Dobbs’ return brings boost to Mids’ attack

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Trailing Temple late in the fourth quarter last week, Navy faced an obvious passing situation. So coach Ken Niumatalolo inserted Ricky Dobbs, his strong-armed quarterback who didn’t start because of a knee injury.

On third-and-11, Dobbs scrambled up the middle for 10 yards. The drive stalled and the Midshipmen lost, but the play turned out to be the most significant of the sequence.

Only after that run was the most pressing issue answered: Was Dobbs healthy enough to start against Notre Dame this week?

“It was the first time in basically two weeks that I went full speed,” Dobbs said. “It was reassuring to know that my body is ready.”

Dobbs, who will return to the starting lineup when the Mids (6-3) travel to South Bend, Ind., hasn’t been able to get Notre Dame (6-2) off his mind since. From film sessions to going against the scout team in practice, the quarterback has been immersed in preparation for the Irish.

Then when he gets back to his room, Dobbs is faced with the Irish poster and other paraphernalia displayed by roommate and Notre Dame fan Patrick Staub.

“Me and his family are real cool, too,” Dobbs said. “They said they’ll root for me but their heart is still for Notre Dame.”

That’s not a problem for the junior signal-caller, who has been focused in his preparation for the 19th-ranked Irish.

“Whatever I got, I’m giving that - and then some,” Dobbs said.

Niumatalolo tempered his expectations for Dobbs as he eased into his workload, but the junior picked up his intensity and performance in practice as the week wore on. Dobbs said his muscles were tight Monday from inactivity, but by Wednesday he had Niumatalolo hopeful.

“I’m always trying to look and see if he’s dragging his leg or anything like that,” the second-year coach said. “He ran hard, ran hard in the conditioning, threw the ball well. Maybe those two weeks off kind of rejuvenated him and let him freshen up a little bit.”

Quarterback Kriss Proctor played well enough to go 1-1 in his two starts, but there is no question Navy’s offense is getting a boost with Dobbs back. Despite his missed time, Dobbs still leads the nation in touchdowns scored (16).

Niumatalolo’s desire to get Dobbs back on the field was evident when he inserted him in the second quarter against Temple on a fourth-and-1 play, illustrating the trust Dobbs has established with the coaching staff. The Mids really like their chances when Dobbs is on the field.

That was evident to offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper, who noticed an extra hop in his unit’s step during practice this week.

“[Dobbs] doesn’t say much, but he’s our leader,” Jasper said. “He’s not a rah-rah guy, but it’s by the way he plays. The kids all respond to that.”

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