Buckeyes Know Navy Game Will Be Won or Lost Up Front

By Tim Shoemaker on August 26, 2014 at 8:35a
Taylor Decker

It would be quite difficult to find a college football fan who isn't familiar with Navy's style of offense.

The Midshipmen's triple-option attack has been successful for years and in a sport that is changing predominantly to the spread, Navy brings a challenge to the table some schools may only see once every four or five years.

"It's just incredible efficiency in offense and that odd 3-4 defense where they're all over the place, so they're good players," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said Monday during his first weekly press conference of the season. "So there's a little — I use the term anxiety a little bit more this year — just because of who we're playing and the quarterback and the skill that they have."

So, how do the fifth-ranked Buckeyes plan to attack a Navy offense that ran for over 325 yards per game on the ground last season and a defense that runs a tricky 3-4 scheme? Well, they've got to win the battle at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

“It’s Navy, and they’re a hard-nosed team. They’re very disciplined and it’s gonna be a dogfight up front," tight end Nick Vannett said. "We understand that and I think the O-line understands that. For us to win this game, we’re gonna have to win up front and we’re just gonna have to out-battle them. In our preparation this week and last week, I think we’re doing a good job of that.”

Ohio State does have an advantage in terms of size up front. At 6-foot-2, 290 pounds, right guard Jake Zuzek is Navy's biggest starting offensive lineman listed on the team's depth chart. And whether it be Tanner Fleming or Blaze Ryder who starts at center for the Midshipmen, the Buckeyes' pair of defensive tackles — Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington — will have more than a 20-pound advantage up the middle.

All five linemen for Navy, however, started at some point during last year's 9-4 season.

“Those guys are guys who are trained to be fearless and they’re trained to be relentless all the time," Ohio State linebacker Joshua Perry said of the Midshipmen. "We know that we have to go full-go the whole game.

"Are we prepared to play 60 minutes? Yeah. The way we practice, it’s ridiculous. We don’t run gassers or anything after practice, but our whole practice is conditioning. Obviously the speed of the game might be something for guys, but not getting tired and being in shape, I don’t think that’ll be too much of an issue.”

It's not like Ohio State hasn't seen this Navy attack before. The Buckeyes defeated the Midshipmen, 31-27, in the 2009 season opener at Ohio Stadium.

While Ken Niumatalolo was in his second year as Navy's head coach that season, this is Meyer's first go against the Midshipmen. The only member of Ohio State's coaching staff who was part of that contest is co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell. 

The Buckeyes' defense held Navy's ground game in check that game, limiting the Midshipmen to just 186 yards on the ground on 44 rushes. But it wasn't until Brian Rolle's interception return on a two-point conversion that Ohio State clinched a win.

Although none of this year's Buckeyes were on that team, they are well aware of the game.

“They play disciplined ball, they’re a hard-nosed team and we understand that even if we get up on them early, we’ve gotta keep full throttle," Vannett said. "We can’t let up because we saw here four, five years ago they came in our place and almost shocked us so we understand how they are as a football team and I think we’ve done really well preparing for that.”

Unlike Navy, Ohio State's offensive line has a few question marks. Meyer said the team still has a competition going for the starting left guard and center positions, and whoever earns those starting nods up front will be challenged.

“Any service academy, those guys are gonna play hard," left tackle Taylor Decker said. "I know that they’re gonna play hard and they’re gonna be gritty so it should definitely be a battle.”


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BeatTTUN's picture
Tom Segura compliments of Navy's Tanner & Blaze

Go Buckeyes Beat Michigan

Barnsey69's picture

I think we will torpedo their running game.


Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

+5 HS
robobuck's picture

if they can't run on us they're sunk

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  1 Corinthians 9:24

+9 HS
WezBuck28's picture

Can't it just be Saturday already!?!?! I can't hardly take it anymore!!

+1 HS
Killer nuts's picture

I'm just glad we play at noon so we don't have to sit around all Saturday waiting for the start of the game

+2 HS
WezBuck28's picture

Amen to that..I think the stress/ beer level would be out of control by kickoff if it were a late game..

KLF Buckeye's picture

Saturday can't get here soon enough. I really want to see what our LBs can do against the Navy rushing attack. That is, of course, if Navy can get past the D-line.

+3 HS
droessl's picture

I like playing Navy in week 1 as it's a great test for our front 7 without putting too much pressure on the rebuilt secondary.  

+6 HS
Hovenaut's picture

That's the thought that immediately jumped into my head - and I'm glad OSU has them now instead of later in the season.

I don't expect this contest to be as close as 2009's (eternal thanks, Brian Rolle), but I think the good guys are definitely going to earn the W.

+4 HS
Jpfbuck's picture

that 2009 game is exactly what Vannett is talking about, ie even if you get up on them you have to continue full throttle

the O, D, Sp teams and even Tressel almost let that game get away in the last 12 minutes

the game had been close but we were controlling play, then a long FG, a fumble recovery and a TD put us up by what should have been 16 points with 12 minutes to go, but then the mistakes started

first we botched the XP - 1 point lost so only 15 instead of 16 points

Navy helps us by throwing a INT to give us the ball at midfield, drive for any kind of score and the game should be over, even a FG puts you up 18, ie 3 scores, with less than 9 minutes to play

well we drive to the Navy 15 and it is 4th and 2, this is a 33 yard FG that we should make 99% of the time,,,but,,, Tressel for once goes against type and rather than kick the sure 3 pts and effectively end the game,,wants to make a statement and we fail to convert on 4th and 2, bad coaching decision at that point, take the sure 3 and end the game, - 3 pts lost instead of a 19 point lead, or at least 18 points, it is still 15 points

now it is the defenses turn to go to sleep.

Navy is 85 yards away with 6:27 left to play,,so what happens, we go to sleep in the DB and give up an 85 yard TD pass, with the XP it is now an 8 point game with still over 6 minutes to play, so now instead of up 19 or 18, we are up 8, even with this 1 mistake, take away the other 2 and it is still a 12 point game ie still 2 scores.

so we get the ball back, so with 2nd and 9 from our own 40 with 4 minutes to go, Tress decides to throw the ball, and TP has a complete brain melt down and throws a terrible pick giving Navy the ball at our 33 yards line. Navy takes 3 plays and scores

then Rolle saves the day.

Navy insides, we recover and then run out the last 2 plus minutes

play a mistake free last 12 minutes and we win that game 33-14

+6 HS
D-Day0043's picture

I guarantee you Navy is going to take shots at that secondary. I wouldn't be surprised if they tried a deep play action pass on their first play from scrimmage. That is exactly what I would do if I was Navy. I would make the secondary show me they can cover. They know what Ohio State's weakness was last year, and you better believe they are going to break tendencies and try to exploit it.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

+4 HS
Zimmy07's picture

Their RB will be picking the artificial turf out of Reynold's facemask if they try that.

D-Day0043's picture

Shall we revisit this after the game Saturday?

Do you think the Navy coaches are stupid?  Do you think they didn't ask themselves the question, "should we try to run on arguably the best defensive line in the country, or throw on one of the worst secondaries in the country?" 

If you don't think they are smart enough to try and exploit the secondary then you are underestimating the opponent. That is exactly how they almost beat us last time. We didn't show their passing game any respect.

You better believe they going to take their shots early and often.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

+1 HS
cplunk's picture


If I'm Navy, I know I can't win by just running my normal offense into the best part of Ohio State's defense. So of course, I wouldn't.

I expect to see lots of the regular option runs (which make defenders rely upon choices rather than physicla ability), but I would also bank on seeing a literal s**t-ton of screens of all sorts. We absolutely sucked at covering screens, misdirection passes, and play action last year. If I were Navy, I'd make us prove that has changed. It would not at all shock me to see Reynolds have 20+ passing attempts. They'll all be short and rely on misdirection and timing- in other words no matter how good our D-line is it will not matter as there just won't be enough time for them to reach Reynolds.

To me stopping Navy is going to come down to two things in this game- the LBs making the right reads quickly and Chris Ash's secondary being an improvement. If our secondary and Shazier-less LBs are at last year's level, Navy can stay in this and maybe steal it.

+2 HS
D-Day0043's picture

My point exactly. Although I do expect them to take some deep shots.

With all of that being said, we still should be able to kick their tail. We have better coaching and better athletes. 

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

+1 HS
Zimmy07's picture

I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a lot of short passes.  I thought the LB's did well covering those in the Spring game but it's been a while since I watched it.

  I don't think Navy can protect long enough to go deep against OSU's new cover 4 - but I could be mistaken.

+1 HS
DC-town's picture

Yeah, this will be a game.  Everyone should prepare themselves for a cardiac kids season where we aren't just wondering if we'll cover the 30 pt spread...and those games aren't fun to watch anyway.

Despite what the talking heads of college football are saying, OSU has a legit slate this year- CAN'T WAIT

'Piss excellence' -RB

+1 HS
dubjayfootball90's picture

Very confident on our front 7 to play vs their offense. Going to be a great game, but I am confident coming into it. Then again, I will be watching from my couch, haha.

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

Yenots11's picture

Blaze Ryder makes me sad I don't have a cooler name.

Go Bucks!! 

"Aut viam inveniam aut faciam!"

+7 HS
apack614's picture

Jeeeeeeez where are you Saturday?!?! Should be a great game! Glad to see our guys giving them the respect they deserve as a great football team, good thing we aren't overlooking them. See you guys in Baltimore! Go Bucks!

I can't wait to poop in the PL bathroom.

+3 HS
OSUFlash's picture

This has all the makings of a frustrating yet exciting game. Navy will be sky high and if our first offensive possesion is an ugly 3 and out this could make for a very upsetting tone.


chirobuck's picture

we have to win the los for sure but our LBs also have to play very disciplined football, if they are moving the ball I wonder if we see some 4-4 defense


^ best post ever ^

TMac's picture

Yes the battle is up front, and we have the D-Line to win that side decisivly so the O-Line just has to not lose the game and I believe Coach Warriner is better than that and will have the line in shape. 

ONE Not Done!

CHUCKMEGA's picture


allinosu's picture

They change their blocking schemes on the fly to adapt to who is hurting them, usually optioning them . I don't see how you can option all four lineman. I think we will see what kind of coach Ash is by what kind of wrinkles he puts in to disrupt them.


I don't believe for an instant that Navy can out-muscle us on the line of scrimmage. It's all about how well our DL get off the cut blocks and how well the LBs plug the holes. Our new OL, even with so many question marks, had better be able to block Navy's DL because they won't face a weaker opposing DL the rest of the season. Again, not worried about the muscle part, I'm worried about the cohesion factor that last year's OL had. That's critical for the offense to run smoothly.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

ibuck's picture

Navy's O is based on quickness & execution rather than muscle. It will probably come down to how our LBs and DBs play.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

+1 HS
Zimmy07's picture

if our LB's are ready.......


BoFuquel's picture

So much concern form a group who has deified UM, hmmmm. Just remember how well prepared we were against Buffalo last season. GO BUCKS! 

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

-2 HS
highwire's picture

The fuck you say?

mtrotb's picture

I would be more concerned if we opened with a team that was going to pass the ball 60 times.  Our dline should be able to easily get their lineman down  and our linebackers and strong safety should have a straight path to the ball.


Buckeye BadDog's picture

Ohio State FOOTBALL! I cannot wait!

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
- Albert Einstein

"Nothing that comes easy is worth a dime." - Woody Hayes

+2 HS
D-Day0043's picture

Navy lost to Western Kentucky (granted their quarterback got hurt), Duke, Toledo, and Notre Dame last year. Not exactly a list of world-beaters.

Ohio State has a top 5 coach, superior athletes across the board, and every amenity imaginable for the football team. If they get handled by Navy, then something is seriously wrong with this team, and it is more than just losing our starting quarterback. I don't care what kind of quirky offense or defense they run. 

If the Buckeyes truly are a top-tier team then they should beat Navy down.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

+1 HS
ibuck's picture

All those teams had winning seasons in 2013. In the regular season, Duke was 10-3, Notre Dame went  8-4, and  Toledo 7-5 (including losses to Florida, Missouri, and #20 N Illinois, and beat Navy in 2 OT).  In addition to 325 yds rushing (2nd nationally) in 2013, Navy averaged 33.5 points.

So they are not a pushover, and Navy's junior QB completed 54% of his passes and a 140 rating last year. Reynolds has 2 full seasons of experience running their triple option, and gained 1260 yards rushing—after subtracting 15 sacks. And their D yielded only 24.4 points/game.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

+3 HS
D-Day0043's picture

It's perfectly fine to have a healthy respect for your opponent. But if we are a top tier program then we shouldn't be worried about beating a team like Navy. Do you think any of the top-tier SEC teams would be scared to play Navy? If we want to beat the top-tier SEC teams, or make some noise in the playoff, then we better be able to handle a team like Navy. If we can't handle them then we can't handle the top-tier teams. 

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

ibuck's picture

If we want to beat the top-tier SEC teams, or make some noise in the playoff, then we better be able to handle a team like Navy. If we can't handle them then we can't handle the top-tier teams. 

OK, I think I get what you're driving at, and hoping OSU is really good this year. But, surely, you're not saying this OSU team, with it's experience level, is ready to take on top-tier SEC teams in a season opener? I'm saying our new QB, OL, receivers, defensive back 7, need to gain some experience and confidence against decent opponents. And I think Navy may well be one.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

+2 HS
D-Day0043's picture

All teams are replacing players. We have had a top 5 recruiting class for the past three years and a top 5 coaching staff at one of the most prestigious college football programs in the country. Why shouldn't we be ready to compete with those teams? What more do we need? If this programs success hinges on one guy then we are in trouble. We damn well better be able to throttle Navy. 

Seriously, what do the top SEC teams have that we don't have? Are their 4 & 5* players better than our 4 & 5* players because they play in the south? Are our coaches not as good as theirs? Does Ohio State not have as many resources as they do?

Florida State can come in and win a title with a redshirt Freshman. Other teams can get up for top tier opponents their first couple of games, why can't we?

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

+2 HS
QBYBuckeye's picture

Size, speed, and athleticism are the Buckeyes' advantages.  If Navy has an advantage, it is discipline.  I would be very surprised if this ends up being a close game. 

Having said that, I wouldn't admit it in the Buckeye locker room, and neither will Urban.

New York Buckeye

jonping67's picture

This game should be at least a 17 to 30 point win for OSU. Not only do we have a top 3 coaching staff (I vote #1 by the way), but we also have an entire team of 3, 4 &5 star athletes. Navy is all 1 & 2 star with a hand full of 3 stars sprinkled in. Play hard and smart football for 60 minutes and this games a blowout. OSU 38 - Navy 13.

+1 HS
NuttyBuckeye's picture

Agree with you, but I am going with 41-17 OSU.  I think we will pass the 40-point mark, with all our playmakers and speed on offense.

What's round on the ends and high in the middle? Tell me if you know!

+1 HS
ibuck's picture

Yes, I'd like to see hard and smart football for 60 minutes.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

+1 HS
The Rill Dill's picture

I'd really like to see us get on the gas pedal, and NOT slow down.  

countrybuckeye's picture

Amen and a big^ to that

"Momma told me there would be days like this."

+1 HS
gobucks96's picture

Just win, with these added items please.

-without d-lineman getting hurt.

-getting JT comfortable in the pocket.

-improved DB play.

-and me finally able to watch some college football!

+4 HS
D-Day0043's picture


I would add a shutout, but I can be greedy like that sometimes. Lol!

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

+2 HS
TURD_BUCKET's picture

Drive, drive on down the field, men of scarlet and gray!

“Being average means you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.” John Wooden

+2 HS
Jpfbuck's picture

Navy has been stopped many times even with their system, it simply requires disciplined assignment football I mean WKU last year held them to 86 yards on the ground. 

Navy is committed to the run like no one else. even in that loss to WKU they ran the ball over 30 times in a 19-7 loss. they had more rushing attempts than any other team in the country at 775 in 13 games or nearly 60 per game. 

So if they dont run it atleast 40 times against us i will be surprised and they rarely get shutout due to those discipline issues, as witnessed by the fact that they have been shutout once in the last 7+ years

where they are vulnerable, and why i think we have success is their defense often has trouble stopping teams, especially teams with good outside talent and/or spread teams, they simply struggle to stop them

when Braxton was still in the picture I assumed that barring a catastrophe we would score over 40 and even if we gave up some points we would win easily maybe even 42-21 as an example...with Braxton out it is a bit more unknown, but if we can keep pressure off JT and he actually can distribute the ball like some claim, then we may be ok and still score 35+


+1 HS
D-Day0043's picture

I watched that game (my wife is a WKU alum, so I keep up with them a little). You can't really judge anything by that game. Reynolds got hurt in the first half and the offense was completely different with their backup. They ran the spread with him and they were totally out of their element.

Granted WKU still shut them down and scored enough points to win with a turnover machine at quarterback who wouldn't run the ball if their was 30 yards of wide open field in front of him.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

JoeAndSo's picture

I think when you look at who Navy has lost to in the past it can be very misleading. What I've noticed over the years is teams like that will bring a little extra coming into the game with hopes that they can be the ones to beat teams like Ohio State. I'm sure it's been on their minds all summer long. Coaches have probably drilled into their heads that they have a chance to beat them and not do the same for the Western Kentucky's of the world.

I wouldn't be surprised at all if this game was close, Ohio State seems to always get the best of other teams.

"¯\_(ツ)_/¯"  - Joey Bosa

+2 HS
buckeye phi's picture

If Navy runs their normal (for them) triple option in which they run first and pass rarely, they'll be playing right into the strength of this Ohio State defense.  As bad as the Buckeyes were against  the pass last year, they were actually quite good against the run. 

Yes, their offense is kinda tricky and unusual - but it's the first game - therefore, the coaches have had plenty of time to prepare the D.

The Midshipmen may decide to go out of character and try their luck through the air.  So, if Chris Ash's new press coverage scheme works as well as everyone hopes, they shouldn't have too many scoring opportunities.

There may be more questions when the Buckeyes are on offense.  But if the o-line plays even just OK and if J.T. Barrett is able to distribute the ball to the talent surrounding him, this could be a blow-out.

Prediction:  Nick Vannett has a huge game. Curtis Grant leads a solid defensive effort.  But there are too many "ifs" - so the Buckeyes experience a few "growing pains" and only win by fourteen - 21-7

However, they gain valuable experience in the process.

Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement. - Will Rogers

Humbuck's picture

Navy won't change their stripes to test our secondary early. They have no idea what we are running back there this year.  Any film from last year is basically useless because we have a defense with new schemes and a lot of new personnel.   Coverage might have been our weakness but throwing was most certainly not Navy's strength.  Also, pass pro against our DL will be really challenging for their undersized OL.  I suspect they want to try and assert themselves in the running game early as it is their strength going head on into our strength. I would not be surprised if they have a solid first possession on the ground. It will take a few reps to get the D used to the blocking schemes and looks.

One thing we have going for us was former triple option QB Jalin Marshall is running as Reynolds on scout team. Marshall ran wild in the triple O during his SR year.   Not many teams have a 4* legit speed guy with experience running the triple O playing the part of Reynolds.  Our D got a good look at what this offense can do.  This can't be overlooked, it is a really big benefit for our guys.

+2 HS
BigDrill's picture

Good point Humbuck. So many teams try and reproduce the triple option in practice with a fast athlete from the practice squad- but having on who can read and sell it, even from the successful HS level, is an asset.

I pray that our DL has the best knee braces Jeans can find for this game.  Cut blocks are crazy bad man.

Crazy bad.

+1 HS
goodlifesean's picture

That's one thing I'm always suprised with you'd think more good high school triple option qbs would get recruited as preferred walkons for teams who plays navy/gt just to run scout team. I'd rather have a kid who is a decent athlete but knows a wing t running it than an elite athlete who ran a spread read option. Totally different skills.

Always prepare for and expect victory, don't brace for defeat. If defeat happens learn and never let it happen again.

BucksHave7's picture

Going into this game all the so called analysts will say its a tough one for tOSU., better watch out.   But then at season's end, those same analysts will say it was a home game against a Service Academy.   Wish they would be consistent, Navy is  ALWAYS a legit test for any top 25 team.