With less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Ohio State's 2009 season opener, Navy's offense lined up for a game-tying two-point conversion. A successful attempt would have likely forced overtime, something the Buckeyes desperately wanted to avoid after surrendering 13 consecutive points and all of the game's momentum.
Instead of keeping it on the ground—where a majority of Navy's success had come from—quarterback Ricky Dobbs dropped back and threw an errant pass into the end zone. That pass was intercepted by linebacker Brian Rolle, who took it the other way for two points to preserve a Buckeyes victory.
Five years ago, Ohio State learned how difficult it is to beat a disciplined and dangerous Midshipmen team. As another opener against Navy looms, what do the Buckeyes need to do to avoid an upset?
Limit the Run, Contain Keenan Reynolds
Under the direction of head coach Ken Niumatalolo, Navy has maintained one of the most dangerous rushing attacks in the country. The Midshipmen piled up 325.4 rushing yards per game a season ago, which ranked No. 2 in the country behind Auburn.
Quarterback Keenan Reynolds—who has been tabbed as a dark-horse Heisman contender—triggers the vaunted triple-option attack.
Limiting Reynolds and the running game will be the Buckeyes' top priority this Saturday.
That's easier said than done. Reynolds set an NCAA single-season record for quarterbacks with 31 rushing touchdowns last year—and his playmaking ability could lead to a special season.
"Some people I've talked to think that he's the best that they've ever had," Meyer said. "That takes your breath away a little bit."
So how does Ohio State plan to stop the Midshipmen? Linebacker Joshua Perry knows that it's all about fundamentals, because if the Buckeyes are out of position, Navy will make them pay.
"It's all about assignment football," Perry said, according to Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer. "One mistake can lead to a really big play."
Win Third Down
A key element to defending the triple option is to win on third down. The offense is designed to create manageable third-down situations, and according to SB Nation's Bill Connelly, Navy executes that strategy to perfection.
Navy has been so consistently strong at pecking away at the middle of a defense with the quarterback and fullbacks; the style of offense is conducive to converting third-and-2 with ease, and Navy will endlessly pound away at you with the fullbacks until you adjust.
It will be pivotal for Ohio State to limit Navy's 3rd-and-short opportunities defensively. On the other side of the ball, the Buckeyes must avoid three-and-outs at all cost.
"You can't three-and-out against this team," Meyer said this week, according to Patrick Maks of Eleven Warriors. "That's when you've got problems."
Win the Turnover Battle
Navy's defense isn't dominant—it ranked 57th in the country last year after allowing 394.8 yards per game.
The Midshipmen don't have a lot of size defensively, so defensive coordinator Buddy Green utilizes a bend-but-don't-break 3-4 defense in an effort to prevent the big play.
One thing Navy is consistently good at is winning the turnover battle.
That's the sign of a disciplined football team. If the Buckeyes can take care of the ball and prevent big momentum swings, they should leave Baltimore with their first victory of the season.
All stats via NCAA.com.
David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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