Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper is a former quarterback and knows the challenges that come with making decisions in the triple option. He tries to keep that in mind when he watches junior quarterback Ricky Dobbs lead the offense.
But Jasper was visibly frustrated with some of Dobbs' decision-making in Navy's 27-14 loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Midshipmen never got on track offensively and finished with just 218 yards of total offense and 129 yards on the ground, the fifth-lowest total since Paul Johnson introduced the triple option at Navy in 2002.
"He missed some [reads], and some of them were really obvious. I was really upset about those. The others, I can understand," said Jasper, who played at the University of Hawaii.
Dobbs wasn't the only reason Navy (1-2) struggled on offense, as there were breakdowns across the board.
"We didn't execute," Jasper said. "Bottom line."
"We never got anything started," Dobbs said. "There are a lot of things I wish I could've done differently, reads that I wish I could've made. I've got to settle down and be patient, and stop making reads before they actually happen. I think we definitely had the opportunity on several occasions, but we were shooting ourselves in the foot."
But Dobbs' struggles were the most visible because of the position he plays. He is usually one of Navy's strongest runners, but he was credited with only 21 yards on 26 carries. Take away Pittsburgh's six sacks, and he gained 53 yards on 20 carries.
Dobbs completed just six of 21 passes for 89 yards; the 21 attempts were the most by a Navy quarterback since Craig Candeto threw 23 passes (completing 13) in a 49-40 loss to Northwestern in 2002.
"That's not who we are," coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "Maybe I'll get people off my back who say we need to throw the ball more. There we saw an illustration of [what happens] if we have to throw the ball."
For all the success that Dobbs has had over the past year, he is still learning to make the right reads while running the triple option, which is predicated on the quarterback's making snap decisions about whether to keep the ball or give it to a slotback or fullback. There were times, particularly in the first half, when it appeared as if Dobbs should have given the ball to the fullback instead of carrying it himself.
Sophomore fullback Alexander Teich finished with 80 yards on 12 carries and had Navy's longest play of the day, a 42-yard run early in the second quarter. Sophomore Marcus Curry (34 yards on six carries) was the only slotback who touched the ball.
"I think Ricky realized that, hey, we've got to be able to run the option for us to be successful," Niumatalolo said. "Yeah, he's a heck of a thrower and as good as we've ever had, but in order for us to be successful the rest of our season, we got to be able to run the offense to have a chance."
Jasper said he and Dobbs will work hard to make sure the Mids operate more smoothly on offense. Navy has 10 more games, starting Saturday against Western Kentucky (0-3). The Hilltoppers have an 11-game losing streak dating to last season and rank 118th in total defense (508.3 yards per game).