Game Week: Don’t Sleep On Cadets


For all of defensive coordinator Phil Snow’s accomplishments, and there are many on this last-go-round at Temple, an Achilles’ heel for him has been trouble defending the triple option.


That’s one reason why the Owls cannot sleep on the Army Cadets (7 p.m., Friday, Lincoln Financial Field). There are many more and we will outline those later in this post, but first let’s concentrate on Snow’s recent history against those teams. In three of the four games his teams have played against the triple option since 2010, his defenses have allowed those teams at least 31 points.

The reason for Snow’s problems have been simple. He stubbornly has played his base defense, the 4-3, against a speciality offense that requires a standard speciality defense. The way to stop the triple option is simple: 44 stack, nose guard over the center, the two A gaps (to the left and right of the center) covered by a tackle, eight in the box and force the triple option team to pass.

For some reason known only to God and Snow, he refuses to do that.

The most recent game was an abomination, a 31-24 loss to Navy played on a 92-degree day in September of 2014. (For those who say Navy was good that year, Western Freaking Kentucky—which I call WFK—beat them, 18-6. Their coaches found a way to stop the triple option.)  In 2012, while coaching Eastern Michigan, his defense allowed 38 points against the Cadets. Fortunately, the EMU offense bailed out the Eagles, winning that game, 48-38.  In 2010, his EMU defense allowed 31 points in a 31-27 loss to Army. The one outlier was a 33-14 win for Temple over Army in the 2013 game. The next year, though, the black-helmeted Owls sat back in the heat and waited for the triple option offense to attack them and often found themselves in 3-on-2 mismatches against a quarterback, fullback and pitch man. That’s how Navy won that game, 31-24.

Montel Harris, Nate Combs

Temple running back Montel Harris (8) talks with Army linebacker Nate Combs (22) in my favorite Temple-Army photo of all time.

After that game, I asked former Temple coach Wayne Hardin—who never lost to a triple-option team while at Temple (he did at Navy, but that was to No. 1 Texas in 1962)—how to defend it and he told me that the triple option leaves the backside unblocked for blitzes. If you have a particularly fast corner, you can give up the backside by blitzing him and blowing up the play before it starts. He said the one gamble is vulnerability  to the throwback pass (ala Adam DiMichele to Matt Balasavage for a score in 2007), but that happens so infrequently it’s worth the risk.

For some reason, Snow has refused to do that. Maybe the Owls will try it with 4.3 sprinter Nate Hairston on Friday night.

The other reasons why you cannot sleep on the Cadets are rather obvious. First, their toughness is unquestioned. They are literally on the frontlines for this country. In addition, they play a fairly challenging schedule and are often in games against so-called Power-5 teams. Last year, they lost to a very good Navy team by four, Penn State by six and Wake Forest by three.

They will not be intimidated by the Owls and the Owls have to strap their helmets on tight Friday night. Hopefully, those helmets will be Cherry or White, not Black.


Wednesday: Army’s Vanishing Problems

Friday: Depth Chart Thoughts and Predictions

Saturday: Game Analysis

Monday: What’s New?


9 thoughts on “Game Week: Don’t Sleep On Cadets

  1. it appears Chapelle Russell is in the MR doghouse.., not good as he may have the most physical ability of all the LBs.., let’s hope this kid can mature and overcome.., this defense needs six players at LB….,

    • When you have 100-plus players on the roster, not everyone is going to buy in on the same level. Look at Robby. He didn’t buy in the first time, but he bought in the second, and now he is poised to receive a starting receiver’s job in the NFL. It’s up to Chappy first to realize that and the coaches second to communicate it to him.

  2. I watched PSU-Army last year and the game was close because the OC for PSU was running Satterfield’s quick screen offense, which played right into Army’s hands. When PSU began throwing long in the 4th quarter the game was over. Hoping the TU coaches take heed and throw on those guys. .

    • If we have an Achilles Heel as a staff, it’s that we do not seem to attack our opponents based on the successful game plans other teams have had against them. Part of our “process” too often has been not worrying what the weakness of the other guy is but just stubbornly trying to do what we do well better. It’s a little of this, a little of that, not all of one. I hope our thought “process” has evolved in that area.

      • Thomas declared a take what the defense gives us philosophy…,the Temple defense last year, as great as it was, was a self-declared strength.

        Same caliber of athletes on the offensive side of the ball, but we were in a system that minimized risk at the expense of maimizing points.., we have speed, skill, depth, and ability at the playmaker positions – let the horses out of the barn!!

    • Great to see Marshall Ellick has been rewarded for months of practice playmaking (two NFL scouts had to ask MR who he was separate and independent of the other) by earning No. 1 on the WR depth chart. Hope when the lights go on Friday night he continues to make explosive plays in the passing game. If we can get Robby Part Deux I will be more than satisfied. Even somewhere between Jalen Fitzpatrick and Robby would be OK.

      • Agree, think Thomas will prove to be a better OC than Satterfield and MR.., we must finish higher than the 7th ranked offense in the conference..,, gut feel is this offense will be the most explosive Temple O in the last 15 years albeit if the OL can play just slightly above average

  3. On the day Daz was hired, he promised “explosive downfield plays in the passing game.” What a crock of baloney that was, as was most things out of his mouth. When you think about it, though, we’ve only had two “explosive downfield plays in the passing game” since Daz made that remark and both were P.J. to Jalen (UConn, Penn State), 2014. Those were classic downfield plays where the WR gets behind the DBs and the QB floats it in there. I think we will see more of those type of plays this year, especially after we establish the run and Phillip can put in it the belly of the rb, pull it out and away we go …

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