Stunning. That is the only word I can use to describe the clinic Navy put on with their triple option offense as they kept the Tigers’ defense off balance all day to defeat Missouri 35-13 in the Texas Bowl. However, I think plenty of blame needs to be handed out for the playcalling of Missouri’s offense.
Things started out well for Missouri. The Tigers didn’t waste time. Danario Alexander caught a screen pass on the second play for scrimmage and went 58 yards for a touchdown. Navy answered with a touchdown of their own to tie the game and could have had more, but Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs fumbled the red zone, actually twice in the first half. However, Dobbs scored on touchdown runs of 1 and 13 yards to give Navy a 14-7 lead. With time running out in the first half, Blaine Gabbert found Derrick Washington on a 35 yard pass to get the ball down to the Navy 11 with :16 seconds. The Tigers had to settle on a 31 yard field goal from Grant Ressel and a 14-10 deficit at the half.
Navy outgained the Tigers 275 to 179 in the first half controlling the clock by holding the ball for over 21 minutes to less than eight minutes for Mizzou. If Navy wouldn’t have turned the ball over in the red zone twice, the score would have been much worse than a four point game.
Navy came out and took 4:56 off the clock at the start of the third quarter and drove down the field in nine plays and 52 yards connecting on a three yard touchdown pass from Dobbs to tight end Bobby Doyle to go up 21-10.
When I saw the Tigers practicing in Columbia, they ran a lot of five wide formations figuring they would spread out Navy and use their speed, but Navy was lining up just two down linemen to counteract that and the Tigers only rushed for 20 yards in the first two quarters.
It wasn’t until late in the third quarter that Missouri decided to try running the ball. Navy had a fourth and three when Dobbs fumbled the center exchange after Gabbert got picked off on the Tigers first play of the third quarter. Navy had a backup center in the game when their starting center was ruled ineligible due to academic reasons. Starting at their own three yard line, Missouri started running the football. Why did it take Missouri until five minutes to go in the third quarter before they decided to run the ball? I’m not sure. Anyway, after the Tigers started running up the middle, Gabbert threw a screen pass to Wes Kemp for 56 yards which set up a first and goal from the nine, but had to settle for a field goal to make it 21-13 heading into the fourth quarter. The Tigers got down in the red zone three times and had to settle for just six points. The running plays up the middle and the bubble screen were the only plays that worked for Missouri. With nine Midshipmen in coverage, there were no passing lanes for Blaine Gabbert and it took the Tigers to long to react and adjust to that.
Navy answered with a touchdown in two plays covering 58 yards, which was set up by a 47 yard pass to Marcus Curry and then an 11 yard run by Curry to make it 28-13. Curry had five catches for 97 yards and 10 rushes for 89 yards. Quarterback Dobbs rushed for 163 yards and three touchdowns.
Navy tacked on another touchdown by Dobbs with less than five minutes to go and then ended the game with an exclamation point when Gabbert got picked off for the second time when his pass to Jared Perry was deflected by off Perry’s hands (what else is new) and picked off at the Navy 12 yard line. Wyatt Middleton took it 61 yards the other way. Navy ran out the clock and ended the Tigers season with a 8-5 record denying this senior class the opportunity to have the most wins of any class in Tiger football history.
Gabbert was 15 of 31 for 290 yards and one touchdown and two picks. Alexander made a strong case for a NFL future finishing with 137 yards on six catches. The Tigers allowed 519 yards of offense while Navy held the ball for almost 41 minutes.
Listen to postgame comments from Head Coach Gary Pinkel, Danario Alexander and Sean Weatherspoon