Instant Analysis - Texas Bowl
Navy 35 ... Missouri 13
It’s time to say it … Ken Niumatalolo is doing more with Navy than Paul Johnson did.
Johnson got the program from Point A to Point C, but that’s not doing him justice considering Navy went from non-existent to a steady winner and bowl team. What he did was one of the great turnarounds in recent college football history, but he never had a win like Niumatalolo just came up with.
Everything pointed toward a Missouri win. The linebackers were experienced and talented enough to not fall for the option and the deception, the offensive line didn’t give up sacks, and the Navy secondary didn’t have anything to keep Danario Alexander and the Tiger passing game under wraps. Instead, everything went against expectations with Ricky Dobbs and the Navy ground attack doing whatever it wanted to as the Mizzou linebackers were clueless. The Midshipmen linebackers got into the backfield, the secondary kept Alexander under wraps after the big early play, and Niumatalolo led the way to one of the team’s most dominant performances against a strong team.
The wins in recent years over mediocre BCS conference teams like Duke, Wake Forest, and 2007 Pitt, were all close, and the Notre Dame wins were battles down to the end. The Stanford team that Navy blasted in 2006 finished 1-11. While the victories over the Irish were more important for a whole slew of streak-breaking reasons, this blowout over a good Tiger team was the most impressive victory since a 38-21 win over a South Carolina team that was 9-0 and finished 10-2 … in 1984.
There was a clunker of a loss to Hawaii and the Temple loss wasn’t a plus, but Navy had a big year and Niumatalolo has proven that he can beat the good teams by getting creative and by outcoaching everyone else. Johnson got the Georgia Tech gig, and now it’s time for Niumatalolo to get his shot at a big-time program. He has proven he deserves the chance.
What do you say, a good day for the U.S. Academies or what?
Earlier in the afternoon, Air Force laid a four-quarter beating on favored Houston. A few hours later, Navy delivered a similar performance at the expense of Missouri. Focus and discipline are critical and often overlooked aspects of postseason success. And few schools posses more of it than the Middies and the Falcons.
Is it time to finally stop treating Navy like some cute novelty act that’s built more on intangibles and grit than genuine talent? That’s a rhetorical question. Those sentiments stopped being accurate a few years ago. No, it doesn’t send kids to the NFL, but these guys can flat out play with just about anyone in the country. The Texas Bowl was just another example of how far the Midshipmen have come under Ken Niumatolo and before him, Paul Johnson. They didn’t just beat a Big 12 team that will be sending lots of kids to the pros. They dominated Mizzou with that trademark running game and a no-name defense that doesn’t get nearly enough credit. With the 35-13 rout, Navy has its third 10-win season and has played in seven straight bowl games. It also defeated Notre Dame in November and nearly did the same to Ohio State in the opener. Nothing cute about that.
By the way, all of this success for the Middies will have a residual benefit in 2010—it’s going to propel QB Ricky Dobbs into serious contention for the Heisman Trophy, which hasn’t happened in Annapolis in decades. All he did this year was rush for 27 touchdowns as the commander of that 10-win squad, a resume that’ll be impossible to miss when these types of discussions surface next summer.
1) Ricky Dobbs has struggled with turnovers all season long, and Navy’s exciting but erratic quarterback put the ball on the carpet three more times today. Technically, he lost only two fumbles, but the third fumble came on a 4th and 1 play at the Missouri 3. A logical football expert would have concluded that if Navy committed three turnovers in this game, the Midshipmen would have had no chance.
Instead, the annual overachiever in the college football ranks earned its first bowl win since 2005, and its first 10-win campaign since 2004. Why? Coordinator Buddy Green’s defense.
Navy’s defensive unit – after allowing Danario Alexander to run wild on a single early snap – kept Missouri out of the end zone the rest of the way, a phenomenal achievement for a group that doesn’t get to practice against a spread passing attack.
Texas native Russ Pospisil was all over the field for the Midshipmen, making this game a nightmare for Tiger quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Craig Schaefer produced the biggest single play of the day by snuffing out a Missouri drive late in the third quarter, just when it appeared that the Tigers would take advantage of a Dobbs fumble just moments earlier. Kevin Edwards – a Navy cornerback who held his own against a fella named Golden Tate on Nov. 7 – brought his best stuff to Reliant Stadium against the NFL-ready Alexander. Navy’s defense anchored the Men of Ken Niumatalolo all season long, and at the end of a successful year, they played their very best game in the Texas Bowl.
2) Yes, college football is certainly unpredictable and crazy on an unfailing basis, at least in some sections of the United States. Yes, every year brings about a series of wild developments, on or off the field. Yes, this sport makes an annual habit out of fooling analysts and prognosticators. But with all that having been said, can we just hand the 2010 Big 12 North Division championship to the Nebraska Cornhuskers? They should beat the field by three games. Anyone think Missouri will be able to go to Lincoln and dig out a win after this dog with fleas in Texas?