WKU prepares for triple-option once again

Quarterback Brandon Doughty (12) passes through traffic during the first half of WKU’s 44-28 victory over Georgia State Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga.

Elliott Pratt

It may be the first time WKU and Army have played each other, but Saturday’s contest in West Point, N.Y., isn’t going to present a challenge the Toppers haven’t already seen this year.

In fact, the obstacle they’ll face may actually give them extra confidence with their potential to become bowl eligible with a win. Coach Bobby Petrino said he doesn’t place an emphasis on the hope of his team becoming bowl eligible but that doesn’t stop the players from realizing what could happen.

“That would be awesome,” junior defensive back Rico Brown said. “Last year’s experience was a blessing to us and was a great experience. To go again would be a great experience.”

Before that happens, though, the Toppers will have to stop the complex triple-option offense again.

WKU had success in September against Navy, a team that runs a mirror offense to Army’s. The Midshipmen came to Smith Stadium that time with the nation’s No. 1 rushing offense — now Army holds that spot with an average of 336 rushing yards per game.

“They do a few different things,” Petrino said when comparing Army with Navy. “They run it more. They have a couple different schemes in their running. They do a little bit more of the load-option and the true triple and try to block guys more than to read them at times. They’re very patient, so it’s going to be a challenge.”

Part of WKU’s success against Navy was due to senior linebacker Andrew Jackson’s big hit that knocked quarterback Keenan Reynolds out of the game in the second quarter. Jackson will more than likely return for the Navy game after serving an indefinite suspension for violating team rules and did not travel with the team to Georgia State last Saturday. But Petrino said Jackson has “met every requirement so far” and he would probably be ready to go Saturday.

Since the Toppers were able to stop the option earlier in the year, the players said they believe it will happen again.

“If we did it before, I bet we could do it again,” Brown said. “We just have to go out there and execute whatever game plan the coaches have and we’ll be just fine.

“Army is going to be very disciplined. I’m sure coaches have a game plan. All our job is, is to go out there and execute.”

Even if it’s the first contest between the two schools, there is still a little familiarity between staffs. While Petrino was coaching at Louisville, the Cardinals defeated Army twice while both schools were members of Conference USA.  Before then, Petrino and Army co-defensive coordinator Chris Smeland served on staff at Louisville in 1998.

Army coach Rich Ellerson knows the Toppers present as much a threat on the ground as they do, saying Petrino is “a little bit out of character or out of personality” because of Petrino’s pass-the-ball offensive reputation.

“They are multi-dimensional and have multiple personnel sets that are potentially problematic for us in both formations,” Ellerson said in his Monday press conference.

Petrino said he hopes to come away from the Army game with another win — a win which would set his team up for bowl eligibility.

“We came out of the Navy game healthy and it was a fun game for us,” Petrino said. “It’s always an honor to play both Army and Navy and we’re excited about going up there and having another good game.”