FAU defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis, left, has been preparing the Owls defense for Navy's triple-option offense. (Photo courtesy of Owl Pix)
Preparation for Navy started with the Owls' scout team which had to run the Midshipmen's triple-option offense for the FAU defense in practice this week.
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BOCA RATON – Florida Atlantic freshman receiver Tony Thomas was back under center this week playing quarterback for the first time since leading Miami Norland to a state championship by beating Wakulla 38-0 in the Class 5A title game in December.
This time Thomas' role was different than when he was running the Vikings offense and making sure running back Duke Johnson, now at Miami, was able to run with the ball.
With the FAU scout team's regular quarterback, Melvin German, sitting out this week with an injury, Thomas' job was to run the Owls' offensive scout team and run the triple-option offense the FAU defense will see Saturday when FAU faces Navy at 3:30 p.m. at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
FAU defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis said the scout team was able to give the defense some good looks at the offense Navy runs, which is key as the Owls prepare for the Midshipmen.
“They are learning an entirely new offense and new blocks,” Rekstis said. “This is assignment football at its finest. It's an offense that challenges you to be extremely disciplined and play with great technique, so we'll see where we are at.”
Navy rolled up 563 yards of total offense, including 512 rushing yards last week in its 56-28 victory vs. East Carolina.
With so many running plays in Navy's play selection, FAU's defensive backs likely won't be much of a factor, but still need to be prepared for the few times the Midshipmen do throw the ball.
“I think we'll be getting run off by the receivers most of the time, but when that time comes and they throw it, you have to be ready for it,” said FAU junior defensive back Christian Milstead, who signed with Navy out of high school. “They may throw the ball six times a game, but you just have to be ready those six times. That one play you fall asleep is the play that they go up top. You have to be alert on every play.”
Although the Owls may junk many of the formations they use vs. the Midshipmen, Pelini says this game will give him a good idea of how his team handles difficult situations.
“It's a different challenge and a unique challenge,” FAU coach Carl Pelini said. “It will test our discipline and will be a litmus test for where we are.”
Keys To The Game: Owls @ Midshipmen
Key For FAU
Strike early: FAU's offense scored touchdowns on its first two possessions in last week's 34-27 victory vs. Troy, setting a tone early and giving the Owls some confidence. If the Owls could show it will be moving the ball vs. Navy, it could make things interesting as the Midshipmen are 8-20 in five seasons under coach Ken Niumatalolo.
Key For Navy
Stick to the plan: The Midshipmen shouldn't have to do anything out of the ordinary to move the ball on the Owls. Navy is sixth in the nation with 271.7 rushing yards per game and FAU is 98th in rushing defense at 201.1 yards per game.
FAU defensive end Cory Henry vs. Navy QB Keenan Reynolds: The Midshipmen have won four consecutive games under Reynolds, but he is a freshman and could be shaky if Henry can put pressure on him and keep him from getting loose when he keeps the ball.
1: Victory needed by Navy to clinch a berth in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco on Dec. 29.
15: Tackles by FAU safety Brent Harstad in each of the last two games. Harstad has 71 tackles on the season and has passed linebacker David Hinds, who has 68 tackles, for the team lead.
28: Penalties this season by Navy, the fewest in the nation.
45: Penalties this season by FAU. The Owls' 46.0 penalty yards per game is the lowest in the Sun Belt Conference.