- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 27, 2009

ANNAPOLIS | The focus for Navy’s offense this week was simple: Get the triple option fixed after a mistake-prone showing in a loss at Pittsburgh. Football Bowl Subdivision newcomer Western Kentucky turned out to be just the team to get right against.

The Midshipmen piled up 473 yards of total offense and avoided falling to 1-3 for the first time since 2002 by beating the Hilltoppers 38-22 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

“The coaches emphasized how much we had to get things going offensively this week, and I think we came out and executed it to the best of our ability,” quarterback Ricky Dobbs said. “I felt like I was relaxed, more calm and just let everything come to me instead of reacting too fast.”

It was the kind of performance the Mids needed after last week’s frustrating outing. They were efficient and effective, producing several long scoring drives with few mistakes. They got points on six out of their nine drives and didn’t punt once. A lost fumble, a short possession just before halftime and a missed field goal with 55 seconds left in the game were their empty drives.

The Mids had the ground game going from the start. Their first 31 plays were runs, and Dobbs’ first pass was a 29-yard touchdown strike to Cory Finnerty with 2:26 left in the first half. Navy (2-2) had its best rushing performance of the season, resembling the program that has led the nation in rushing the last four years while rolling up 373 yards on 64 carries.

Dobbs, who looked shaky last week at Pittsburgh, took full advantage of the Hilltoppers’ defense, which entered the game yielding 508.3 yards. He had 29 carries for 143 yards and tied a career high with four touchdowns. He added 100 yards on 4-for-5 passing and the one score.

“We executed better offensively, much better than we did last week,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “Ricky did some great things. That’s the nature of being the quarterback. When things go good, Ricky gets a lot of credit. When things go bad, he gets a lot of [blame]. I thought he did a great job of bouncing back.”

Navy needed a strong attack because its defense again struggled in the early going. For the first time this season, the unit made a stop on its opponents’ first possession, but it had some help in doing so. The Hilltoppers (0-4) drove all the way to the Navy 1-yard line, only to botch the snap on second-and-goal. Defensive end Shane Bothel fell on the loose ball for Navy.

But Western Kentucky continued to move the ball, spurred by redshirt freshman quarterback Kawaun Jakes. He completed 11 of his first 12 passes as Western Kentucky compiled 210 yards to keep it close in the first half.

But the Mids’ defense regrouped and got a trio of key stops in the second half. The Hilltoppers’ offense first gave an assist when kicker Casey Tinius shanked a 29-yard field goal attempt on the opening drive of the third quarter.

Navy responded with an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive capped by a Dobbs 2-yard run.

Western Kentucky’s next drive stalled when linebacker Craig Schaefer sacked Jakes on third-and-3 at the Navy 43.

After a touchback, the Mids again produced an 80-yard scoring march. And again Dobbs finished it off with a quarterback keeper, this time from 1 yard out, pushing Navy’s lead to 31-14.

The Mids’ defense then came up with a second turnover when defensive end Jordan Stephens tipped a Jakes pass high into the air and linebacker Tony Haberer came down with it. Six plays later, Dobbs was in the end zone again, giving Navy a commanding 38-14 lead with 9:15 remaining.

“That’s who we are defensively,” Niumatalolo said. “Our guys continue to battle. It wasn’t looking good on that first drive, but we got the fumble. Those were definitely some big stops.”

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