If all triple-option offenses were created equal, Georgia Southern wouldn’t have much to worry about.
Navy runs a mirror image of GSU’s offense, and both teams were held well below their season averages when the teams met on Sept. 11. Navy scored 13 points and rushed for 109 yards in the meeting. The Midshipmen score average 31 points and 302.5 yards on the ground.
When Georgia Southern faces Wofford Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, things will be a little different.
Aside from the propensity to favor the run over the pass, the only thing both teams have in common will be the focus on the fullback.
Wofford (10-2) has a good one. Eric Breitenstein led the Southern Conference in rushing during the regular season with 1,378 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns.
“People get him wrapped up and you just see that pile of bodies start to move,” said GSU coach Jeff Monken, “and [Wofford quarterback] Mitch Allen does a great job of getting the ball to him. He’s a real savvy kid, a great athlete and a great player, but we’ve got to try and slow the fullback down. Their offense works around what he can do, and so does ours.”
The difference lies in the formations. Wofford lines up similar to GSU (9-4) at times, and also offers several different looks from the shotgun.
“Those backs hit from different places and the angles are different,” said Monken. “As a result, you’ve got to defend it differently. We didn’t do a great job of it last time around.”
When the teams met on Oct. 9, Wofford left Paulson Stadium with a 33-31 win. The Terriers rushed for 302 yards and Breitenstein scored a pair of touchdowns.
The Eagles hope to learn from their mistakes.
“You see some things that maybe you didn’t do well and you see things that you did well,” said defensive line coach John Scott. “There are certainly some things there with angles and some assignments and things that weren’t right. They made some plays, too. I’ll give them a lot of credit. They darn sure made some plays on us.”
On the other side of the ball, GSU was without its leading rusher — true freshman Robert Brown — who has gotten stronger as the season has moved on, rushing for a career-high 178 yards in Saturday’s 31-15 win at William and Mary.
Brown, who got a bulk his yards early in the season around the edge, attributes the team’s recent success running between the tackles to repetitions.
“As a triple-option offense,” Brown said, “we try to make the best of every play, and that’s the key — to get the fullback going. Obviously we practice hard every day, and our offensive linemen have to sweat everything out just so we can get the fullback going. It’s a team effort, and that’s how we do it.”
Brown was sidelined with injury the last time the two teams met.
“When we played Wofford the first time, just seeing our team out there without me, it was like a brother that’s not home,” he said. “We’re looking forward to playing Wofford again. We know they’re a great team, and hopefully we’ll come out victorious this time.”
Wofford has had its share of offensive struggles of late. Breitenstein is playing through a shoulder injury, and the Terriers have scored 17 or less in three of the last four games.
“They’ve still run the football very effectively,” said Scott. “I think it’s a case of a play here or a play there that maybe didn’t go their way — a bad pitch, we certainly know about those — and it resulted in a play that they needed. But I’ll tell you what, the last couple games we’ve watched, they’re running it well. Number seven is still pounding the rock, man.”
Kickoff for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 2 p.m. in Spartanburg, S.C.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.