By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – In most years, when Rutgers coaching staff looks down at their schedule and sees that they’re facing one of the service academies, there’s a sense of trepidation. They concoct ways to steal reps through spring, training camp and the regular season to prepare their defense for the triple option.
The unique offense that was once prominent in the game of football has become outdated. Aside from Army, Navy and Air Force, Georgia Tech is the only team in the country that runs it.
But No. 23 Rutgers (7-1, 4-0 Big East) coaches don’t have that same insecurity as years past. With a veteran defense that starts one underclassman in strong safety Lorenzo Waters, facing the triple has become second nature.
“When it comes to doing it,” defensive end Ka’Lial Glaud said. “It’ll be a refresher rather than starting from scratch.”
Facing Army the past three season, and Navy last year, they know what’s coming.
“We know what to expect,” middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais said. “I’ve had I think three cracks at it already playing the triple option between both Army and Navy, so I mean, everybody knows what to expect.”
Which is a physical style of football that is going to ground and pound you. The Black Knights are No. 1 in the country in rushing, running the ball for 86 percent of their offensive plays.
But it’s the formations, multiple backs in the backfield and pitching of the football that cause problems for defenses that seldom see this style of offense. That won’t be the case for the Scarlet Knights veteran defense.
“We didn’t have to practice it every week to get ready for this week. A lot of guys have experience doing that now,” defensive tackle Scott Vallone said. “This week we really have to hunker down and get in the groove of it to get ready for the game.”
Which shouldn’t take all that long. Like riding a bike, once you learn, you don’t forget. So much like after the first few pedals, after the first few reps Rutgers should be able to shake off the rust.
“You forget a little bit,” Vallone said. “You have to get back into the groove of it. It’s a little bit of a different mentality.”
But one Rutgers has had to take four times in the last four years.
“A lot of guys are experienced, so we don’t have to do as much teaching as we’ve had to do in the past,” Beauharnais said. “Because when I started playing they had to teach me from the installment from point A.”
So while it’s a challenge Rutgers won’t face any other game this season, it’s one they’ve embraced. And one they’re much more prepared for than in years past.
“We’ve been playing this defense against this offense for a number of years now,” head coach Kyle Flood said. “I know the players who have done it before, the Scott Vallones and the Steve Beauharnais, et cetera, they really take pride in their ability to change gears for a week and get this game plan mastered as best we can and then accept the challenge of stopping the number one rushing offense in the country.”