- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 6, 2009

Columbus, Ohio | In his short stints off the bench last year, Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs showed a flair for fourth-quarter drama. He led the Midshipmen to a 20-point comeback against Temple and nearly brought them back from the same deficit a week later against Notre Dame.

Dobbs was at it again Saturday, standing just a two-point conversion away from drawing Navy even with No. 6 Ohio State. He dropped back to pass, and the 105,092 fans in attendance held their breath as he targeted slotback Bobby Doyle on a slant route.

But linebacker Brian Rolle intercepted Dobbs’ two-point conversion pass and rumbled 99 yards the other way, dispelling Dobbs’ magic in a 31-27 win against upset-minded Navy at Ohio Stadium.

“Rolle just came out of nowhere,” Dobbs said. “I tried to throw it low to Bobby so the [safety] would have to come through his body, and it was just too low and he broke on it.”

The quick turn of events halted what had been a furious fourth-quarter rally by the Mids.

A Dan Herron 6-yard touchdown plunge put Ohio State up 29-14 with 11:56 remaining. But immediately thereafter, Ohio State committed a string of blunders that allowed the Mids to seize momentum, starting when Buckeyes kicker Aaron Pettrey missed the point after.

On Ohio State’s next possession, it drove to the Navy 15-yard line. On third-and-1, the Mids’ defense stuffed Herron for no gain. And instead of opting to kick a field goal that would have put the Buckeyes up by three scores, coach Jim Tressel opted to go for it on fourth down.

But Navy’s defensive line collapsed the middle, leaving linebacker Tyler Simmons and cornerback Kevin Edwards free to swoop in and stuff Herron again.

“We gave them a little help along the way in that fourth quarter, did some things that obviously you wish you could have back,” Tressel said. “As I look back, I certainly should have kicked a field goal on fourth-and-one, which was a huge mistake in my mind.”

On the very next play, Dobbs lofted a deep pass to slotback Marcus Curry, who had a step on safety Anderson Russell and outran him and corner Andre Amos to the end zone for an 85-yard touchdown. In the span of 12 seconds, Navy was back within a possession at 29-21 with 6:15 left.

On the Buckeyes’ ensuing possession, a Terrelle Pryor overthrow landed in the hands of safety Emmett Merchant. With the field spread out, Merchant returned the interception 38 yards to the Ohio State 33.

Three plays later, Dobbs scampered up the middle for a 24-yard touchdown.

“We were always talking like [we could come back],” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “If we could keep it to a two-touchdown score, we just felt like we had a chance. There are some things in our offense that we were maybe a block away from breaking a play, and we were just telling guys to hold the course.”

But that only set up Rolle’s game-changing play. It was a microcosm of the day for Navy, who rarely seemed overmatched against the national-title contenders, but gave the ball away four times.

In the second quarter, Dobbs fumbled with the Mids trailing by three. Early in the fourth quarter, Ohio State safety stripped receiver Mario Washington after a completed pass, and on Navy’s next possession Dobbs underthrew a third-down pass that Buckeyes safety Kurt Coleman came up with. Then Rolle came up with an interception on the game’s most critical play.

“Turnovers killed us,” Niumatalolo said. “That was our number one goal going into camp, to take care of the football, especially against a great team like Ohio State. If you turn the ball over [three] times, you’re not going to beat anybody.”

Yet the Mids were still able to come dangerously close to a shocking upset and walked away regretting the missed opportunity.

“We were coming here to win,” Niumatalolo said. “We had one goal. We weren’t coming here to experience the atmosphere or any of that stuff. … Our kids are down. We’re a program that’s won some games over the last six years. We hate losing, regardless of who we play.”

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