Giving nothing, Mids take it all

navy football rewind

Picks lead way to 1st shutout win since '04

November 27, 2008|By Don Markus | Don Markus,don.markus.baltsun.com

Navy had gone 58 games and more than four seasons between shutouts.

Northern Illinois had gone nearly 10 seasons since getting shut out.

Navy's 16-0 victory Tuesday night at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill., marked the successful debut of sophomore Ricky Dobbs as the team's starting quarterback but also continued a season of improvement for the Midshipmen's often-maligned defense.

Two interceptions - one by senior cornerback Rashawn King at the Navy 9-yard line in the first quarter and another by sophomore safety Emmett Merchant in the third quarter - thwarted drives by the Huskies.

The Mids turned the first into an early field goal and the second into a touchdown.

"The Huskies were moving the ball pretty effectively against us early in the game, but our first interception helped the defense settle down and focus," said Ken Niumatalolo, who became the winningest first-year Navy head coach since Oscar Hagberg went 6-3 in 1944.

The interceptions brought Navy's season total to 15 and helped the Midshipmen to their first shutout since a 29-0 victory at Tulsa in the third game of the 2004 season.

"We feel very confident as a defensive unit, especially in the red zone, and that translated into key stops," Merchant said.

It was the first time Northern Illinois (6-6) had been shut out since 1999.

Navy's defense wasn't solely responsible for this victory.

Despite fumbling (and recovering) on his first handoff of the night, Dobbs finished with 124 yards on 25 carries. Senior fullback Eric Kettani rushed for 92 yards on 19 carries. Each scored a touchdown.

But even Dobbs credited the defense with setting the tone for the game.

"The key stops allowed us to settle down and take our time to score," said Dobbs, just the sixth Navy quarterback to rush for 100 yards or more in his first start.

On the first touchdown drive, Navy marched 85 yards and scored on a 1-yard run by Dobbs. The interception and 29-yard return by Merchant set up Navy's other touchdown, a 1-yard run by Kettani.

Rewind

A 32-yard play-action pass from Dobbs to slotback Greg Shinego on second-and-two from the Northern Illinois 36 in the second quarter. It was the only pass Dobbs attempted, but it set up Navy's first touchdown, a 1-yard run by Dobbs to help the Midshipmen go ahead 9-0.

Erase

Two penalties on the defense early in the fourth quarter, keeping a Northern Illinois drive alive. The second, an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on sophomore Billy Yarborough, also making his first start, came after the Huskies were penalized 15 yards for running a play with 12 men and were facing second-and-goal from the Navy 23.

Fast forward

Navy (7-4) plays its most important game of this and any season, against Army (3-8) at noon Dec. 6 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The Midshipmen have already retained the Commander in Chief's Trophy for the sixth straight year, but a win over the Black Knights would also give it to Navy outright.

NAVY (7-4) VS. ARMY (3-8) Dec. 6, noon, Philadelphia

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Radio: 1090 AM

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