Navy runs away from Missouri in Texas Bowl
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By CHRIS DUNCAN
HOUSTON — Ricky Dobbs listened to the chatter from Missouri's defense and knew Navy had the Tigers beat.
Dobbs ran for 166 yards and three touchdowns and the Midshipmen manhandled Missouri with their triple-option offense in a 35-13 victory in the Texas Bowl yesterday.
Dobbs also threw a touchdown pass to Bobby Doyle and Marcus Curry ran for a score as the Midshipmen (10-4) rushed for 385 yards against Missouri's 12th-ranked run defense. Navy won time of possession by nearly 22 minutes and ran 81 offensive plays to 57 for the Tigers.
The old-fashioned, run-first (and second and third) offense put the Midshipmen on equal footing with bigger, faster opponents all season. They nearly upset Ohio State in the season opener and beat Notre Dame on Nov. 7.
Dobbs sensed that Navy was going to take down another heavyweight when he heard the frustrated Tigers complaining about the Midshipmen's low blocks.
"You could hear them talking all the time, 'Hey, who's trying to end my career?' and stuff like that," Dobbs said. "A lot of people, as far as defenses go, they have respect for us and the style that we do. They respect it because they hate it, and hearing them talk negatively about it let us know that they have respect for it, because they don't want to do it."
Navy matched a school record for victories in a season, securing only the third 10-win campaign in its history.
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo conceded Missouri's size and speed advantage leading up to this one. The undersized defense still managed to hold the Tigers to only 65 rushing yards.
"We're going to have 11 guys running to the football," said Niumatalolo, a Radford High and University of Hawai'i alum. "We're like 11 hyenas — we're going to take down an elephant sooner or later, and we're going to get on you."
Blaine Gabbert threw a 58-yard touchdown pass to Danario Alexander on Missouri's second play from scrimmage, but the Tigers mustered only 298 yards the rest of the game — largely because the Navy offense kept the ball for almost 41 minutes.
"They're really efficient in what they do," Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. "They run it well and they're going to keep doing it. We knew what they were going to do, but the thing is, they kind of take your instincts away from you."
Missouri (8-5) lost for the second time in its last five bowl appearances.
Gabbert also threw two interceptions and was sacked four times, even though Navy had up to eight players dropped into pass coverage on some plays.
"He'll tell you that he's got to play better," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "This will be a good experience, certainly for him and for all of us."
Alexander, who led the nation in receiving yards coming into the game, took a short pass from Gabbert and outran the Navy defense just 24 seconds into the game. It was Alexander's 14th TD catch of the season.
Dobbs broke a 24-yard run on Navy's second possession, diving into the end zone with 2:58 left in the first quarter. It was Dobbs' 25th touchdown run of the year, adding to his NCAA single-season record for a QB.