The three options in The Citadel's triple-option offense are the quarterback, the fullback and the slotback.
On a typical play, quarterback Dominique Allen gives the football to fullback Tyler Renew, pitches it to starting slotbacks Cam Jackson or Reggie Williams, or keeps it himself.
Together, those four players combined for about 290 rushing yards and two touchdowns per game this season, fueling the top rushing offense in FCS and sparking the Bulldogs to a 10-1 record and second straight Southern Conference title.
In The Citadel's 24-21 overtime win at Wofford on Oct. 22, however, the Bulldogs went 0 for 3 on the triple-option. Fullback Renew was held to 3.7 yards per carry, slotbacks Jackson and Williams combined for only 65 yards and Allen managed just 14 yards on eight tries.
The Citadel was limited to a season-low 190 rushing yards and needed Kailik Williams' interception of a Wofford pitch-out for a touchdown, a blocked field goal and four Wofford turnovers to eke out the victory in OT.
“Not a high point of our 2016 season,” Citadel coach Brent Thompson said of the offensive performance.
That's why the Bulldogs may need a “fourth option” of some kind when they host 9-3 Wofford in the second round of the FCS playoffs Saturday at Johnson Hagood Stadium. The forward pass, a new wrinkle, a couple of trick plays – something new for the Terriers, whose defense ranks first in the Southern Conference in scoring, rushing and total defense.
“We've got plenty of things built into our scheme that we can do better,” Thompson said this week. “I thought our biggest breakdown was fundamentally. We weren't very fundamentally sound, and (Wofford) was very precise.
“The first steps of their linebackers were very precise. They didn't miss a step very often, and we didn't get them out of position very often. That's where it became difficult for us.”
Led by freshman linebacker Datavious Wilson and nose tackle Miles Brown (6-1, 310), the Terriers were stout up the middle, with support from safeties Malik Rivera and Jaleel Green, who combined for 12 tackles.
Wilson, who had 15 tackles against The Citadel, was injured in Wofford's 15-14 win over Charleston Southern, as was fellow linebacker Lincoln Stewart (7 tackles vs. The Citadel). It's not clear how limited either player will be on Saturday.
In that first game, The Citadel could not make Wofford pay for the safeties' aggressive run support, with Allen hitting just 3 of 14 passes with an interception.
“We'll certainly need better than 3 of 14,” Thompson said. “I don't know that we will fool ourselves into thinking that we will rely on our passing game, but we certainly want to have more available and be a little bit more precise with it.”
The Bulldogs' offense is eager for another shot at Wofford's defense.
“Wofford's defense is extremely good, they are very talented and they know what they are doing,” said Renew, who's rushed for 1,020 yards and four touchdowns this season. “Our offense is an offense they play themselves, so they know it very well.
“Our fundamentals were pretty poor the first time we played them, and we practiced that a lot in the last week. We're excited to take the field Saturday, execute really well and perform at a high level.”
Reach Jeff Hartsell at (843) 937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC