Dobbs brings Navy back in second half to defeat Army

Navy players and fans celebrate another win over Army, the Midshipmen's eighth in a row.
Navy players and fans celebrate another win over Army, the Midshipmen's eighth in a row.
Posted: December 14, 2009

Shoot yourself in the foot and you'll quickly realize two things.

One, it hurts.

And two, you'd better fix the wound before the bleeding becomes too much.

In Saturday's 110th installment of the Army-Navy game, the Midshipmen took that realization to heart and halted a first-half bleed-out by scoring 17 unanswered points in the second half.

The first score was a 25-yard strike in the third quarter from quarterback Ricky Dobbs to wideout Marcus Curry - Navy's first passing touchdown since a win over Notre Dame on Nov. 7 - en route to a 17-3 win in front of 69,541 at Lincoln Financial Field.

Dobbs (3-for-7, 67 yards passing, touchdown, interception; 33-113 rushing, TD), the game's MVP, set an NCAA record for most touchdowns in a season (24) by a quarterback when he rushed for a 1-yard score in the fourth quarter. That means he scored in all 13 games he started this season.

"Ricky did a good job of handling the pressure and keeping his composure," said Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo. "The way we started out, if Ricky wasn't able keep us in line, the result could have been catastrophic."

As a result, Army lost its first potential bowl bid since the 1996 Independence Bowl. Temple will play UCLA in the Dec. 29 EagleBank Bowl in Washington, D.C. Navy will clash with Missouri in Houston at the Texas Bowl on Dec. 31.

"It's tough because at the half, with how we came out, we weren't surprised we were ahead, we were surprised that we weren't further ahead," said Army coach Rich Ellerson. "We expected to win, and we are bitterly disappointed given the circumstances that we didn't."

In the first half, the Midshipmen repeatedly pulled the turnover trigger: a 26-yard Army interception and near-touchdown in the first quarter; a fumble on offense; and two pass plays, one an 86-yard strike from Dobbs to wide receiver Nick Henderson, negated due to holding penalties.

These mistakes found the Midshipmen down 3-0 at the half, the first time since 2001 that Army held a halftime edge and the first time Navy (9-4) had been shut out at the half since 1993, when the Cadets won, 16-14, at Giants Stadium.

"I really didn't have to say anything to these guys [at halftine]," Niumatalolo said. "This is a game of four quarters and these guys knew they had to clean up the mistakes and get it going in the second half."

Credit the defense of Army (5-7), which kept Dobbs and his offensive contingent to 110 yards of total offense in the first half and just 35 in the first quarter. Navy entered the contest ranked third nationally in rushing offense (279.67 ypg). But in the second half that same Army defense found it hard to stay the course with Navy engineering one extensive drive after the other to emerge with its eighth consecutive win over the Cadets, increasing its series advantage to 54-49-7.

"This is a great feeling, and being from the area to play on this field and win really meant so much," said Navy junior kicker Joe Buckley, who played in high school at Malvern Prep and nailed a 36-yard field goal and two extra points. "By chance, I looked up and saw my parents in the stands and remembered how many times I was up in those same seats staring down at the field. It's surreal, but I am so glad I had the chance to experience this, especially here in Philadelphia."

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