The Navy football team doesn't play for real for another four months. That hardly meant Friday night's Blue-Gold spring game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial didn't matter, though, especially at the most important position on offense, where junior Kriss Proctor is the new starting quarterback after a record-setting run by Ricky Dobbs.
Amid a steady rain more suitable for a raw fall evening than a spring game, Proctor played the first three series in a 7-6 victory for the Blue team comprising starters and second-teamers. He finished with 22 yards rushing on five carries while wearing a green noncontact jersey and completed two of four passes for 43 yards in a game that wasn't decided until junior linebacker Caleb King's fourth-quarter fumble recovery in the end zone.
Proctor was Dobbs' understudy for most of the past two years, when Navy compiled a 19-8 record that included two bowl appearances and consecutive victories over Notre Dame. During that time, Proctor received three starts and came on in relief of Dobbs a handful of other times.
So it's not as if Proctor is unfamiliar with the demands of managing the triple option. In his only start last season, for instance, Proctor rushed for 201 yards and a touchdown on 20carries in a 38-37 victory over Central Michigan that featured clinical execution of Navy's run-heavy offense.
Despite the weather Friday, three of Proctor's first four snaps were designed passes, although he decided to run once and had another attempt nullified after defensive pass interference on second-and-3 from the Blue 40. The possession ended when Jon Teague missed a 52-yard field-goal try.
"A few times he came out of there on some good runs, and they blew the whistle, and I was like, 'C'mon,' but the thing I think he'll make us is a lot faster on offense," Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper said of Proctor, whose command when running is much more advanced than as a passer. "He's going to do his thing, and we'll be a lot fast hopefully."
During the Blue team's second possession, Proctor engineered a drive that began at his 43 and got as far as the Gold 13. But from there, Proctor threw incomplete on a drag pattern — "It's just a throw I've got to make 100 percent of the time," he said — before slotback Marcus Thomas lost 5yards on a pitch right on third-and-3. Teague then missed a 35-yard field-goal attempt.
On first down from the Blue 42 in Proctor's final series, he threw deep down the left hash marks to freshman Matt Aiken, who leaped for an acrobatic catch between a pair of defenders. That reception landed the Blue team at the Gold 21, and after two runs for 4 yards total and an incomplete pass, Teague pulled a 33-yard field-goal attempt.
Proctor's night was well over by the time the Gold team scored the first points courtesy of freshman fullback Rob Lombardo's 2-yard run with 4:35 left in the third quarter. On the previous play, freshman quarterback Jarvis Cummings completed a 44-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Jonathan Gazaille for the game's longest gain. The extra point was missed.
Cummings and Trey Miller, another sophomore to-be, had been in a heated competition since the start of spring practice to back up Proctor. Miller separated himself, however, by performing so well that he received the Admiral Mack Award at halftime for most improved player during the spring.
Freshman Hayden Maples was playing quarterback when King pounced on the ball for the winning points. Maples had trouble handling the exchange, and when sophomore defensive end Collin Sturdivant couldn't grasp the wet ball, King burst through an opening and dived on it with 10:15 to play.
"It's unfortunate for the Gold team because they were playing great [to lose on] something like that," coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "Again that's something we always preach, trying to take care of the ball. They just take care of the ball, the Gold team is going to win."