The Last Word: Facing the Option

Sometime late Saturday night the Indiana defensive staff will put the Navy tape away forever. This is not something that will help them down the road. But for one game the Hoosiers have to find a way to slow down Keenan Reynolds and the Navy offense.

Every game, I will have a ‘Last Word' segment that looks at an issue or player personnel situation heading into the game. Last week it was the quarterbacks. This week, it's defending the option.

The good news is that this season the Hoosiers didn't have to wait until Game 7 to play Navy as they did a year ago. Last year, there was talk in the spring and summer about defending Navy's triple-option attack. There was time spent in preparation throughout the season getting ready for it. And IU's defenders had it in the backs of their minds for the first seven weeks of the season.

This time around, Indiana will play the gimmicky Navy offense in week 2 and that will be the end of it. Throw out the tape, don't look at it again, and move on. That will be the defensive philosophy sometime late Saturday night.

A year ago, the Hoosiers handled it pretty well. Up until the final 10 minutes of the game, IU had limited Navy to 226 yards of offense and the Hoosiers were leading 30-21. And as for the defense, it was really only responsible for 14 of those points. One of Navy's touchdowns had come off a pick six against Cameron Coffman. So overall, it had been a pretty successful gameplan and scheme.

Then came two long, sustained drives that would ultimately lead to a 31-30 Navy victory. The bottom line at the end was that the Hoosiers simply couldn't get Navy off the field in third and short situations. Or when Navy hits desperation mode, fourth and short comes into play, too.

Some of this will be on the defense certainly today but the offense has a major challenge, too.

Score enough points, keep the Navy defense on the field and don't turn it over and the Hoosiers should be able to be a 2-0 football team by the end of the day. But struggle with possessions, turn it over and force the IU defense to have to do too much and it could be an interesting evening of football at the Rock, Memorial Stadium, as Don Fischer so affectionately likes to call it.

The important thing for Indiana today is to play the game, get beyond facing the gimmicky offensive style of the Midshipmen, and move on to next week's opponent. Myself, I don't understand why you play a school like Navy when you get very little out of it, especially from a defensive standpoint. But schedules are made several years in the future as was this current two-game contract which comes to an end today.

The key for the Hoosiers defensively today is to play assignment football and not allow Navy to put together long, sustained drives. Indiana needs to make a statement early in the game on defense and then the offense needs to put the Midshipmen firmly behind the eight ball in terms of having to play catch up football.

That all sounds easy enough, right? We'll see.

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