Navy football, led by Ricky Dobbs's four touchdowns, beats Arkansas State on senior day

Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs, left, runs from Arkansas State's Brandon Joiner in the first half. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)
Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs, left, runs from Arkansas State's Brandon Joiner in the first half. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)
By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 21, 2010; 12:35 AM

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Quarterback Ricky Dobbs has directed Navy to new heights over his four seasons in Annapolis, so it was only fitting that the senior finished his playing career at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium with a flourish, accounting for four touchdowns in a 35-19 victory over Arkansas State on Saturday.

Dobbs finished with 154 yards rushing, and his third and final rushing touchdown from three yards punctuated a record-setting afternoon for the Midshipmen's main attraction the past two seasons. Dobbs also scored on a pair of one-yard runs and completed an 85-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Greg Jones to finish with a career-high 318 yards of offense.

"That game to me epitomizes Ricky just from the standpoint I'm upset with him because he missed some reads and things he could have done better, but then you look at the overall deal at the end," Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "Sometimes I don't appreciate him, but when you really step back and think of the things that guy has done in this game, in his career, it's really remarkable."

Among those accomplishments: Dobbs became the NCAA's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in consecutive seasons. He broke the previous mark of 38 with his one-yard run with 12 minutes 31 seconds left in the third quarter before extending the record to ensure Navy's eighth straight season of at least eight wins, the longest such streak in school history.

Dobbs also completed 8 of 9 passes - four of which went to Jones for 129 yards - after missing last Saturday's 38-37 win against Central Michigan as he recovered from a minor blow to the helmet suffered in the first half against East Carolina the previous week.

"I almost didn't make it here," said Dobbs, referring to some trying times at Naval Academy Prep School, where he was asked to play fullback. "It took a good talking to from my uncle, and just to look back and reflect on that and carry that emotion into today and play the way we did, it meant a whole lot not only for me, but for my family here on the football team, the brotherhood."

Included in that group is senior safety Wyatt Middleton, who along with Dobbs is a co-captain. Middleton recovered a fumble in the first quarter that set up Navy's second touchdown and factored in significantly to a unit that limited the Red Wolves to six points in the second half.

The defense was on the field for a bizarre sequence in the fourth quarter after Arkansas State scored a touchdown to get within 28-19. Instead of going for the extra point, Coach Steve Roberts elected to try for two, but a pass interference penalty pushed the Red Wolves back 15 yards. That prompted an attempt to kick, but Navy nose guard Chase Burge got his hand on the ball, and it fluttered to the ground short of the mark.

Navy took over at its 35 with 8:34 to play, looking to bleed valuable seconds off the clock. Faced with third and five at the 40, Dobbs dropped back as if to pass but took off running for a nine-yard gain that demoralized Arkansas State. From there, the Midshipmen ran seven more plays before Dobbs scored on second and goal from the 3.

"Today reminded me of our season," Niumatalolo said. "The highs were highs and the lows were lows. Fortunately we were able to finish on top. I thought we started out great but kind of lost focus offensively in the second quarter. We picked it up in the second half. I thought our defense played well the whole game. It was a great win."

The opening stages of the game featured no indications Navy would need to fret about the score. The Midshipmen took the opening drive 76 yards on 11 plays, with slotback John Howell taking a pitch around the right side into the end zone, and then they got the ball right back when defensive end Jabaree Tuani forced a fumble that Middleton recovered.

Navy began that drive on the Arkansas State 12 and concluded with a one-yard touchdown run by Dobbs for a 14-0 lead with 7:34 to play in the first quarter.

Matters at that point seemed well under control in the Midshipmen's best start at home this season. In its previous three games at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Navy trailed at the half and had to scramble down the stretch.

But Arkansas State stayed in the game by converting a Navy turnover into a 31-yard field goal from place kicker Brian Davis, getting a seven-yard touchdown run by quarterback Ryan Aplin and then adding Davis's 20-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to cut the deficit to 21-13.

But a rousing second half carried Navy's senior class to its 34th win, two short of the program record.

"It's very bittersweet," senior left tackle Jeff Battipaglia said. "It's very sad leaving Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, being in front of the guys. We just took a picture with all the 24 seniors and everything, so it's a great win for us, and we're all excited about it. A couple weeks off now, and I think everyone is looking forward to Army."

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