To Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz, trying to defend Navy’s triple-option attack in Friday’s Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is similar to solving a problem of quantum physics.
“Trying to simulate what Navy does is virtually impossible,” Holtz said during media availability Thursday at the Omni Hotel in Fort Worth. “I mean, we can draw the lines and say ‘you go there and you go there.’ But the pad level, the precision, the speed in which they execute, read, and run it has made it very, very difficult.”
Holtz said he also has talked to other coaches about defending it. There was, in fact, one guy who has seen the offense quite a bit.
Lou Holtz, Skip’s dad.
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“I definitely sought out his advice,” Skip Holtz said. “As many times as he’s played the academies and the offense, I asked him to send me some thoughts and schematic things.”
Some of the schematic suggestions were doable, others not so much.
“We’ll give it our best shot,” Holtz said. “Hopefully, we’ll get on our toes and play solid defense and give ourselves a chance to compete.”
Lou Holtz will be at Friday’s game.
Stay and play
Count Skip Holtz among those somewhat concerned by the precedent Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette set in not playing their bowl games.
“You look at it [and wonder] where is it going to stop? If somebody plays four games and says ‘OK, I’ve got enough on film … I’m done,’” Holtz said. “I think when you’re talking about college football you don’t want to lose the spirit of what this is all about. It’s an opportunity for these guys to play together one last time. One of the things I love about college football is it’s about teamwork and not letting your brother down. That sense of commitment is what you’re trying to build that I believe in.
“Everybody has a choice to make and I certainly understand why some have made the decision they have. And I certainly respect their decision.”
Brant Ringler, executive director of the Armed Forces Bowl and next week’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, said he was not yet concerned about the effect the precedent could have on the bowls and the game cultures.
“I don’t know if it’s going to be an ongoing thing,” Ringler said. “Personally, I hope it’s not. I think they should finish out their season with their teammates, but we understand both sides of the situation and respect their decision if that’s what they feel is best for them and their family.”
A steady hand
Louisiana Tech receiver Trent Taylor has been a beneficiary of one of the nation’s best offenses, hauling in 124 passes for 1,570 yards and 10 TDs for the Bulldogs, who are eighth nationally in total offense with an average of 516 yards.
“A lot of people may look at Trent and say, ‘You know what? He’s not as tall as I thought’ or ‘He’s not as fast as I thought,’ ” Holtz said. “But the guy’s got a heart and a competitive nature like no other player I have ever coached.”
Navy’s top receiver Jamir Tillman allowed himself to once think about the possibilities of the road not taken to a school like Louisiana Tech that runs a spread offense. He has 86 fewer receptions than Trent Taylor and 800 or so fewer yards.
“I’m here I’m blessed, I’m healthy, I’m doing something for my team,” said Tillman. “What do I have to complain about? I don’t think about, ‘Hey, I could do great things in that offense.’ I’m doing great things in my offense, too.
“It might not be the numbers that everyone’s looking for, but it’s the numbers that my team wants. It’s the ones that’s going to help my brothers. The goal is to get the wins. And if I’m blocking a linebacker and getting a win or I’m catching 120 balls and losing, which one am I going to take? I’m going to take blocking the linebacker.”
▪ Among the dignitaries planning to attend the game will be Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. The American Patriot Award will be awarded posthumously to Chris Kyle. His widow, Taya, will be on hand to receive the award.
▪ The trophy awarded to the winner of the Armed Forces Bowl is unlike anything in the world. It is an amalgam of melted decommissioned battlefield parts from every branch of the U.S. military.