NAVY 34, SMU 7

Ricky Dobbs stepped up in relief of an injured Jarod Bryant and ran for 224 (!) yards on 42 (!) carries on Saturday as Navy topped SMU, 34-7. Jarod Bryant ran for 50 yards before leaving the game with a shoulder injury. SMU was held to 157 passing yards and -13 yards on the ground.

Conventional wisdom says that Navy doesn’t get the country’s most coveted recruits. But on Saturday, one 5-star recruit– THE HAND OF ALMIGHTY GOD– played his finest game of the season. The weather was Navy’s best weapon on defense, especially the wind. SMU’s biggest threat– the deep ball– was made virtually impossible to execute thanks to 30-35 mph gusts that kept the flags at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium taut and TV cameras shaking. To give you an idea of how big of an effect this had on SMU’s offense, think of Navy’s struggles earlier in the season. When Kaipo went out, Jarod Bryant struggled running the triple option. Without the ability to capitalize on all three options, Navy’s offense wasn’t effective. The same is true in the run & shoot. A receiver runs deep on almost every play, but if the quarterback’s key told him to throw deep, he wasn’t able to take advantage. That meant a lot of short-yardage, pre-determined routes; plays that aren’t the real run & shoot and take SMU’s offense out of its element.

Deep passes weren’t the only thing affected by the wind, either; Bo Levi Mitchell’s shorter throws were also getting knocked down. SMU’s punts were even worse. The Mustangs won the coin toss and decided to take the ball to start the game; they probably should have chosen to defer. Navy made them drive into the wind, and after the Mustangs couldn’t get those drives going, their punts went nowhere and gave Navy fantastic field position for its first three drives. Navy took a 20-0 lead in the first quarter on touchdown drives that had an average starting position of the SMU 39 yard line. The game was over by the second quarter.

While the wind was Navy’s MVP, it was still a team effort. It isn’t as if teams haven’t been able to nickel and dime themselves down the field against the Mids in the past. Buddy Green decided to rely on a 3-man rush for most of the game, dropping 8 into coverage. This hasn’t worked too well for Navy in the past, as opposing quarterbacks had all day to find an open receiver. That wasn’t the case on Saturday. Nate Frazier, Jabaree Tuani, and Matt Nechak controlled the line of scrimmage. They didn’t get immediate pressure on Mitchell, but they closed the pocket quickly enough that the freshman quarterback wasn’t able to camp out and wait for someone to get open. To me the most impressive part of the line’s performance was their ability to make plays all over the field. Nechak had the hit of the game, running outside to plant the wide receiver on a screen play. Nate Frazier got his sack by chasing down Mitchell from behind. Tuani might have had the most impressive play, coming in on a pass rush, then turning around and making a tackle on the wide receiver downfield and stopping him on third down. It was a good performance from a group that needed to rebound after the Pitt game.

But let’s be real here; the weather might have been the biggest factor in the game, but the biggest story is Navy’s ongoing quarterback soap opera. Poor Jarod Bryant just can’t catch a break. After struggling over the first half of the season, he seemingly put it together against Pitt, only to see the team around him get manhandled. This week he picked up right where he left off and moved the ball fairly easily against a bad SMU defense. But apparently Jarod had reached his good vibes quota for the week, and a couple of awkward falls onto his shoulder led to him being knocked out of the game. (WHY CAN’T I ENJOY A BLOWOUT FOR ONCE???) In stepped Ricky Dobbs, who runs like Brian Hampton and apparently prefers not to pitch the ball, like Brian Madden. Dobbs ran like a tank, bulldozing his way to 224 yards and 4 touchdowns. But it’s hard to really get a feel for how well he did because SMU’s defense was really, really bad.

To get an idea of how bad, let’s look at Ricky’s longest run of the day, a 38-yard stampede in the second quarter. SMU had brought a safety up to the line of scrimmage who would end up covering the playside slotback and getting run out of the play. Ricky’s pitch key was the linebacker lined up over the B-gap. He showed a pitch read, but the cornerback had blitzed to cover the pitch man:

This play should have been blown up by the defense. Against Pitt, it would have been. But Ricky just sidestepped the linebacker and ran upfield. You could say it was a good move on Ricky’s part, and it was. Ricky also deserves credit for seeing the blitz and not pitching the ball. But better linebackers aren’t going to miss those tackles the way SMU’s were.

One dimension that Ricky brought to the game was that he was essentially a second fullback. Ricky’s hard running inside made things easier on the offensive line. A lot of times you’ll hear about the importance of “establishing the fullback” from media and coaches alike. Being an astute fan, you might find that odd since in a triple option, you take what the defense gives you. But even when it looks like the option is working well outside, you still see the coaches call a couple of designed handoffs to the B-back. The reason is because it makes linebackers easier to block. Last week against Pitt, we saw how the middle linebacker ignored the dive and ran to the quarterback on the triple option. The Mids just couldn’t get enough of a push inside to force Pitt’s defense to respect the dive play. This week, Eric Kettani became a lead blocker for Ricky Dobbs, who attacked the middle of the field. The success they were having meant that the linebackers had to respect that play, and it kept them from running outside on the snap. That hesitation made it easier for the tackle to make the block:

There’s another play that might not have worked the way Pitt was playing, but was a nice little 5-yard gain against SMU. The linebacker went to meet the fullback, but wound up getting blocked by the tackle.

One thing you’ll notice is that both of those plays are triple option plays. That’s a good sign.

At this point we could have three healthy quarterbacks for Temple, or we could be starting our third string. If Ricky has to start, it’s good to have seen him run some of the offense. And we didn’t even use his biggest strength– his arm. Now we wait.

35 thoughts on “NAVY 34, SMU 7

  1. On that second clip looks like if the playside A back (Finnerty?) had made the block it would have gone for big yards.

    I liked the quick counter designed QB keeper early on in the game. Also, seemed like we ran some designed pitches later in the game as well.

  2. Gary

    I think Temple is a considerable upgrade from SMU and we will be in for a tough game.
    We beat them last year but the game was much closer than the score (another bad rainy day may help us?).
    Their QB was very successful against us in his passes and running so the D will be in for a harder day than last week thats for sure.
    Hey we got 2 coaches votes!!!!! NICE.
    Now we beat Temple and then ND and get into # 25.

  3. DJ

    I didn’t think the game was that close. A Zerb fumble set up an easy Temple touchdown and Navy was in control the whole time, up by multiple scores and running the ball at will.

    However, I think that this will be a tough game as Temple is much improved. They played tough in quality losses to UConn and W. Mich…they easily could be .500 or better. I admit, I only saw the UConn and Army games, but I thought the defense was pretty solid and Irv might have to be a little more creative this week.

  4. Tom Cann

    Ivin Jasper is not really giving the Navy team a chance to win the tough games…..He refuses to throw the ball even when opposing teams(e.g. Pitt and SMU) put 9-10 defensive players in the box to stop the run… woe is me

  5. Ivin called lots of passes against Rutgers. The first drive of the second half was almost nothing but passes. And I have no idea why you wanted to see anything resembling a pass in those conditions on Saturday.

    Pitt didn’t stack 9-10 players in the box. Their safeties barely had to play run support.

  6. DJ

    He probably threw more against Rutgers because Kaipo was in the game. Bryant has attempted a little more than twice as many passes as Kaipo, but has taken more than 5 times as many snaps as Kaipo. Ivin is probably to pass the ball with Bryant for 3 reasons: he fumbles alot, he holds the ball too long, and he’s just not a good passer.

  7. Russ

    Your comparison to Madden was right on. And that’s unfortunate. Navy football with Madden under center was the most boring thing in the world to watch. Hopefully, the coaches will expand Dobbs’ play repertoire quickly and equally hopefully Dobbs will make use of that breadth. If not, there will be one less season ticket holder in the stands next year. I’m not about to sit through several more years of a Madden “play alike!”

  8. pipehunter

    We win 34-7 in absolutely horrible conditions while watching our opponent struggle with their passing game and you want us to air it out?

    DJ – what a difference a year makes – last year all we heard was what a great passer JB was compared to Kaipo.

  9. Popeye

    Assuming Bryant and Kaipo are out, who is the backup to Dobbs if he goes down? Joe Taylor is also on crutches. Is it Zingler or do one of the plebes get called up?

  10. Temple’s offense is not very scary. We should remember they only got 19 against last year’s defense.
    Here are their rankings this year:
    Rushing Offense 110 98.25
    Passing Offense 104 152.88
    Total Offense 118 251.13
    Scoring Offense 115 16.75

  11. NavyFan

    Those who thought JB was a better passer (um Gary) were wrong. Kaipo is a very underrated passer. My god we are 5-3 and have played three quarterbacks with the toughest schedule we have played in the last few years. Why tall he discontent?

  12. Give Dobbs EVERY opportunity. He is 6-1, l94,fast,
    sure-handed, makes good direct pitches, not lobs,
    runs with power, gets a yard or two extra just with
    strong drive, protects the ball well. Was given 2
    minutes at end of Pitt game..took the team 65 yards
    for a score, including a beautiful long pass that the
    receiver didn’t have to wait for ..The team responds
    with him at QB, everyone is charged. He is the QB of
    the future, give him all the game time possible, and
    work on teaching him plays as time allows.Finish 8-4.

  13. Warren

    I think it would be a mistake to play Kaipo in the Temple game. Why risk his hamstring for Temple when Dobbs has demonstrated he can get a win against Temple. Save Kaipo for ND. We’ll need his experience and read ability for ND. Letting Dobbs play against Temple gives Kaipo one more week of rest and healing so he can survive 4 quarters of football (Hopefully) against Notre Dame.

  14. Warren

    I forgot about the bye-week prior to the ND game. That would give Kaipo TWO weeks to get that hammy ready for Notre Dame. Coach Ken….let Kaipo and Jarod rest and let Ricky do his thing. We’ll need both Kaipo and Jarod down the stretch and into the bowl game.

  15. David

    A few thoughts on passing in 2008 . . .

    Navy is consistent. The only time Navy’s pass count goes to 8 or more is when we are fighting the clock at the end of the half. . . or if behind, during the last 5 minutes of the game. In these cases our count goes “all the way” to 10 or 11 per game (Ball St – 11, Duke – 10, Pittsburgh – 8). This has been consistent for the past 4 years.

    The conditions at the SMU game favored ball control the WHOLE way. Ball control was EVERYTHING in those conditions. SMU’s only score followed a Navy turnover, yielding a short field. SMU could not move the length of the field in those conditions with their passing game. Irv called it perfectly. . . . what ever works!

    In 2008, Navy’s quarterbacks are throwing slightly better than 60% completions. This exceeds every year going back to and including 2004!. . . And, most of the 2008 passes have been by Jarod. Jarod is throwing about 57%, which by himself is better than any of the 2004-2007 completion rates.

    Kaipo has far fewer throws (14) with a 70% completion rate, but he didn’t play against Ball State or Pittsburgh . . . the two best defensive clubs we faced.

    I really like Dobbs, but lots can happen when facing a weak defense . . . Heck, with Towson, Shun White ran for a gazillion yards.
    I hope we can give Dobbs as many reps as possible . . . Dobbs will open the season next year against Ohio State, and he will need every ounce of skill and confidence he can muster!

    If we can get a good lead, I’d even like to see another all running game against Temple, and save the passes for Notre Dame . . . when we WILL need to FORCE the Irish defensive backs to cover the whole field.

    I love the Navy option running game . . . the more I see it, the more beautiful it is (when it’s working of course). I use to hope for more passes to liven the game up. . . . or more long breakaways . . . and sure I still enjoy them . . .

    Then I had the opportunity to see the Emerald bowl in 2004 . . . and I watched the final Navy drive from its own one yard line. This drive is still talked about in some circles as the longest duration drive in the college record books . . . one drive lasting 14 minutes 26. By the end of the drive everyone in the stadium was standing up in awe. There was one pass play for 6 yds to keep the drive alive. . . In my book THAT drive was the was THE most remarkable and beautiful example of the Navy triple option. Finally, on 4th and goal from the 5 yard line Paul Johnson called for a field goal. . . .I was disappointed at first, until I realized that he was right. The Navy Offense had scratched out the entire 94 yard drive. . .26 plays averaging only 3.6 yds per down, against a good defense. There was only about a minute left in the game and the offense had to be exhausted. The “easy” three points meant it was a scoring drive. The game was secured either way. But the disappointment would have really been great had they come away with no points at all.

  16. NavyFan

    His name is Ivin not Irv.

    Kaipo needs to play when he is ready. If Kaipo says he is ready this week he should play. I wouldn’t want his first game back to be the ND game.

    Why are we worried about next year? Can we get through this year first? Kaipo gives us the best chance to win.

  17. DJ

    I think a lot of people (including myself) slept on Kaipo’s passing ability because of his slow funky motion. However, with Navy’s routes being timing ones, Kaipo knows when and where to throw it and he gets it there.

    I will admit, I have never had a hamstring injury like Kaipo’s, but I had a teammate who could really motor who suffered through a hamstring injury for an entire season. He never knew if he would be able to go until gametime, and he probably came out of half the games he started. I have gotten mixed signals from people about Kaipo’s hammy: some say he’s being soft and others say he’s lost his burst and acceleration. I guess it’s too tough for us to know whether he can play or not, but I think we should win with Kaipo or Dobbs, as long as we execute.

  18. Observer

    I would agree that Kaipo was being soft because he seems to have made a miraculous recovery after watching Dobb’s performance. If he felt his “starting” job was safe as long as JB struggled, watching Dobbs was a revelation of what can happen when the understudy turns out to be better than the star. Perhaps the Drew Bledsoe / Tom Brady scenario ran thru his mind….only Kaipo doesn’t have the luxury of transfering to another team.

  19. Gary

    If Kapios first game is ND thats a tough-tough task after being inactive. Tough call but may have to happen and depending on weather and game conditions if he can get in against Temple that would be helpful.
    I was 100% off on my eval of JB vs Kaipo and we need Kaipos sharp spirals that he would toss and I agree that deceptive slow motion had me too but JBs look like flying quails out of his hand too many times.
    We will need at least 10-15 well timed passes vs ND and complete 75% of them.

  20. EKW JR

    Reading Wagner’s blog, the power of Mom and Dad in the stands next Saturday may be what is pushing young Kaipo back onto the practice field. Flying from Hawaii is a big cost to his family. More power to Kaipo and his family. His Mom and Dad deserve to see their son on the field if at all possible, and Kaipo deserves the chance to do so. I predict Kaipo will play like a man possessed if his body will let him.

  21. pills91

    My belief is that Kaipo could have gone vs. SMU, but, the coaches, knowing the defense they were facing, decided not to push it. At least, that is what I’m telling myself. :P

  22. NavyFan

    Kaipo was released by the trainers to practice last week, but they have left it up to him as only he knows how he feels. He felt ready this week.

  23. Yeah, because running up the middle 40 times is all it takes in this offense. I’m sure Kaipo was willing to waste away his senior season on the bench and was only motivated after watching Ricky Dobbs.

    Where do you people come up with this stuff?

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