense is for everyone on the defense to do their job.
On Saturday afternoon, the Huskies will be once again be faced with stopping the triple-option offense as they will welcome Army for the second game of the season and second game against the Black Knights in as many years.
Last season, Army defeated the Huskies 35-21 at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 8, 2014. With UConn trailing late in the fourth quarter, they had a chance to tie the game after recovering an onside kick. Quarterback Chandler Whitmer led the team down the field inside the 10-yard line, but threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by cornerback Chris Carnegie.
This year, head coach Bob Diaco hopes to see improvement from the Huskies the second time around against Army (0-1).
“For me to stand here and say any other thing else is talking out both sides of my mouth,” Diaco said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday afternoon. “I would be disappointed if our team doesn’t play better than we did a year ago.”
A year ago, Army produced 363 yards of offense against the Huskies – 325 rushing and 38 in the air – en route to its first win at Yankee Stadium since 1960.
And because the triple-option is rarely run from college teams, it makes this week that much more difficult for UConn (1-0) to prepare, due in large part because they usually don’t have to deal with such a complex offensive scheme.
“This preparation is unique,” Diaco said. “It’s totally opposite of a lot of things we’ve done. It’s a real challenge as a defense, a real challenge as a team but a real challenge specifically for as a defense.”
“The academies are experts at it [triple-option]. And they operate at a level and with speed that if you haven’t seen until the game starts, there is no way to simulate.”
So how does a defense stop the triple-option offense? What is the best way?
“I think that anytime you’re trying to defend [the triple option], you can’t let them run the full back. If they’re going to run the full back and gain significant yardage, you’re going to lose. There’s no way to win that game,” Diaco said.
“You can’t allow them to throw shot passes. If they throw explosive play shot passes downfield, you’re going to lose. And that was the hallmark in the game a year ago. So we had a couple of shot passes, each of them set up scores,” Diaco said.
Last season, Army quarterback Angel Santiago ran for 97 yards and two touchdowns. He only had 38 yards in the air.
The Huskies won’t have to worry about Santiago this year, because he graduated. But taking over for him this season is sophomore Ahmad Bradshaw. And Diaco thinks he might even be better.
“We feel that he’s a more athletic player, faster. He’s got a darn good arm and he’s a fairly accurate passer for a young guy in his second year,” Diaco said. “He’s a talented player. Big and fast, athletic, so he’s a real weapon with the ball. He can be a spread quarterback on most teams in the country. To be in this offense, he’s the prototypical guy.”
Redshirt senior linebacker Graham Stewart also had high praise for the sophomore quarterback.
“I’ve been watching him on film, he’s very athletic,” Stewart said after Tuesday’s practice. “I think he’s a really good player.”
Bradshaw, making his debut in last weeks 45-38 loss against Fordham, rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns and also passed for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
As a team against Fordham last week, Army had 389 yards of total offense – 256 of those yards came on the ground.
Once again, the Huskies are going to have their hands full with trying to contain the triple-option. UConn has the game from last year to look back on and they can try to simulate in practice what Army’s offense will look like come Saturday, but it isn’t going to be easy, in any case.
“It’s very hard to prepare for,” redshirt junior defensive tackle Mikal Myers said, “it’s something we’re really taking serious this year.”