- The Washington Times - Monday, September 7, 2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio | One of the biggest unknowns for Navy entering the season was the contribution it would get from its skill position players.

The Midshipmen graduated starters at quarterback, slotback, fullback and wide receiver, leaving a talented yet largely untested group to replace them.

Based on their performance in a near-upset of No. 6 Ohio State on Saturday, it appears the 2009 Mids are composed in high-pressure situations and the triple option should continue to thrive to the level it has in recent years.

There were mistakes along the way - three fumbles (two lost), a botched kickoff return and two untimely interceptions - that ultimately cost Navy the game, but the fact remains that the undersized Mids fared well against the perennial powerhouse.

“We have some skilled kids that people haven’t seen but we’re very excited about,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We just have to go back to work.”

At the heart of the attack was quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who in his second career start was 9-for-13 passing for 156 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 83 yards on 18 carries and two more scores.

It was certainly an up-and-down day for Dobbs, whose fumble led to a Buckeyes touchdown. Then he had to watch linebacker Brian Rolle take his two-point conversion attempt 99 yards the other way on the game’s decisive play.

But he did direct two long touchdown drives, including a vintage Navy clock-killing 15-play, 99-yard drive in the third quarter. Navy converted eight of 12 third downs and nearly matched Ohio State in total offense (363 to 342).

“Ricky has a bright future. The sky is the limit for him,” Niumatalolo said. “For him to come in here in a hostile environment like this, to play the No. 6 team on the road, to have a chance to tie it up at the end, that’s all we could ask.”

He had help along the way. Sophomore fullback Alexander Teich averaged 4.7 yards a carry and made a key block on both of Dobbs’ touchdown runs up the middle.

Sophomore slotback Marcus Curry had only four carries, but that didn’t stop him from emerging as a potential playmaker. Curry missed the first week of fall practice with a virus, but he recovered and worked his way back up the depth chart as camp progressed.

Against the Buckeyes, he converted his first two career receptions into touchdowns, including an 85-yard catch-and-run in which he outran the left side of Ohio State’s secondary.

“The way the guy was covering me, it was man-to-man, and he was playing more on the outside. So I knew that I was going to run a vertical, so all I had to do was make a move like I was going to go out and then continue to run straight,” Curry said. “As soon as I made that move, Ricky put it right on the money, and I had just enough gas to get into the end zone. I was dying, though.”

Navy’s offense featured six first-time starters Saturday - two on the offensive line and four at skill positions - and it showed in the first half. After scoring a touchdown on their opening drive, the Mids were stifled. Their next three possessions went punt-fumble-punt.

But they recovered to put up 20 points in the second half against a team expected to compete for the national title.

“Really I think in the second half, we just got all the jitters out,” Curry said. “I know me personally, it was the first time that I’ve played. To come in the Horseshoe, in front of all those fans, in the first series I was just like, ‘Wow, do I still know what to do?’ [I was] looking around a little nervous.

“But in the second half I was dialed in. Our whole team was dialed in at that time, and we were just ready to go out and play football like we knew how.”

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