Second-ranked Bearcats prep for Navy’s triple-option attack

CINCINNATI -- Triple-option football offenses not only are unusual and can create discomfort for defenses not used to seeing them, but they also can put pressure on the opposing team’s offense.

That’s why University of Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder believes part of his job on Saturday at Navy will be keeping the Bearcats’ offense on the field as long as possible.

“Earlier this morning, we had had an offensive staff meeting, and we agreed that we might see 12 possessions,” the fifth-year senior said during Tuesday’s weekly media session. “We know that, on every possession, we have to execute. You never know. Navy might have the ball the whole quarter. We have to execute on every drive and, hopefully, get points.

“Navy’s a specific-type team you have to prepare for, mainly on the defensive side. Our scout team does a great job at recreating looks, but this is a unique look you see once a year. Every week is a huge week for our scout team, this week more than ever. To be able to go out there and prepare at game speed is huge.”

Scoring has not been a problem for the undefeated Bearcats so far. On the way to being ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press poll, Cincinnati has scored more than 50 points in each of its last two games, both of them American Athletic Conference wins. The Bearcats are 6-0 overall and 2-0 in the AAC going into back-to-back road games at Navy and Tulane before returning home to meet Tulsa for Homecoming on Nov. 6.

Navy is 1-5 overall and 1-3 in the AAC. The Midshipmen’s only win was 34-30 over Central Florida on Oct. 2 and they are coming off losses to Southern Methodist at home and at Memphis.

Cincinnati is somewhat familiar with triple-option offenses. The Bearcats beat Army, 24-10, at Nippert Stadium on Sept. 26, 2020, but what was more on their minds was a 42-32 loss to Navy in 2017 in coach Luke Fickell’s first season..

“It’s something you never forget,” Fickell said. “The triple-option is always going to be unique. As soon as you think you’ve got everything figured out, it can get ugly really quick. Sometimes, it’s not just about talent, especially when you’re playing a triple-option team. It’s about fundamentals and talent. Sometimes, you get into games and let talent take over. This is a different animal.”

Navy ranks 20th nationally in rushing (214.3 yards per game) and No. 6 in time of possession (34:33).

Fickell was planning to lean heavily this week in practice on graduate assistant coach Kyle Bolden, a former standout linebacker at Colerain High School, where he practiced almost daily against the Cardinals’ triple-option offense while playing for his father, Tom, now the Lakota West coach. Bolden was one of Fickell’s first recruits in 2017, only to see his career prematurely ended by a knee injury in 2019. Fickell kept him on scholarship and added him to the Cincinnati coaching staff. One of Bolden’s primary duties is getting the scout team ready to give the “Blackcats” defense solid, productive looks at the next opponent’s offense.

“This week, he’ll coach more than he’s ever coached,” Fickell promised. “More than anything, that’s the biggest difference from when we played them in Year One to what we’ve done the past few years. We’ve given those guys a much better look, which allows them to play faster.”

Ridder was looking forward to the input.

“KB, obviously, coming from Colerain, running the triple-option and the Veer, he’s got a lot of experience with it, so him being able to sit back there and coach up the scout guys, to be able to tell them exactly what looks they need to be giving and what to do here and there, it’s huge to have a guy like him in our corner,” Ridder said. “His dad basically raised him on that offense. He’s a huge part of what we do.”


Cincinnati at Navy, Noon, ESPN2, 700

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