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Sunday, June 26, 2022


Houston is no stranger to Navy’s triple-option offense, but it will still give problems

Junior wide receiver Marquez Stevenson finished the night with 133 yards on eight catches in Houston’s 56-41 loss to No. 24 Navy. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Junior wide receiver Marquez Stevenson finished the night with 133 yards on eight catches in Houston’s 56-41 loss to No. 24 Navy during the 2019 season. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Houston has played against Navy the past five seasons in a row, and while the Cougars have seen plenty of the Midshipmen’s unique triple-option offense, it always appears to provide a unique challenge as four of the last five contests have been high-scoring affairs and this year could be the same.

 “Every year they are going to be good at what they do,” junior linebacker Donavan Mutin told reporters via Zoom.

“They’re not a team that sways from what they do. We have to be ready and prepared to play against them. Everybody knows the type of animal the triple-option is.”

Navy is coming off a 288yard, four-touchdown rushing performance against East Carolina, and on the season is averaging 190.4 yards on the ground per contest.

The key position that the triple-option offense revolves around are the fullbacks, and this season the Midshipmen are led by both senior Nelson Smith, who has rushed for 342 yards, and junior Jamale Carothers, who has rushed for 311.

“Those guys are a huge part of their offense,” said Mutin on the two fullbacks. “Those guys are guys that they depend on and that we’re going to have to be ready for.”

Despite the distinctive offense, Houston is no stranger to defending against strong rushing attacks as both BYU and Tulane entered with strong ground games of their own during their meetings with Houston, and the Cougars have been successful at containing the damage from these attacks.

Houston will enter Saturday with the No. 4 defense against the rush in the entire nation, holding its opponents to only 74 total yards per contest.

“We have a great d-line up front,” said junior safety Gervarrius Owens on the Cougars’ success limiting opposing rushing attacks.

“A great d-line coach (like Brian Early), and really on the back-end we just teach pursuit and aggression. When you come in, make them feel you. Get to the ball. Don’t try to avoid one-on-one tackles. If you do, make sure all 10 are rallying around that one person,” Owens added.

Despite the vast improvement that Houston’s defense has shown two games in from a season ago, the unit will be tested again this week, and one pitfall that Mutin said that the defense must avoid is focusing too much on Navy’s triple-option that they get undisciplined in the passing game and get caught disregarding it.

“Everyone knows they run the ball, but don’t take that away thinking that they can’t pass,” Mutin said. “Passing is what they do to supplement their offense … They run at a high level and they can pass at a high level.”

While Navy has only thrown the ball 45 times through five games for 24 completions, the Midshipmen’s passes are cerebral and tend to lead to chunk plays if they catch opposing defenses slacking. Navy’s quarterbacks are averaging nine yards per completion.

“This is a game where you can’t fall asleep no matter what position you are in,” Owens said.

“Everybody has a responsibility that you’re going to have to do, and I feel like a lot of (Navy’s) success comes when people fall asleep and try to do other people’s jobs. Everybody has to lock in and do their jobs.”

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