Missed opportunities doom Navy in loss to Terps

Navy can't overcome uncharacteristic struggles from Dobbs

  • Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs walks off the field after shaking hands with Maryland running back Da'Rel Scott.
Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs walks off the field after shaking… (AP photo )
September 06, 2010|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

The ending seemed to be setting up perfectly for Navy on Monday night at M&T Bank Stadium. Despite falling behind by two touchdowns to Maryland in the first quarter, and despite being down by three points in the final minute, the momentum and the outcome seemed to be in the hands of the Midshipmen.

Specifically in the hands of senior quarterback Ricky Dobbs.

Those hands were uncharacteristically shaky in what turned into a 17-14 season-opening defeat. Two fumbles by Dobbs earlier in the game prevented Navy from scoring near the goal line. A bad decision by Dobbs cost Navy a chance at a field goal at the end of the first half.

And, finally, Dobbs was stopped on a fourth-and-goal at the Maryland 1 by safety Kenny Tate on a play that began with 37 seconds remaining.

"It's something we do all the time. It's like bread and butter for us," Dobbs said of Navy's final offensive play. "I was feeling 100 percent confident that we were going to punch it in."

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said there was no debate about who the ball was going to on the game's most crucial play.

"Everyone in the country knows what we're going to do. It's not like it's been a new deal," Niumatalolo said. "He did it on another one and scored. He was ready to score another one when he fumbled. There's no secret what we're going to do. We're going to put the ball in our best player's hands and live with it."

But Dobbs wasn't Navy's best player Monday. If not for fullback Vincent Murray (112 yards on 14 carries) and slotback Gee Gee Greene (74 yards on seven carries), as well as a defense that stopped the Terps after their fast start, the Midshipmen wouldn't have been in position to win.

Dobbs, a senior from Douglasville, Ga., who was being touted as a darkhorse candidate for the Heisman Trophy, finished the game with 29 carries for 63 yards rushing. Dobbs fumbled four times (losing two) and on several occasions seemed to make the wrong read in Navy's triple-option offense.

"They were game-changing mistakes," Dobbs said of the lost fumbles. "They had a good scheme, they came over the top, knocked the ball out from behind, another time hitting it dead on my hand. I can take full responsibility on those occurrences right there. One thing we talk about here is taking care of the football. Today I just didn't do a good job."

Niumatalolo wouldn't blame his quarterback, crediting the Maryland defense for making the plays that caused the fumbles.

"He's human," Niumatalolo said. "Ricky's won a ton of games for us, he's done a lot of great things for us, but he makes mistakes, too. But I have great faith in him that he'll bounce back. I trust this young man. We all make mistakes."

Instead, the third-year Navy coach blamed himself for the fourth-down call in the waning seconds.

"It was probably a bad call on my part to go for it at the end," he said. "The biggest fault was my fault. We could have kicked and put it into overtime and see what happens. Bad decision. … I have great faith in Ricky. He's scored like that many times before but they kept us out."

About as close as Niumatalolo came to criticizing Dobbs came when he talked about the quarterback's decision at the end of the first half. Lining up on third-and-6 at the Maryland 7 with 12 seconds left, Dobbs was supposed to look into the end zone and throw the ball away if his receivers were covered.

Seeing nobody open, Dobbs tried to run it in instead and the Midshipmen couldn't get their field-goal unit on before the half ended. Dobbs said that he momentarily lost his focus when he tried to make Maryland linebacker Alex Wujciak miss him.

"After that moment right there, I became unaware of everything I had been told just before," Dobbs said. "Coach told us right before, if you don't have anything, throw it out of bounds and we'll kick a field goal. I definitely lost focus right there. Instinct took over and got the best of me."

Said Niumatalolo, "The one at the end of the half killed us. Ricky knows. He's got big shoulders. And the one at the end was my fault. That's on me."


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