Navy football scores thrilling 28-27 win over Wake Forest

Wake Forest's Josh Bush, left, tries to tackle Navy's Gee Gee Greene. (Associated Press Photo/Winston-Salem Journal, Lauren Carroll)
Wake Forest's Josh Bush, left, tries to tackle Navy's Gee Gee Greene. (Associated Press Photo/Winston-Salem Journal, Lauren Carroll) (AP)
By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 9, 2010; 11:48 PM

NavyWake Forest

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - The Navy football team corrected its red zone deficiencies, erased the anguish from a bitter loss last week and left BB&T Field re-energized with an improbable 28-27 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday after quarterback Ricky Dobbs shook off brief ankle distress to shepherd the winning drive in the closing minutes.

Dobbs's six-yard touchdown throw to wide receiver Greg Jones with 26 seconds left came on a play that called for the senior to fake a toss to the slotback and deliver the ball to the right corner of the end zone. There, Jones had gotten behind the secondary, and as the ball settled into his hands, Navy erased a six-point deficit before 31,454 and then went ahead for good on place kicker Joe Buckley's critical extra point.

The pass capped a drive that began at the Navy 36-yard line with 2 minutes 8 seconds to play after it forced a punt, allowing Wake Forest just one yard on three plays on its previous possession.

Slotback Aaron Santiago ran for six yards on fourth and one. Three plays later, Dobbs completed a 34-yard pass to slotback Gee Gee Greene on third and 10 with 1:19 left to set up the final score.

Wake Forest got the ball to its 49 on a long kickoff return in the final seconds, but the Midshipmen (3-2) held on for a rousing victory one week after a heartbreaking 14-6 loss at Air Force. The ensuing scene on the field this night was completely disparate to last week, when Navy lost to a service academy for the first time in 16 games and put in serious jeopardy its chances of extending to eight its record run of Commander-in-Chief's trophies.

That despair, however, vanished at least for the moment amid the elation of a storybook victory that triggered a wild celebration by Navy's players and coaches.

Leading the romp onto the field was Coach Ken Niumatalolo, who contrasted this high with the dread of having to summon consoling words to his players after the plane ride back from Colorado Springs.

"I'm in a daze right now," he said. "I can't even remember my kids' names. There's such euphoria. I'm so ecstatic for our players. To come back from a crushing loss for our kids, our seniors, for them to bounce back, I'm so, so happy for them."

Special redemption fell to Dobbs, who had been at the center of Navy's mysterious and disturbing failings inside the 20 over the first four games.

Navy entered the game ranked 118th out of 120 in red zone efficiency, and it had scored just seven touchdowns on 19 chances from that area. On Saturday, the offense, and Dobbs in particular, reverted to its 2009 form, when the Midshipmen scored routinely scored from close range.

Dobbs had a hand in all four touchdowns - two rushing and two passing - against Wake Forest (2-4), and each came in the red zone.

He also rushed for 100 yards for the first time this season despite a tender ankle he hurt in a 17-14 loss to Maryland on Labor Day, an injury that had limited him for much of this year.

That ankle took another shot on Navy's second-to-last possession Saturday, forcing Dobbs to leave the game for several snaps in favor of backup Kriss Proctor. But Dobbs, who played six games last season with a cracked right kneecap, reentered after a timeout, and even though Navy was unable to get points on the drive, his presence on the field proved inspirational.

"What's going to define this team is perseverance," said Dobbs, whose 41-yard run during the first series in the third quarter was his longest this season. "We had to persevere through the loss last week, and in this game we had persevere. The way we finished, I wouldn't want it any other way."

Wake Forest had increased its lead to 27-21 with 8:32 left in regulation on place kicker Jimmy Newman's 31-yard field goal. Late in the third quarter, the Demon Deacons had taken a 24-21 lead when quarterback Tanner Price threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to flanker Devon Brown in the back of the end zone.

The touchdown pass was Price's second of the game, and the freshman carved up Navy for 326 yards, many of which came on swing passes and underneath routes. The Midshipmen had all kinds of issues defending those plays after coming into the game ranked first in the country in pass defense, but when it mattered most, they prevented Wake Forest from running out the clock and allowed Dobbs to craft the dramatic conclusion.

"The ball definitely stayed in the air quite a while," Jones said of the winning catch. "You see the ball, and your eyes get big. You just want to make sure you catch the ball, and you stay inbounds. The game's on the line like that, and we had a great drive, going down against a solid defense that wasn't letting anything past them."

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