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Notre Dame Football: Brian Kelly vs. The Triple Option

On Saturday, Notre Dame will face the first of two triple option attacks in as many weeks as they take on the Navy Midshipmen. How have Brian Kelly coached teams fared against the option? Find out here.

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Notre Dame RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

It was only a few years ago that if you saw Navy, Air Force, or some other triple option school Notre Dame fans would immediately begin to worry. For some, that worry is still there. You couldn’t blame them either, especially when you consider Brian Kelly’s first appearance against an option team.

In 2010 against Navy in the then new MetLife Stadium the Midshipmen ran all over the Irish to the tune of 367 yards and four touchdowns. The name Alexander Teich still haunts the memories of the Irish faithful. That game still puts doubt in the minds of Irish fans that Notre Dame can successfully defend the option, even though that they’ve had good performances since then. Lets take a look at Kelly’s teams have defended the option.

How Brian Kelly Has Fared vs. The Option


Navy - 35 pts, 438 total yards, 367 rush yards, 4 rush TD(s) — L

Army - 3 pts, 174 total yards, 135 rush yards, 0 rush TD(s) — W

Teich ran for 210 yards, as the Middies blew out the Irish 35-17 in Kelly’s first game against Navy. After the debacle against Navy and Teich, the Irish took on Army in the Shamrock Series game at Yankee Stadium. This time they had a better time figuring out the option game as they beat the Black Knights, 27-3.


Air Force - 39 pts, 565 total yards, 363 rush yards, 2 rush TD(s) — W

Navy - 14 pts, 229 total yards, 196 rush yards, 1 rush TD(s) — W

The 565 yards were the most given up under a Bob Diaco coached defense, but the Irish and Tommy Rees were able to overpower the Falcons as they scored 59 points. Much like in the previous year, their second time against an option opponent went much better as they got their revenge against Teich and Navy as they thumped them 56-14. That is how Irish fans envision most meetings with Navy going.


Navy - 10 pts, 341 total yards, 149 rush yards, 0 rush TD(s) — W

The Irish started their undefeated season off with a 50-10 win over the Midshipmen. This was one of the most dominating performances of that fun year.


Air Force - 10 pts, 339 total yards, 290 rush yards, 4 rush TD(s) — W

Navy - 34 pts, 419 total yards, 331 rush yards, 4 rush TD(s) — W

2013 was the opposite of 2011. In ‘13 he Irish blew out Air Force and squeaked one out against Navy. The 2013 Navy game was the first time Irish fans became familiar with Keenan Reynolds. The future all-time NCAA touchdown leader would give the Irish fits for years to come.


Navy - 39 pts, 454 total yards, 336 rush yards, 3 rush TD(s) — W

Notre Dame blew a 21-point lead, but Everett Golson led the Irish to victory as he scored six touchdowns. One could say this is when the 2014 season went awry. Even though the Irish won, they lost a few players to injury, most notably Joe Schmidt.


Georgia Tech - 22 pts, 337 total yards, 217 rush yards, 1 rush TD(s) — W

Navy - 24 pts, 340 total yards, 318 rush yards, 3 rush TD(s) — W

These two games were closer than the scores indicated. The Irish were up 30-7 on the Yellow Jackets before giving up a few TDs in garbage time. Against Navy the Irish gave up three touchdowns in the first half, but they held them to just three points in the second half.

In Closing...

As you can see since that 2010 loss to Navy, Kelly has ripped off nine straight wins over triple option opponents. Irish fans can’t complain with the results, but how those results came about is what worries them. Long gone are the days where Navy was an automatic win. Even if Notre Dame is a favorite, they seem to make it just a little to close to comfort. They have had some strong performances, but they’ve also had as many poor outings against the option. They have yet to consistently contain the option attack.

It also doesn’t matter who the defensive coordinator is either. In the Diaco era the Irish had just as much as trouble with the option than they did in the Brian VanGorder era.

Before last season Kelly moved Bob Elliot from an on field role to a special assistant position. As a special assistant one of his duties is to figure out the triple option. In Elliot’s first year in the role the Irish did a much better job of defending the option. In two games against Georgia Tech and Navy, the Irish yielded an average of 338 yards and 23 points. If you want to take out the points Notre Dame gave up in garbage time against GT, those numbers look even better.

The Irish will take a crack at solving the option this week as they take on Navy. Kickoff is set for 11:30 A.M. ET. Make sure to check back with us here at One Foot Down for our staff picks, picks to click, and more.