Stuffing the option: UND’s 3-4 defense designed to limit offenses like Cal PolyGRAND FORKS — In 1991, the University of North Dakota defensive coordinator Dale Lennon launched a search for a defense that could handle North Dakota State’s powerful veer option offense.
By: Tom Miller, The Dickinson Press
GRAND FORKS — In 1991, the University of North Dakota defensive coordinator Dale Lennon launched a search for a defense that could handle North Dakota State’s powerful veer option offense.
Lennon’s hunt ended at Northern Iowa, where he found former North Dakota State player and coach Ardell Wiegandt — a Panthers assistant at the time — who impressed Lennon with his 3-4 defensive alignment.
Twenty years later, the Sioux football team hopes that 3-4 scheme can stuff a cousin of the Bison’s old veer option attack: Cal Poly’s triple option.
The Sioux face the Mustangs at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Alerus Center in a showdown of unbeaten teams in the Great West Conference.
“The 3-4 was originally brought here to stop the split-back veer,” UND coach Chris Mussman said. “We’ve built some confidence with it over the years defending option teams.”
In the 1990s and early 2000s, the Sioux used the three linemen, four linebacker approach to loosen NDSU’s grip on the rivalry and eventually win an NCAA Division II national title.
In a one-point loss last season at Cal Poly, the Sioux gave up 249 rushing yards to the Mustangs. Two years ago — in a UND victory at the Alerus Center — the Sioux limited Poly to 62 rushing yards.
On average, the Mustangs run the ball four out of every five plays this year. Cal Poly quarterback Andre Broadous has rushed for 484 yards, running back Mark Rodgers has rushed for 382 yards and fullback Jake Romanelli has rushed for 550 yards.
Broadous averages more than 4 yards per carry, while Rodgers and Romanelli average more than 5 yards per carry.
The Sioux, though, are also worried about Cal Poly’s balance.
“They’ve added a new dimension with passing it around,” UND defensive lineman Ross Brenneman said. “We’ve done a great job against them in the past. But like I said, with more of a passing game, it won’t be easy.”
Broadous has passed for 595 yards, completing 49-of-84 throws for three touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Sioux didn’t see Broadous last year, as he suffered an injury prior to the Mustangs playing the Sioux.
“They’ll put him in the gun, and they’re not afraid to throw it,” Mussman said. “They’re doing a good job not being one dimensional.”
Brenneman said the key to defending the option is to be assignment sharp.
“Everyone has a job to do, and they don’t need to do more than that,” Brenneman said. “Take care of your business and things will get done.”
“It’s a chess match,” he said. “Where do the linebackers fit? Who’s taking the dive? Who’s taking the pitch? Who has the quarterback?”
Miller is a sports reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.