Bend-but-don't-break vs. the triple-option, who wins?
The Eagles defense hasn't been able to stop anything, really, all season. This Saturday, they'll face the unique triple option attack for the first of two games this season. Let's take a look back at how Frank Spaziani-led defenses have fared against opponents running the triple option.
Note: Army, traditionally an option attack offense, went away from the offensive scheme in favor of a Pro Style attack under coach Todd Berry. The last four BC-Army games -- 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007 -- were all against Berry's Pro Style attack, not the triple option. The BC-Army game before that, in 1997, Spaz was the RB coach and not defensive coordinator.
2008: Georgia Tech 19, Boston College 16 (Spaz = DC)
In Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson's first season, the visiting Yellow Jackets overcame a mistake-filled first half to beat Spaz and the Eagles 19-16. The Jackets committed three first half fumbles but BC failed to capitalize, taking just a 9-7 lead into the locker room.
The dagger occurred in the fourth quarter, where B-back Jonathan Dwyer broke a 43-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to give the Jackets the lead. Dwyer finished with 108 yards while QB Josh Nesbitt finished with 50 yards rushing, including a 30-yard scramble that helped preserve the victory.
The BC defense had come into the game allowing just 66.3 yards per game over their last nine, only to give up 165 against Georgia Tech. That was over 108 yards lower than Georgia Tech's 2008 per-game average. The BC D allowed 4.6 yards per carry (compared to a 5.55 YPG season average) and limited Georgia Tech's offense to 3-12 on third down.
One couldn't really fault the defense for this loss. The Eagles offense only managed 16 points and committed three turnovers of their own in the second half.
2006: Boston College 25, Navy 24 (Spaz = Interim HC)
Tom O'Brien left Boston College for N.C. State before the 2006 Meineke Car Care Bowl, handing the reigns over (temporarily) to interim HC Spaz. The Eagles were outgained by nearly 100 yards, surrendering 322 yards and 5.5 yards per rush against the Middies. Spaz's D held Navy to only slightly under their season averages -- 327 yards and 5.6 per attempt -- and would have lost the game (and the bowl winning streak) if not for Reggie Campbell fumbling the pitch from quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku in the game's final two minutes.
Navy's QB completed 4-of-7 passing for 77 yards (a 12.8 average) and two touchdowns in the loss.
This was not one of the BC defenses better performances in 2006. The bizarre conditions of the game -- TOB departing for Raleigh, Jagodzinski named head coach but Spaz retaining the "interim HC" label -- may have contributed, but it hardly can be said that the Eagles D had much success against Navy's triple-option attack.
2002: Boston College 46, Navy 21 (Spaz = DC)
This ended up being one of the worst Navy teams of the last decade. Under first-year head coach Paul Johnson, the Midshipmen limped into this one with a 1-5 record, having lost 14 fumbles through six games. Navy coughed the ball up five more times in this one and Navy QB Craig Crandeto added an interception for good measure.
The Eagles lead 46-7 early in the fourth quarter before easing off the gas and allowing two more Navy TDs. Despite the dominating win, Navy racked up 446 total yards, including a season-high 380 yards on 65 carries. BC also lost the time of possession battle by nearly four minutes. Classic bend-but-don't-break.
Navy came into this game having gone 2-25 in their last 27 games -- a brutal stretch of Midshipmen football before Paul Johnson and later Ken Niumatalolo had Navy fans expecting annual 8-9 win seasons and bowl appearances.
The key to any of these wins over option-running teams has been putting points on the board on offense. The opposing offense is going to get their yards on the ground, but Spaz's D have done a fairly good job at limiting them to below season averages. The BC offense didn't do enough to get the home win over Georgia Tech, did just enough (and got REALLY lucky) in the bowl win over Navy and dropped 46 on Navy in the 2002 game.
Lucky for BC, the Eagles offense is averaging more points per game (27.5) than they have since Matt Ryan left the Heights so the offense shouldn't be the problem on Saturday. It is the defense that is going to have to step up to stop the run in this one to avoid the dicey proposition of getting into a track meet with the Black Knights (see also: Wake Forest-Army from a few weeks back).