- The Washington Times - Friday, October 16, 2009

Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper has been delivering the same message to the Midshipmen’s fullbacks for years, knowing their opportunities to reach the end zone are limited.

“I tell all our B-backs, ‘Guys, if you’ve got a chance to score, you better score. Because if you get tackled at the 1-yard line, the next play is going to be to the quarterback,’ ” Jasper said.

That axiom has been on display this season, and Ricky Dobbs has taken full advantage. Six games into the season, Navy’s signal-caller leads the nation with 14 rushing touchdowns - just six shy of Chris McCoy’s single-season school record. He’s likely to get plenty of opportunities to maintain his lead Saturday when Navy (4-2) visits SMU (3-2), the team he had his first career four-touchdown game against last year.

Part of the reason for Dobbs’ scoring proficiency is the rate at which he is called upon in short-yardage situations: Eight of Dobbs’ rushing touchdowns have been from 3 yards out or closer.

“You know why he leads the nation in rushing touchdowns? Because we might lead the nation in guys who fall at the 1-yard line,” Jasper said. “We joke about it, but in all the years I’ve been here, we’ve had more guys fall down at the 1-yard line than I’ve ever seen.”

Dobbs played fullback at Naval Academy Preparatory School and knows what it’s like to be tackled just shy of the end zone. But on the other side of it - “The quarterback follow is like an unwritten rule in our offense inside the [5-yard line],” Dobbs said - he has thrived.

Dobbs has been able to punch it in so often because the Mids have been successful running the quarterback follow, one of their most basic strategies and also one of their most utilized. It’s designed to have the quarterback fake to the fullback before finding a crease in the offensive line to plunge forward.

Those final few yards are sometimes the hardest to come by since all 22 players are compacted into a small space. Besides coming away with fewer points, getting stuffed near the goal line is demoralizing for an offense - which is why Navy often practices its key short-yardage play and stresses the importance of executing.

“Our main objective any time we get inside the red zone is just to punch it in,” Dobbs said. “When you have 10 guys blocking and it’s just one-on-one somewhere else with the ball, it’s the most efficient play that we have. You have everybody blocking for it, whereas when you hand the ball off you have two people that’s eliminated [from blocking] - the person with the ball and the quarterback.”

Dobbs’ running style also has contributed to Navy’s success in the red zone. He is not as fast as his predecessors, but Dobbs runs with power. On all six of his touchdown runs of 13 yards or more, Dobbs has absorbed a hit and bounced off a would-be tackler or run through an arm tackle - sometimes doing both on the same run.

“He is a hard guy to tackle,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We don’t have many plays down there, and everybody knows what we like to run, but he still finds a way to get it in. His strength is in his hips. He just runs through people.”

Despite his gaudy touchdown pace, Dobbs is more concerned with the overall success of the offense. That’s what was on his mind during the preseason, when he made a deal with his offensive linemen.

“I told them if we have a game where we rush for over 300 yards and throw for 200, at the end of the season I’m gonna take all five of the starting linemen out to Ruth’s Chris,” Dobbs said.