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Stakes are running higher for Navy

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After Navy's underwhelming performance against Pittsburgh two weeks ago, there was a sense of urgency among the coaching staff to cut the mistakes out of the triple option.

The Midshipmen responded by amassing 473 yards of total offense Saturday - albeit against a marginal Western Kentucky defense. But they nonetheless came away from the 38-22 victory feeling good about the progress of their offense.

"I think it was great for us as an offense," said slotback Bobby Doyle, who turned six touches into 104 yards. "We got back on track a little bit. We were just hitting on all cylinders really. We got back to the basics of how our offense is run, and I think it's going to be something we're going to be able to build off of."

The performance - the Mids (2-2) ran for a season-best 373 yards - was well-timed heading into this week's rivalry game against Air Force (3-1). Navy has won the teams' past six meetings and has no intentions of surrendering the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.

"You're hoping you can get in rhythm with the last outing and that will carry over into the Air Force game," offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper said. "It's definitely a plus going into the Air Force game having just played a good game."

Quarterback Ricky Dobbs has made several impressive throws early in the season, but the Pittsburgh loss showed the threat of the run is still paramount to the Mids' passing attack.

Navy's game plan against Western Kentucky was more traditional. Its first 31 plays were runs, and the team produced two long scoring drives before attempting a pass. When the Mids finally chose to throw, the result was a 29-yard touchdown.

"We knew that we had to establish the option," coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "Everything we do is predicated on that and not vice versa. When you look at what happened, we just made sure we got the option established and everything else - the play action, the counters - worked off that."

It was important for the Mids' offense to find some sort of rhythm because of the added challenges the Falcons' defense presents. There is no element of surprise when the rivals meet, so even more emphasis is placed on execution and winning one-on-one battles.

Last year in Colorado Springs, Navy managed just 244 total yards but escaped with a victory thanks to two blocked punts returned for touchdowns.

"We put the film on [Monday], and I had forgotten how much they kicked our butts last year," Jasper said. "Offensively, we didn't do nothing last year."

Armed with the confidence of last week's performance, the task for Navy's offense is to find a way to play at that level consistently the rest of the season.

"The preparation was a big key," Dobbs said. "We've just got to make sure to prepare the same way if not better this week because the emotions and what's at stake with this game is definitely on a higher pedestal than it was last week."

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