By David Fong
TROY — Matt Burgbacher grew up a lifetime fan of the University of Notre Dame football program.
That doesn’t mean, however, he can’t learn a few things from the current coach at The Ohio State University, Urban Meyer (who, it does bear mentioning, was once an assistant for Burgbacher’s beloved Fighting Irish).
“You know, we get a lot of ideas from other people,” Burgbacher said. “We’ll never be a carbon copy of anyone, but we do like to take a lot of different things from a lot of different programs. I remember reading an article by Urban Meyer about how pathetic their perimeter blocking was when he first got to OSU and how improving that was a point of emphasis for them.
“Urban Meyer said, ‘If you don’t block well on the perimeter, you are a very selfish football team.’ That’s something we really took to heart during the offseason. We wanted to make sure we did a better job blocking on the perimeter.”
Burgbacher said he and his staff made it a goal to have better blocking receivers, which has helped do wonders for the Trojan running game so far this year. Last season, the Trojans averaged 133.6 rushing yards per game, 15th out of 18 teams in the Greater Western Ohio Conference. So far this season, the Trojans are averaging 220.0 rushing yards per game, eighth out of the now 20 teams in the GWOC.
Many factors have gone into that leap, Burgbacher said, but better blocking from the receivers has certainly played a major role.
“That was definitely something we focused on in the offseason — and something we continue to focus on in every practice,” he said. “We have a blocking period every day in which we do nothing but focus on our perimeter blocking. The two hardest things to do in football are to tackle in space and to block in space. We grade our receivers on their blocking after every game. Against Northwest, our receivers did a very good job with their perimeter blocking. They’ve really bought into it and are taking pride in it.”
Not only does good perimeter blocking aid the running game, Burgbacher said, but the passing game as well. He said defenders can get so caught up trying to fight off blocks that they will sometimes let their pass coverage slip. He specifically cited Sam Coleman’s 65-yard touchdown reception last week against Northwest — Coleman was wide open by at least 15 yards on the play — as an example of good blocking leading to a big pass play.
“Defenders get so worried about getting past that block,” Burgbacher said. “They are so worried about getting past that block and they are busting their tail to get past that block that you can make a double move and catch them in no-mans land. They get so caught up in trying to stop the run that they lose sight of the pass and let something slip through. That’s what happened on Sammy Coleman’s play. He was doing a great job blocking, then just slipped right past his man for the big reception.”
At no point in recent history has the Troy football team played Bellefontaine, the Trojans’ opponents this week.
That doesn’t mean, however, the Troy coaching staff doesn’t know plenty about the Chieftains. Troy defensive coordinator Charlie Burgbacher, Matt’s father, battled Bellefontaine every year from 2001 — the year the CBC was formed — until he left Tippecanoe in 2015 to join his son at Troy. In those 14 years, the elder Burgbacher lost to Bellefontaine just once, a 35-20 defeat in 2004.
Matt Burgbacher — who served as an assistant to his father for several years and has seen Bellefontaine a number of times himself — said he hopes that familiarity will help Friday when the Trojans travel there for their first road game of the season.
“I think it does help when you have someone who has played a team as many times as dad has played them,” Matt Burgbacher said. “He knows the environment up there and what to expect. He also knows they have a great football tradition. They have some hard-nosed kids up there who are going to go hard every single play.
“I remember I was an assistant in 2007 and we were both 6-0 going into that game, which we played up there. The place was absolutely packed. It was a great environment for football. I expect the same sort of thing this week.”
Three for One
Burgbacher said he’ll continue to use a trio of running backs — seniors Josh Browder and Marc Scordia, along with sophomore Sam Coleman — in the backfield. So far this season, Browder has 27 carries for 122 yards and one touchdown, Jackson has 16 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown and Scordia — who missed almost the entire first game with an injury — has 16 carries for 59 yards.
Burgbacher said each one brings something different to the table — and likes having the change of pace between all three, which gives defenses different things for which to account.
“Browder has the potential to take it to the house every time he touches the ball,” Burgbacher said. “He’s a big-play guy. Sammy is our brute strength power guy. He’s going to get those tough yards when we need them. Marc is our ball-control guy — I think he’s fumbled maybe one time in the two years I’ve been here.
“All three of them can do different things for us and defense have to account for that. We like having three varsity running backs that we feel good about — and we do feel good about all three of them.”
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong