Updated: November 9, 2011 4:55PM
It took Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald a while to remember when he last faced a team that ran either the triple-option offense or the double-eagle defense, two schemes the Wildcats will face when they play Army on Saturday at West Point, N.Y.
“No one since I’ve been the head coach,” Fitzgerald said. “It was probably when we played Navy the last time [in 2002, a 49-40 NU victory]. You’re not going to stop the run this week. They are going to get their yards.”
Fitzgerald characterized the double eagle as similar to what the Bears ran in 1985 under defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan. Center Brandon Vitabile said Eastern Illinois’ defense went into the double eagle on short third downs and in goal-line situations. Quarterback Kain Colter said he feels comfortable going up against that defense.
“I feel like teams have done a good job switching it up,” Colter said. “It’s nothing we haven’t ever seen before, but we know it’s coming.”
Linebacker Bryce McNaul said the Wildcats’ defense will be tested against the triple option. The Army offense gained more than 700 rushing yards in its first two games, and the Black Knights outrushed San Diego State 446-292 in a 23-20 loss last Saturday.
“It’s going to be us having good eyes and taking care of our jobs,” McNaul said. “They’re going to run the ball because that’s their M.O. We’re going to need to hit their quarterback [Trent Steelman], fullbacks. We’re going to need to hit everybody.”
Fitzgerald said sophomore running back Adonis Smith is day-to-day after injuring his right leg in the fourth quarter against EIU. Smith is listed as an “or” on the depth chart for Saturday with Mike Trumpy, who sat out the EIU game with a concussion. Fitzgerald said he’s hopeful that Trumpy will play.
At quarterback, Kain Colter is listed as an “or” with Dan Persa. Defensive lineman Jack DiNardo, who also sat out the EIU game with a leg injury, wasn’t on the depth chart.
A special place
McNaul has been to Army to watch older brother, Austin, play rugby for the Black Knights and characterized the campus along the banks of the Hudson River as “medieval.” Austin McNaul is an Army ranger stationed in Afghanistan. He’s scheduled to come home in October.
“The first thing that hits you when you pull up to campus is you see people in formation and people in uniform,” McNaul said. “It’s almost medieval with the architecture, and there is an attitude of seriousness, and that’s transcended to the football program.”