ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Few people have a better appreciation for option football than Central Florida coach Scott Frost.
Frost ran a version of option football under the direction of his father at Wood River High in Nebraska. Larry Frost, a career high school head coach, taught his son the basics of reading defenses and deciding where to go with the football.
Frost went on to become the starting quarterback at Nebraska in a different type of option system for coach Tom Osborne.
“I love option football. I lived it,” Frost said. “It’s just a skill.”
Frost and the 20th-ranked Knights (5-0, 3-0 American Athletic Conference) will be a firsthand look at one of the nation’s finest option teams, Navy, on Saturday.
Navy (5-1, 3-1) owns the nation’s top rushing offense, led by quarterback Zach Abey.
“I feel like option quarterbacks are kind of like giant pandas, they only exist in zoos and military academies now,” Frost said.
Abey ranks fourth in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 1,016 rushing yards and second with 12 rushing touchdowns. The 6-foot-2, 212-pound junior has run for 100 yards or more in seven straight games, tied for the school record.
Some other things to know about the UCF-Navy matchup:
MISSED OPPORTUNITY: The Knights’ non-conference contest against Georgia Tech on Sept. 16 was supposed to serve as somewhat of a primer for Navy. The game, however, was canceled because of Hurricane Irma. “It would have given us a chance to get a good look at the option and go against a team that’s really good at doing it,” Frost said. “On the flip side, Navy would have seen our approach to trying to stop it then game-planned accordingly.”
HANDS-ON HEAD COACH: Frost knows how it difficult it is to get the scout team to run the Navy offense properly. There is no way to teach inexperienced players how to execute the triple-option at a level anywhere near the Midshipmen. “You can’t really replicate the speed and precision with which they do things,” Frost said.
Rather than train a backup quarterback to run the option, Frost simply decided to do it himself. The 41-year-old head coach, who spent six seasons in the NFL, served as the scout team quarterback for part of practice this past week. “There is an art to playing option quarterback,” Frost said. “Even though I’m slow and old, it’s probably still better than somebody that’s doing it for the first time.”
HAWAII CONNECTION: Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo returns to his home state of Hawaii every summer and often conducts clinics. So it was no surprise that Navy got involved with recruiting quarterback McKenzie Milton, a Kapolei native who originally committed to hometown Hawaii.
Niumatalolo convinced Milton to take an official visit to the Naval Academy. But Milton de-committed from Hawaii and signed with Central Florida instead. He is the first Hawaii resident to play football at the Orlando school. Milton is the trigger man of the highest-scoring offense in the FBS. He has completed 70 percent of passes for 1,489 yards and 15 touchdowns through five games.
TOUGH AT HOME: The Midshipmen has won 17 straight regular season games at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the longest home winning streak in the country. Navy is 10-0 against AAC opponents during that stretch. “We don’t talk about the streak, but we do talk about protecting our home turf, our house,” Niumatalolo said.
UNPRECEDENTED: Central Florida is seeking to start a season 6-0 for the first time in program history. Navy is looking to beat a ranked opponent for the third straight season, something it has not done since the early 1940s.