Navy's defense is the key in 13-7 win over Georgia Southern

The Midshipmen's offense struggled to get going, but the defense kept the division I-AA Eagles in check.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 12, 2010; 12:33 AM

By no means was Navy's 13-7 victory over Georgia Southern on Saturday a lesson in the finer points of the triple option, but with the way the Midshipmen's defense was pursuing and finishing tackles, it didn't need to be.

Navy instead got an inspired effort from defensive end Jabaree Tuani and linebacker Tyler Simmons and then used the pass to play keep-away down the stretch to win their home opener before 33,391 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Tuani had a team-high nine tackles, including 21/2 for loss and half a sack, and Simmons tied a career high with seven tackles and assisted on a sack on a defense that limited the Eagles to 109 yards.

Navy wasn't much better offensively, rushing for 109 yards. With 44 yards on 20 carries, quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who had 1,203 rushing yards last season, failed to reach 100 yards for the second straight game, although he did score the 37th touchdown of his career.

But the accolades from this game belonged entirely to the defense, which after two games clearly has been the best unit on the team. In Monday's 17-14 loss to Maryland, for instance, the Midshipmen allowed touchdowns on the first two drives, then kept the Terrapins out of the end zone the rest of the way. The defense was even more stout against Georgia Southern, which runs an offense similar to that of Navy.

"We like the limelight being on us," Simmons said. "We try to rise to the occasion every time. It's one of those things where we got the momentum on our side and never stopped."

Navy's only touchdown came late in the second quarter after it stopped Georgia Southern on a fake punt and took over at the Eagles 40-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Dobbs went around the left side for four yards, and following an offside penalty, the Midshipmen got 10 more yards on two runs. On second and five, Dobbs completed a 12-yard pass to slotback Aaron Santiago, and Navy had first and goal at the 9.

The Midshipmen had all kinds of issues from the red zone against Maryland, including a pair of fumbles by Dobbs at the goal line, but this time they were able to convert. Dobbs carried on three straight plays, capping the possession with a one-yard sneak with 1 minute 7 seconds to play before halftime.

"Week in, week out, whether we do great, there's always room for improvement," said Dobbs, who aggravated an ankle injury from Monday but indicated afterward he was okay. Georgia Southern "just had a real good defensive scheme."

On Georgia Southern's first series, Simmons swooped in to tackle fullback Robert Brown and forced a fumble. The Eagles recovered, but the play served notice right away that Navy had every intention of being the aggressor against Georgia Southern's option-oriented offense. Two plays later, Simmons and Tuani sacked quarterback Jaybo Shaw, and Georgia Southern had to punt.

On the Eagles' next possession, Navy forced a turnover when nose guard Shane Bothel sacked Shaw and jarred the ball loose. Defensive end Billy Yarborough recovered at the Georgia Southern 25, and the Midshipmen again had an opening to wrest control of the game. But after a four-yard carry from Dobbs, slotback Gee Gee Greene mishandled a pitch for a loss of three, a third-down pass fell incomplete, and Navy had to settle for a 42-yard field goal by Buckley.

"We're very fortunate to come out of here with a 'W,' " Coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "It was a short week. This is tough, playing on a Monday and coming back Saturday, but our kids, they battled . . . especially defensively."

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