Topper defense looks to hold its ground

Lucas Aulbach

Saturday will be the first time this year Topper defensive players have faced a team that runs the triple-option offense, but it won’t be the first time they’ve practiced against it.

Even at the start of Fall Camp back in August, the defense has spent time preparing to face Navy’s complicated run-based offense — referred to as the “triple-option” offensive system.

“We’ve been preparing for this team since spring practice,” defensive ends coach L.D. Scott said after practice Wednesday.” Our guys have been working on it throughout the summer and we even got a little bit of it in a couple of our other practices.”

The triple-option is an offense that lives on the ground. The quarterback throws the ball occasionally but is much more likely to hand it off or pitch it to the running back if he doesn’t run with it himself.

Navy’s offense has thrived on the run through the first two games of the year — the Midshipmen average 298 rushing yards per game, which ranks No. 1 in the NCAA.

WKU, meanwhile, has given up 782 rushing yards this season — a mark that averages out at 195.5 rushing yards per game, a mark good for No. 95 in the nation.

Senior linebacker Chuck Franks said the Toppers can make a difference on defense this game if they stay focused on the roles they’ve worked on in practice.

“We got to be disciplined,” Franks said. “Everybody has to do their job and make the plays they’re supposed to make and stay 100 percent to our assignments.”

Junior cornerback Cam Thomas said he thinks the defense has done a good job in practice preparing for Navy’s unique attack.

“We feel like we have it down pat and everybody’s in the right places,” junior cornerback Cam Thomas said after practice Wednesday. “It’s going to work out well.”

Some of the more experienced Toppers have the advantage of having seen Navy’s offense before.

WKU last faced the Midshipmen on Sept. 10, 2011. WKU, on its way to a 7-5 season, lost that game 40-14.

Thomas was a redshirt freshman that season. He said the WKU defense has looked at tape from that game to prepare for this year’s contest.

“We watched some film from two years ago and saw how we worked on and defeated the cut blocks and things like that,” he said. “I think we’ve done a better job of preparing this year to face the cut blocks and watch the play-actions and things like that.”

Franks was a redshirt sophomore in 2011 — the Navy game was the first game he had played in a regular season game since 2009.

He said the Toppers that played in that game that are still on the team should benefit from the experience.

“It definitely helps that we’ve had game experience against these guys,” Franks said Wednesday. “We know what to expect. We know that it’s going to be a lot of cut blocking and we know that we’ve got to run around and make plays and do what we’re coached to do.”