Navy's opponents might consider throwing out most of the tapes of the past two seasons when figuring out how to stop the Midshipmen and their vaunted triple option offense. What Ricky Dobbs did, however spectacular the former quarterback was during his record-setting career, is of little help in scouting Kriss Proctor.
Proctor, a 6-1, 200-pound senior who had made three previous starts in his career, proved to be as elusive as he was efficient in leading the Midshipmen to a 40-17 rout of Delaware in the 2011 season opener Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Starting out with a 75-yard touchdown on Navy's first possession, Proctor added another nifty 27-yard score in the third quarter as well as a 1-yard dive early in the fourth. He finished with 176 yards on 22 carries. He also completed 4 of 7 passes for 46 yards.
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Asked about his first touchdown run where he faked a pitch outside, cut back inside and made another cut before racing unscathed to the end zone, Proctor said it accomplished two things. It calmed him down and fired up his team and most of the crowd of 34,117.
"It just gave us momentum to start the game," said Proctor. "We were really trying to do that and get off to a good start and not let them in the game and I think we really accomplished that."
Neither fourth-year coach Ken Niumatalolo nor Proctor's teammates were surprised by his performance. After replacing an injured Dobbs last year, Proctor started against Central Michigan and rushed for 201 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
"We've seen him for the last 3 1/2 years and we've known that about him," Niumatalolo said. "But the great thing about him is that he believes he can get better. He has that mind set and never settles for anything and continues to work hard."
Said fullback Alex Teich, "Kriss Proctor is a great leader. Ricky Dobbs is gone, this is Kriss Proctor's team now along with this year's seniors. I'm a little tired of talking about players who aren't here. Kriss has a real presence in the huddle. His performance was outstanding."
Teich, a senior co-captain, added that Proctor predicted that the Midshipmen would "put 40 on the board" against the Blue Hens.
Proctor even redeemed himself for his one glaring mistake — short-arming a pass into double coverage and getting intercepted late in the third quarter — by throwing his first career touchdown pass, a 12-yarder to slotback Aaron Santiago.
Unlike Dobbs, who got by more on instincts and sheer strength rather than a deep understanding of the offense, Proctor seemed to make the pitches and fakes at precisely the right moment for the Blue Hens to either guess wrong or miss completely.
The offensive output — 391 yards on 59 carries — was more typical of Navy when it was near the top of the rushing charts among Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Aside from Proctor, Teich rushed for 65 yards and Santiago added 55 and also had a rushing touchdown.
The biggest concern for Navy going into the season was a nearly rebuilt defense, with seven players who had never started before. But that unit, playing without senior Jared Marks because of a one-game suspension, also played well, despite giving up 363 yards — including 121 yards by sophomore tailback Andrew Pierce.
Led by senior end Jabaree Tuani, the defense put constant pressure on Delaware quarterback Trevor Sasek, who was knocked out of the game in the third quarter with a knee injury when he came down awkwardly on his knee after going out as a receiver.
Navy's defense forced a fumble in the first half and senior safety Kwesi Mitchell intercepted reserve quarterback Tim Donnelly in the fourth quarter.
In the end, Navy made Delaware, runner up a year ago in the Football Championship Subdivision, look pretty average.
"We had some young guys on defense and a new quarterback — had some question marks — we were playing a very, very good football team, and I thought our guys responded," Niumatalolo said.
Navy did not have a single penalty on either offense or defense.
Leading 16-7 after Sasek scored on a 21-yard run late in the first half, Navy recovered whatever momentum it might have briefly lost when senior Jon Teague kicked a school record 54-yard field goal right before halftime.
The performances by Proctor and the defense helped quell some of the concerns of Niumatalolo and his coaching staff. After chastising his team's performance at practice Wednesday, Niumatalolo said that "we had as good a Thursday practice as we've had in a long time."
Niumatalolo admitted that he might have overacted when he questioned whether his team was not focused enough on Delaware.
"As a coach you are paranoid," he said after the game. "I went back and looked at the tape and it wasn't as bad as I first thought it was."
When he looks at tape from Saturday's game, he will see something Navy fans hadn't witnessed for a couple of years.
A quarterback running the triple option in its truest form.