Navy's offense has a swagger, particularly when it gets within 20 yards of the end zone.
As senior guard Osei Asante put it: "In the red zone, we should never be stopped. It's automatic points when we get down there."
With a weapon such as junior quarterback Ricky Dobbs, it's not surprising the Midshipmen feel that way. In their 35-18 victory over Football Championship Subdivision team Delaware on Saturday, the Midshipmen made five trips into the red zone. Each of them ended with a touchdown by Dobbs.
His five scores - which totaled 10 yards - set a Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium record. Dobbs has now scored 22 touchdowns this season, which breaks the single-season school record that was set by running back Bill Ingram in 1917. His 22 rushing touchdowns are also one shy of the NCAA single-season record for a quarterback (held by Florida's Tim Tebow and Air Force's Chance Harridge).
"The record itself, I think it goes to our offensive line and the fullbacks blocking on each play," said Dobbs, who missed most of two games last month while resting a cracked right kneecap. "To have this team achieve a record like that, this offense achieve a record like that, is definitely a blessing in itself. The hard work actually pays off."
The Midshipmen (8-3) have won eight games for the seventh straight season. They managed to avoid a stumble after last week's thrilling 23-21 victory at then-No. 19 Notre Dame, and they gave their 32 seniors a proper sendoff in their final game in Annapolis.
Throughout the week, Navy's players and coaches spoke openly about the dangers of this game. The Midshipmen remembered what happened the last time they beat Notre Dame; they followed up their streak-busting, triple-overtime victory in South Bend, Ind., in 2007 with a wild 74-62 shootout win at North Texas. They also remembered what happened the last time they faced Delaware; quarterback Joe Flacco picked them apart in a 59-52 win earlier that same season.
The Blue Hens (6-4), who started a transfer from Penn State at quarterback (junior Pat Devlin) and a transfer from Wisconsin at running back (senior Jerry Butler), actually out-gained the Midshipmen on offense 370 yards to 320 for the game, and they led 9-7 at halftime.
"Unfortunately, it took us the first half for our guys to realize how good those guys were," said coach Ken Niumatalolo, whose team gets its first bye next week. "We tried to emphasize all week how good this team was and make sure we don't take anything for granted. We were in a battle."
Two touchdowns by Dobbs - the latter of which was set up by a career-long 46-yard scamper by the quarterback - helped give the Midshipmen a 21-12 advantage early in the fourth quarter. On Delaware's next possession, sophomore defensive end Jabaree Tuani hit Devlin from behind (earning a sack), forced the ball loose and then pounced on it on the Blue Hens' 37-yard line.
Ivin Jasper, Navy's offensive coordinator, always tells his fullbacks that if they get a chance to score, they'd better take it. Because if they get stopped short of the goal line, they know what's next - the ball is going to Dobbs, who runs like a fullback.
3 6 3 6-18
7 0 7 21-35
First quarter Navy-Dobbs 1 run (Buckley kick), 7:14. Del-FG Striefsky 47, 2:12. Second quarter Del-FG Striefsky 39, 14:51. Del-FG Striefsky 25, :00. Third quarter Navy-Dobbs 1 run (Buckley kick), 9:12. Del-FG Striefsky 21, 3:33. Fourth quarter Navy-Dobbs 3 run (Buckley kick), 12:26. Navy-Dobbs 2 run (Buckley kick), 10:39. Del-Butler 1 run (pass failed), 6:29. Navy-Dobbs 3 run (Buckley kick), :46. A-34,223.
First downs 22 16
Rushes-Yards 42-176 51-242
Passing 194 78
Cmp.-Att.-Int. 17-27-0 4-6-0
Return Yards 0 3
Punts-Avg. 2-34.5 2-43.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-1
Penalties-Yds. 3-35 2-15
Time of poss. 31:07 28:53
Rushing-Delaware, Hayes 11-65, Butler 20-55, Thaxton 4-46, Devlin 7-10. Navy, Dobbs 26-100, Teich 9-57, Curry 11-44, Greene 5-41. Passing-Delaware, Devlin 17-26-0-194, Team 0-1-0-0. Navy, Dobbs 4-6-0-78. Receiving-Delaware, Duncan 6-76, Crosby 4-40, White 2-33, Mackey 1-16, Schenauer 1-11, Mooney 1-8, Thaxton 1-6, Butler 1-4. Navy, Doyle 2-34, G.Jones 1-23, Washington 1-21.
Nov. 28, 10:30 p.m.
Radio: 1090 AM, 1430 AM