Among many other things, Saturday's college football games were a persuasive advertisement for the triple-option offense.
Georgia Tech set school records for total yards (768) and rushing yards (604) and an NCAA record for rushing yards per attempt (12.1) in a 66-24 crushing of a Big 12 team, Kansas. Navy gashed SEC contender South Carolina's defense for 274 rushing yards and gave a 10th-ranked Gamecocks squad all they could handle in a 24-21 loss. Army racked up 381 rushing yards in a 21-14 win over a Big Ten team, Northwestern.
With his team off on Saturday, The Citadel coach Kevin Higgins watched parts of each game with equal measures of envy and encouragement.
"The main thing I walked away with," he said Monday, "was that I'm more and more convinced about the triple option. Based on the type of kids that we get, and that Navy and Army get, this is the best thing for our football program."
Higgins, who used a pass-heavy spread offense to build a 46-25 record at Lehigh and to give The Citadel its first winning season in 15 years with a 7-4 mark in 2007, switched to the triple option last year. He's trying to construct the offense on the Georgia Tech/Navy model, hiring coaches who have run or played in the run-oriented system at Georgia Southern, Navy and Army.
The Bulldogs are not yet executing the offense as well as those squads. The Citadel was 3-8 and ranked last in the Southern Conference with 14.9 points per game last season; through two games this year, the 1-1 Bulldogs are averaging 18.5 points, again last in the SoCon.
The Bulldogs "will get there," Higgins said.
"I don't think there's any question about it," he said. "I know our coaches have a good understanding of this system, just like the coaches at Georgia Tech and Navy. Now, it's a matter of slowly getting our guys to understand the little things -- timing up the motion, making the proper block at the proper time. All those things are a process."
In fact, Higgins said Citadel coaches might implement ideas they observed in Saturday's games. "When we met on Sunday as a staff, the first thing we talked about was how Georgia Tech attacked Kansas, how Navy attacked South Carolina. There were a couple of things in their schemes where we said, 'Those are things we can get to.' "
Army, for example, usually snapped the ball with only three or four seconds left on the play clock, effectively shortening the game against a more talented Northwestern team. Army ran 82 plays to 57 for Northwestern, and had the ball for 40 of 60 minutes.
Those are numbers Higgins would love to see. In The Citadel's last game, a 16-6 loss to Furman, both teams ran 61 plays and were essentially even in time of possession. "It's still a building process. Our offensive line is getting more comfortable with their reads and assignments. We are having fewer mental busts up front, and that's where it all starts."
One key in the option is strength up the middle at center, quarterback and fullback. With senior fullback Terrell Dallas (knee) questionable for Elon, the Bulldogs have sophomores at all three positions in center Mike Sellers, QB Ben Dupree and fullback Darien Robinson.
Dupree is the Bulldogs' leading rusher with 219 yards and two TDs in two games, and he's hit 56.5 percent of his passes for 135 yards with no TDs and one interception.
"Ben is getting more and more comfortable with this reads," said Higgins. "When you look at the Georgia Tech and Navy games, they didn't do anything special in the passing game. It was about them attacking with the run game. But in our passing game, we still need to progress and make some big plays that will take some pressure off the running game."
And in the run game, the potential for more big plays is there. "Against Furman, we had backs out in space for eight or 10-yard gains instead of 20 or 30 yards," Higgins said. "We need to get our blocks on the perimeter timed up. There are a lot of little things like that to make us more productive."
Higgins said fullback Terrell Dallas, who missed the Furman game with a knee injury, did not practice over the weekend and is "50-50" to play against Elon ... Phoenix receiver Aaron Mellette is No. 1 in FCS with 36 catches through three games, good for 494 yards and three TDs. Elon QB Thomas Wilson is the top passer in the SoCon, hitting 71.6 percent of his throws for 850 yards and seven TDs against five interceptions.
Who: The Citadel (1-1, 0-1) at Elon (2-1, 0-0)
When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Rhodes Stadium, Elon, N.C.