Southern Miss prepares for Navy's triple option
Southern Miss senior linebacker Ronnie Thornton has done all the right things in the film room this week, studying for hours and making sure all the young defensive players understand how difficult facing Navy's triple-option offense will be.
But no matter the amount of off-the-field preparation, Golden Eagles' coach Larry Fedora knows his defense is in for a rude awakening on Saturday.
''To do it out there live with the different calls, it's a different deal,'' Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora said.
Southern Miss (4-1) travels to face Navy (2-2) on Saturday in a game that will feature a marked contrast in style. While the Golden Eagles use their athletes to spread out the field and try to create mismatches, Navy's old-school, triple-option offense is compact and confusing, with misdirection and motion everywhere.
''You can't miss,'' Thornton said. ''Even if you're a split second out of your gap it can go for a big play. It's very difficult.''
Southern Miss' defense has played well last week in a 48-24 victory over Rice despite playing in its first game without senior linebacker Korey Williams, who is expected to be out for the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury against Virginia. But the Navy offense might provide the defense's toughest test so far.
The Midshipmen rush for more than 350 yards per game. Four different players have rushed for at least 100 yards already this season, led by fullback Alexander Tisch's 408 yards. Quarterback Kriss Proctor has rushed for 401 yards and seven touchdowns.
''It's definitely a challenge,'' Thornton said. ''Going from the spread to such a condensed offense where you've got to be on your assignments. You have to be locked in and tuned in to your keys and assignments ... You have to be disciplined.''
The Golden Eagles are expected to be shorthanded in the backfield. The team's top three running backs - Desmond Johnson, Kendrick Hardy and Jamal Woodyard - all have various injuries and Fedora hasn't said if any of them will be available. Quarterback Austin Davis and backup running backs Tracy Lampley and Jeremy Hester will be expected to provide a large chunk of the offense.
Navy is coming off an emotional 35-34 loss to rival Air Force last week. The Midshipmen also played South Carolina tight earlier this year before losing 24-21.
Midshipmen coach Ken Niumatalolo said it's crucial that his team figure out a way to get past last weekend's disappointment and prepare for an offense that gained a school record 654 total yards against Rice.
''They have so many weapons,'' Niumatalolo said. ''If we don't get ready for these guys and find a way to wipe off whatever's been said about last week and get that out of our system, we're in trouble ... We better forget about that game, or (Southern Miss) will embarrass us.''