By David Fong
TROY — The difference between stopping a single-wing offense and a triple-option offense is kind of like the difference between stopping a runaway bus and stopping two trains headed in opposite directions — sure, the end goal may be the same, but the methods of achieving those desired goals are very different.
So while the Troy defense did succeed in stopping Belmont’s single-wing rushing attack in Week 1 — the Trojans limited the Bison to just 87 yards on the ground — it will be a completely different test this week against Xenia and its triple-option attack.
“I don’t want to say the two offenses are completely different — because both look to run the ball — but the execution of defense you have to use is completely different,” Troy football coach Matt Burgbacher said. “In the triple option, they want to get the fullback the ball and they want the quarterback to run the ball. They want to run the ball and they want to control the clock — but they can also score quick.”
That’s the test the Trojan defense will face this week when Troy (1-0) travels to Xenia (1-0) Friday. The two teams met last year, with the Trojans beating the Buccaneers 28-6. Burgbacher said to put no stock in last year’s result, however, as Xenia — which beat Beavercreek 41-14 last week in its season opener — is a drastically improved team.
“It’s like night and day,” he said. “They are a much better team than they were last year. They’ve got a lot of guys back at their main positions and you can see where that year of experience has made a huge difference. They’ve got all five of their offensive linemen back, they’ve got their quarterback back and they’ve got their fullback back — those are the seven main positions when you are talking about a triple-option team.”
Back at fullback is Sincere Wells, who finished last season with 210 carries for 1,350 yards and 15 touchdowns. Last week against Beavercreek, Wells had 18 carries for 185 yards and f0ur touchdowns. Returning at quarterback is senior Christian Severt, who had 12 carries for 62 yards and two touchdowns against the Beavers. He attempted just one pass in the game.
“The big thing for us is we’ve got to be disciplined,” Burgbacher said. “Lou Holtz always used to say the best thing you can do in practice when you are facing an option team is to practice without the football. Someone has to play the dive, someone has to play the quarterback and someone has to play the pitch. If you are playing the option and someone isn’t playing their assignment, you’ll find out real quick who it is.
“Their offensive linemen are very good. We use a lot of zone blocking and don’t necessarily fire out on every play — a lot of our offensive line is based on positioning. With Xenia, every play they are putting their weight on their front hand and they are coming off the ball.”
Just as Troy will face a defense it doesn’t see much of, it also will be facing a defense it doesn’t see often.
Xenia runs a 5-2 defense, often loading up the box with seven defenders to stop the run. The return its leading tackler from last season, inside linebacker Nick Willis, who had 88 tackles last season and 18 tackles in the season opener.
“They get their two defensive ends (Devin Hall and Jalin Adams) and their leading tackler back from last season — and all three of those guys are very good football players,” Burgbacher said. “They are going to want to keep seven guys in the box and stop the run. We’ve been talking a lot with our offensive staff this week about wanting to take advantage of that with our passing game and our outside game.
“Obviously we can only play five offensive linemen, and even if we throw a tight end in there, if they are putting seven guys in the box, we are going to be outnumbered. So we’ve got to do a good job of mixing things up. The other thing I notice about Xenia when I watch their film is how they swarm to the ball. There were a few plays against Beavercreek where it looked like they had 11 guys making the tackle. They have very good pursuit and a very good will to get to the football.”
Burgbacher said much of Troy’s success this week will hinge on its ability to stay focused and execute what it does.
“We can’t let things go to our head,” he said. “We think we have the potential to be a very good football team when we are focused, when we are unselfish and when we execute. We feel like we can do those things, but when you are dealing with 15- to 18-year-0ld kids who already have a lot going on in their lives, you always worry about that.
“We are going to scheme for Xenia this week, but we also are going to be looking at what we can do better and how we can improve. We still have a lot of things we can do better than we did against Belmont; we can still get a lot better.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong