OFFENSE: OFFENSIVE?

When I wrote up my impressions of the Temple game, I focused primarily on the defense. With the offense being kept out of the end zone for most of the day, that probably seemed odd. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about the offense. To really understand what was happening on that side of the ball, I felt like we had to get into the weeds a little bit. Here’s every drive in regulation from last week.

FIRST DRIVE


  1. Unbalanced line. Triple option, give to Kettani, gain of 8.
  2. Designed handoff to Kettani, fumble. Timeout.
  3. Designed handoff to Kettani, gain of 29. 1st down.
  4. Triple option, Kaipo keeps, gain of 9.
  5. Designed handoff to Kevin Campbell, gain of 5. 1st down.
  6. Triple option, give to Kettani, gain of 4.
  7. Toss sweep to Shun White, no gain.
  8. Trips formation. Pass to Finnerty, gain of 5.
  9. Unbalanced line. Designed handoff to Kettani, gain of 7, 1st down.
  10. Triple option, pitch to Shun White, gain of 9.
  11. QB keeper, gain of 1, TD.

The game started out well enough. That’s your typical Navy drive right there; 11 plays, 79 yards. But notice that almost the entire drive, and every triple option play, was run out of the “heavy” formation. We’ve seen a lot of this formation all year. Another formation we’ve seen a lot of is the “tight” formation, where the wide receivers are lined up closer to the tackles. Both of those formations are designed to help block the middle linebacker. In the tight formation, it’s the wide receiver who blocks him. In the unbalanced “heavy” formation we saw here, it’s the extra tackle. So what does that tell us?

It tells us that as critical as Kaipo’s injury has been, losing Andrew McGinn for the season has had almost as much of an impact. In the base spread formation it’s usually the playside tackle’s responsibility to keep the middle linebacker occupied. But the tackle position has been a revolving door for the Mids this season, and getting to that MLB has been a problem. It affects Coach Jasper’s play calling; he felt he had to help the tackles out right from the beginning of this game. Every triple option play was run to the heavy side of the formation. The only plays run to the weak side of the formation were designed handoffs/keepers.

The line problems are also having an effect on some of Niumat’s decision-making, as we’ll see later on.

SECOND DRIVE


  1. Unbalanced line. Designed handoff to Kettani, gain of 1.
  2. Designed handoff to Kettani, gain of 5.
  3. Designed handoff to Campbell, gain of 4. 1st down. Timeout.
  4. Triple option, pitch to Finnerty. Gain of 13, 1st down.
  5. Designed handoff to Kettani, gain of 7.
  6. Midline option, Kaipo keeps. Gain of 5, 1st down. End of quarter.
  7. Designed handoff to Kettani, gain of 2.
  8. Triple option, give to Kettani. Loss of 1. Clipping penalty, 15 yards. 2nd & 23.
  9. Trips formation. Midline option, Kaipo keeps. Gain of 6.
  10. Base spread formation. Swing pass to Kettani, loss of 7. 4th down.
  11. Punt.

This was another typical grind-it-out Navy drive that was motoring along just fine until the 15-yard penalty.

THIRD DRIVE


  1. Unbalanced line. Midline option, Kaipo keeps. Gain of 1.
  2. Triple option, pitch to Shun, loss fo 3. The DE Kaipo was reading didn’t take the fullback; he squatted. Kaipo kept the ball. Both the DE and the LB that was Kaipo’s pitch key went after the quarterback. Kaipo pitched to Shun. Shun had a full head of steam and probably could have outran the inside-out pursuit to the corner, but the WR and slotback mixed up their blocking assignments. Both players went after the run support safety, leaving the cornerback unblocked with a clean shot at Shun. Cory Finnerty saw him coming, but it was too late.
  3. Trips formation. Triple option, Kaipo keeps. Gain of 1. This was a missed read by Kaipo. The same DE he read on the last play squatted again, and was waiting for the QB to come outside. It forced Kaipo back in, where he had nowhere to run.
  4. Punt

FOURTH DRIVE


  1. Unbalanced line once again. Midline option, give to Kettani. Gain of 8.
  2. Designed handoff to Kettani, gain of 3. 1st down.
  3. Midline option, Kaipo keeps. Gain of 6.
  4. Triple option, give to Kettani. Gain of 6, 1st down.
  5. Trips formation. Pass to Greg Shinego, gain of 21. 1st down.
  6. Kaipo spikes the ball to stop the clock.
  7. Base spread formation. Triple option, pitch to Doyle. Gain of 24, 1st down.
  8. Kaipo spikes the ball to stop the clock.
  9. Trips formation. Midline option, Kaipo keeps. The DT that took the fullback was able to bounce back out and keep Kaipo from running up the middle. Timeout.
  10. Blocked field goal.

This was a pretty good drive that just ran out of time, and should have ended in points anyway.

FIFTH DRIVE


  1. Base spread formation. Counter option, gain of 13. 1st down. There’s no way that Kaipo was at any better than 60-70% for this game, and this play shows us why. The counter was wide open here. A healthy Kaipo would have kicked in those long strides of his–he had plenty of room–and been gone. He just didn’t have the legs to do so in this game.
  2. Play-action pass to Tyree Barnes, incomplete.
  3. Triple option, Kaipo keeps. Gain of 5. You’ll note that the playside tackle went outside of the give key instead of inside like he’s usually supposed to. That’s another blocking adjustment to help the tackle get to the MLB.
  4. Trips formation. Designed give to Kettani, gain of 4.
  5. Punt.

Having crossed the Navy 40, I was surprised that Niumat didn’t choose to go for it here. After Temple scored a way-too-easy touchdown to open the half, I thought that Niumat wanted to answer immediately. Instead, he opted for the punt. A lot of you have commented about Ivin and Niumat being conservative this year, in part because they haven’t gone for it on 4th down as often. Some, including Niumat himself once or twice, have said that it’s because the defense is improved. They are a little better, but I don’t think that’s the reason. I think Niumat’s a little less trigger-happy on 4th down because he isn’t as confident in the offensive line. We see how Coach Jasper is having to compensate for the loss of McGinn, and we know the offense has been stuffed in short-yardage situations earlier this year (esp. against Ball State and Duke). While I don’t think we should use the 2007 season as our baseline for how often we should go for it on 4th down (those were some pretty unusual circumstances), I do think that this was one situation we would’ve gone for it any other year, too.

The line’s struggles, and the coaches’ subsequent reluctance to go for it on 4th down, might be affecting other elements of the game plan, too. The offense moved the ball on this drive, with 3 rushes for 22 yards. But the incomplete pass meant that averaging 4.5 yards on the next two carries wasn’t enough. Perhaps the reluctance to go for it on 4th & short has also led to a reluctance to throw the ball.

SIXTH DRIVE


  1. Base spread formation. Designed handoff to Kettani, gain of 2.
  2. Counter option, Kaipo keeps. Gain of 12, 1st down. Like the last counter option play, a healthy Kaipo would go the distance here. You can really see him try to kick it in gear on this run, but he just can’t do it and comes out of the game.
  3. Dobbs in. Unbalanced line. Midline option, Ricky keeps. No gain. This was a missed read by Ricky.
  4. Midline option, give to Kettani. Gain of 2. Another missed read. The quarterback keeps on the midline most of the time, which is probably why Ricky kept the ball on the first play. He probably assumed that the DT would play him again on the second play. He didn’t.
  5. “Tackle” screen to Tyree Barnes. Gain of 7. Was Tyree even an eligible receiver on that play? I need to get check my rule book.
  6. Punt.

Another 4th & 1, but I doubt too many of you wanted to go for it here.

SEVENTH DRIVE


  1. Base spread formation. Triple option, give to Kettani. Gain of 7. Ricky makes the right read here.
  2. Triple option, Dobbs keeps. Gain of 4, 1st down. This was a missed read, but it’s a read that Kaipo was having trouble with too. The DE turned his shoulders like he was taking the fullback, but instead stepped into the QB’s path. Hard running by Ricky gets the 1st down.
  3. Play-action pass, intercepted. Overthrown ball to a well-covered Shun White. Play was kind of doomed from the beginning.

EIGHTH DRIVE


  1. Base spread formation. Triple option, give to Kettani. Gain of 8. Ricky makes the right read. He was helped a little by the tackle, who chipped the DE and knocked him away from the fullback.
  2. Triple option, pitch to Shun White. Gain of 9, 1st down.
  3. Unbalanced line. Play-action, Dobbs scrambles, fumbles out of bounds. Gain of 7.
  4. Base spread formation. Counter option, pitch to Shinego, no gain. Right read by Ricky. Blocking was a little rough (A-back & playside tackle both missed blocks).
  5. Trips formation. QB draw, gain of 7. 1st down.
  6. Unbalanced line. Triple option, give to Kettani. Gain of 6.
  7. Midline option, give to Kettani. Gain of 3. Missed read by Ricky, although it worked out with the blitzing linebacker.
  8. Midline option, give to Campbell. Gain of 1and a 1st down by the grace of God. Missed read by Ricky.
  9. Tight formation. Play-action off the toss sweep. Pass to Kettani in the flat, gain of 15. 1st down. Pretty impressive play by Ricky, throwing off of his back foot with a defender in his face.
  10. Drop-back pass, Dobbs to Thiel, touchdown. Nice wheel-post combination routes on the left side.

A good drive under Ricky, although he really seems to struggle with the midline option.

NINTH DRIVE


  1. Tight formation. Play-action off the toss sweep, pass complete to Tyree Barnes. Gain of 27, 1st down. If that play looks familiar, it’s the exact same play PJ called at the beginning of the Pitt game last year (that I pointed out in the Pitt preview).
  2. Trips formation. Midline option, Ricky keeps, no gain. Another missed read on the midline.
  3. Base spread formation. Drop-back pass, complete to Bobby Doyle. Gain of 16, 1st down.
  4. Trips formation. Triple option, Dobbs keeps. Gain of 8. Good read by Ricky. A more experienced QB would have faked a pitch there, but that will come with time.
  5. QB draw, gain of 5, 1st down.
  6. Tight formation. Toss sweep to Shun White, gain of 2.
  7. Unbalanced line. Midline option, Dobbs keeps. Gain of 2. This was sort of a midline, I should say. It was a midline designed for Ricky to keep; Kettani would cut the DT if he played the quarterback. The playside tackle couldn’t sustain his block, and it forced Ricky to go in the other direction.
  8. Designed handoff to Kettani, gain of 3. Timeout.
  9. Trips formation. Fullback option, pitch to Kettani, touchdown. Some have described Ricky’s effort on this play as herculean. I think comparisons to Atlas are more appropriate, considering the size of the DT he was carrying. This was a rare missed block by Anthony Gaskins, who whiffed on the guy that ended up on Ricky’s back. The backside guard pulled to block the DE, while the playside tackle went for the middle linebacker. Fortunately, the linebacker that was supposed to be Ricky’s pitch key got caught up in the mayhem around the quarterback, and Kettani had a path to the end zone. Great play by Ricky to get the pitch off after showing some impressive strength in not going down.

When I first watched the game I kept trying to figure out what Temple was doing to slow the Mids down. But they didn’t really do anything. They had one defensive end that did a pretty good job mixing up what reads he was giving to the quarterback. Other than that, it was a series of Navy mistakes that slowed them down. A penalty here, a missed block there, a missed field goal, incomplete pass, hamstring that just wasn’t ready to go… Nothing groundbreaking, but when strung together they ground the offense to a halt. As we’ve seen many times before, it wasn’t as bad as it looked. But as we see here, it doesn’t have to be to make it a long day.

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45 Responses

  1. It looks like Kaipo is done for the year. At least any hope of seeing a 100% Kaipo at the helm. I see where KN mentions he would start JB vs ND. I hope that is a smokescreen and he plays Ricky Dobbs. Dobbs may not make correct reads every snap but he is a playmaker. JB passing has been awful this year. RD can keep ND honest with his ability to throw IMHO.

  2. Given the choice between who runs the triple better and who passes better, I’ll take the former. KN said both might play, so we’ll see.

  3. I was reading your comments about how Navy is running in heavy more often to compensate for a less impressive offensive line. Why are they doing so bad this year? Are they the worst O-line in years, or were we all just spoiled with having guys like Antron Harper and Ben Gabbard playing last year?

  4. Andrew McGinn is hurt.

  5. Great stuff. I agree that the loss of McGinn was huge – KN has tried a number of players there, but none has truly stuck yet. Your analysis is right on, and ably demonstrates that (a) Ricky misses some reads, and (b) there is a lot more going on each play than what the QB is doing, with breakdowns elsewhere often defining each play. Finally, I concur that JB should start. I believe, however, that we will be passing more against ND, and Ricky may be in pretty quickly if JB stumbles.

  6. Mike,

    After watching the ND/BC game. I am a liitle more encouraged with JB starting. I think the ND defense has some holes that a more experienced QB will be able expoit, especially the LB reads. If KN does use both the ND defense will have a hard time adjusting to a RD package. At least Ratbird Stadium has big screen so I can look for the things you have pointed out in the reads.

    Two in a row, is possible…

  7. Yeah pipes, I think we’ll probably see both no matter what.

  8. All the injuries, QB revolving door, and tougher schedule makes it all the more impressive to be 6-3 at this point. This team has been very resilient and has found different ways to win seemingly every game. That speaks to the leadership on the team and coaching staff.

  9. With the O line, are we seeing the effects of the combined loss of KN as Navy head coach and Spencer to GT as position coaches?

  10. No, we are seeing the effects of Andrew McGinn being injured.

  11. Mike, thank you for a clear and very helpful analysis.

  12. Ok does this bring fear to anyone but how about JB on punt or kickoff returns?
    I had thought he was gong to become a Jacob Hester LSU type player but it seems limited to QB period?
    Wouldnt more use be helpful especially against ND?

  13. With Kaipo hurt, now is not the time to be screwing with position changes. JB is going to be a quarterback for the rest of the year, except maybe something wacky for the bowl game.

  14. Yeah guess that was all tied to Kaipo being the QB.
    Just looking for little “new things” for ND since we will need all we can get to beat them-as bad as they are.

    Thx

  15. Remember that we started moving the ball when Dobbs started throwing. I’m not saying that we should become a passing team but a pass once every 2-3 series keeps those DB’s backpeddling insted of selling out on the option. Keep em honest. A pass here and there relly makes the TO click.

  16. We absolutely HAVE to somehow keep ND honest and not let them think they can just bully rush and push us around- 3 straight running plays is not going to get it done against their mass.
    They may use 7-8 man fronts- NO?
    Thats where those sharp – precise slot back tosses come into play- we will need to back em off somehow.
    If not we could see a another Pitt afternoon (please God no!).
    This would put the nail in Charlies coffin – you know he thinks he will be the savior now by taking over the offense.
    Savior? It reeks of desperation.
    Anyone else see 50 passes coming our way?

  17. Opsss by “slot back toss” I mean a quick pass to slot backs.

  18. If 50 passes come our way, I think that is a good sign for Navy. It should mean that ND has abandoned the run.

  19. True- but in their case against us they may take a Texas Tech mentality and doing just that.
    They know we cant pressure them or force them to punt and I see huge games for Tate and Floyd against us.

    BTW- Never been there but what would you say will be make up of the crowd? Will we have 60% for us 40% for them or is it like NJ was? It seems better in Balt but we still may be hearing more Irish…
    The key will be to shut them up early and have them get even more down on their team (that would not be hard to do-the fickle bunch they are they would be screaming for Weiss to go).

  20. Will anyone be traveling to the EagleBank Bowl? Was looking at the NavySports.com website and saw that AnthonyTravel.com has the Mayflower hotel for $149 a night and tailgate tickets. Is anyone else going and if so where are you staying?

  21. Mike,
    How do you tell the difference between a designed fullback handoff and a triple option read to the fullback? And once more, what does Mooney get more of up at WP?

    When I asked Niumat at the postgame presser why he didn’t go for it he said he wanted to play against Temple’s strengths, which I guess he meant offense. I got the feeling from how he answered and his body language that he was almost second guessing himself. I don’t want to assume anything but if I would have to guess missing that conversion at Ball State early in the year always sticks in the back of his mind.

    As always, great analysis all around.

  22. You can tell the difference by looking at the offensive line & A-backs. If they aren’t leaving someone unblocked for the quarterback to read, then it isn’t an option play.

    From what I’ve seen of Army this year, they barely run any triple option plays. I’m shocked that they can score 31 points on anyone, even if Rice’s defense isn’t very good. I think it’s a credit to their offensive line. Almost every carry Mooney had against Air Force was a designed handoff.

    I think the missed 4th down against Duke in the 3rd quarter pretty much sealed the deal for Niumat.

  23. What a terrific job of explaining and illustrating Navy’s offense. Great job Blogmaster.

  24. I think we really miss RC and ZS blocking ability this year. Maybe I just don’t remember the whiffs as much as this season.

  25. 2007 skewed a lot of people’s expectations on both sides of the ball. We aren’t seeing anything out of line with our other offenses since 2003, but it looks like we’re struggling because the 2007 offense was almost perfect.

  26. Nearly the converse of the defense. 2007, that is.

  27. I think Coach Niumat is in a good spot as far as deciding who plays. 1) Both guys have different strengths and weaknesses. 2) JB has played in the some big games and in front of big crowds, so I think there is less risk in starting him. 3) ND is coming off a short week (Sat night road game, travel to SB, travel to Baltimore for an early Sat game) and they have so many issues to work out, that they now have to prepare for 2 QB’s.

    The saying goes: if you have two starting QB’s then you have no starting QB’s. But, because of the triple option and all of the injuries, I really do not think that the saying holds true this weekend.

  28. After seeing a noticable increase in the use of the “wildcat” formation in the NFL this year, any chance that KN employs some variant of it, using both JB and RD in the backfield?

    Though I don’t think it would classify as a true “wildcat formation”, I recall on the first play of the Meineke Car Care Bowl v. BC, PJ had both Kiapo and JB line up in the backfield before Kiapo split out to the reciever slot. The play didn’t work out too well but I don’t think BC was ready for it.

    I know it’s a long-shot to expect to see this against ND but given the skills sets of JB and RD, they seem like they’d be good candidates. Under PJ, in big games the team could be counted on for a little trickery early on.

    Just a thought…

  29. I think that the biggest wildcard with JB right now is his health. JB, the coaches, and the staff know as best as possible how that stands, although I don’t think any player is going to say he can’t go unless it’s just impossible. My guess is that JB has shown well in practice, so he is slated to start. I hope he holds up. There is nothihng but negatives for for Navy if he goes down again. We need JB.

  30. Paul, I think stuff like that is a lot more likely in a bowl game than during the regular season.

  31. Good summaries and comments from all hands.
    Seems to me that JB has too much self-confidence
    and winds up keeping the ball on critical 3rd and 3.
    We have two good long receivers, very fast but need to
    be led….they seem to have to slow down and let the
    CB ‘s gather ’round. Ric threw some great balls on a
    line for 20-35 yards, plus a couple of longer throws
    by Ric that led the receiver perfectly, even allowing a
    bit of a cut to the open side. Hopefully we can alternate
    them frequently and keep ND. guessing. while the
    coaches refresh Ric’s knowledge of plays to run.

  32. Mike, I could get spoiled by having a review of the offense like that. You could probably make up quite a tutorial/course on this offense.

  33. Awesome analysis, thank you very much Mike. It’s like reading my very own “Triple Option for Dummies” tutorial. I have always wondered about the inner workings of this offense and this lays it out so even a layperson like myself can understand it. Thanks again!

  34. Mike,
    Superb breakdown, as usual. At the risk of sounding like a spoiled brat, can you bring the same acumen to the defensive side of the ball? As a fan, but X and O ignoramus, I am at a loss to explain our defensive woes. Is is lack of athletic talent? Scheme?

  35. Mike,

    Terrific job one again. You mentioned several times that Ricky missed reads on the Mainline option. What player is he reading? Does it differ from the triple?

    V/R Ken

  36. Ken–
    Check this out:

    http://thebirddog.wordpress.com/2008/10/10/the-midline-option/

  37. Beer90– It’s harder with the defense. The camera tends to follow the ball, so it’s hard to see what’s going on in coverage.

  38. Mike,

    Great job as always. I marvel at your insights. Also, the posts this week have been very interesting.

    Question: I believe I read last week that KN says RD went to wrong side on that incredible pitch play. Is that how you read it?

  39. If he did then Eric Kettani and the pulling guard did too. Maybe it was called wrong in the huddle.

  40. Very nice/informative “break-down” of each Navy “O” series. Now folks will be asking/demanding that you do this for every game!!! (o;

    Got one “homer comment” though:

    “4. Base spread formation. Counter option, pitch to Shinego, no gain. Right read by Ricky. Blocking was a little rough (A-back & playside tackle both missed blocks).” –> Blocking a “little rough” certainly the understatement of the entire analysis for sure! )o:
    That play not helped by going to the short side of the field either.

    GO NAVY!!!

  41. Mike-Niumat explained this at the luncheon today. Ricky was supposed to check the play to the other side and didn’t, that is what he meant when he said he went the wrong way. He didn’t check it so everybody went the wrong way, but he was wrong for not checking it (does that make sense?).

    Football dad-They run a lot of plays to the short side. It is all about the numbers, not the short side or wide side.

  42. In other words, what JB did at Wake Forest, Ricky didn’t do.

    Not saying that to take a shot at RD, just pointing out that maybe Niumat has reasons for starting JB that go beyond some irrational “love affair.”

  43. Correct. They had an unblocked guy to that side of the field. For some reason he did not take Kettani and that allwed Ricky to pitch it to him.

  44. On the first drive: nearly 7 minutes of clock time; but 1 minute, 38 seconds of actual action. Just an observation!

  45. Roger that NavyFan … In that case it looks like the “numbers” turned out to be 3 unblocked defenders on the ball from the “get go”. Whatever read/stunt the Defense executed just blew up the play.

    Beat Notre Dame!!!

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