NCF Nation: Texas Bowl 2009 bowls

Instant analysis: Navy 35, Missouri 13

December, 31, 2009
It was a good day for the service academies as Navy's convincing 35-13 victory over Missouri came on the heels of Air Force's triumph over Houston.

There was nothing fluky about the Midshipmen's victory. Here's how they got it done.

How the game was won: Missouri looked ready to blow Navy out of Reliant Stadium after jumping ahead on the second play from scrimmage on a 58-yard toss from Blaine Gabbert to Danario Alexander. From that point forward, Navy bounced back and allowed the Tigers only a pair of field goals during the rest of the game as they were limited to 298 yards.

[+] EnlargeRicky Dobbs
AP Photo/Dave EinselQuarterback Ricky Dobbs accounted for four of Navy's five touchdowns.
Turning point: After Missouri had pulled within 14-10 at the half, Navy answered with a 58-yard scoring drive to immediately seize momentum. Alexander Teich returned the second half kickoff for 46 yards to spark the drive. Navy converted a fourth-down play and punctuated a drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ricky Dobbs to Bobby Doyle to cap the drive.

Player of the game: Dobbs expertly sliced up the bigger Missouri defense to power the Midshipmen’s upset victory. Dobbs rushed 30 times for 166 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 130 yards and another score to lead Navy to its first bowl victory since the 2005 Poinsettia Bowl. Dobbs joins Craig Candeto from 2003 as the only Midshipmen to run and pass for more than 1,000 yards in a season.

Stat of the game: Navy dominated the game in the trenches as they controlled the ball for 40 minutes and 54 seconds. The punishing thrust enabled them to pile up 519 total yards and gash Missouri’s 12th-ranked rush defense for 385 yards in a convincing whipping.

Best call: Navy’s ground-based offensive attack opened up Dobbs’ passing abilities throughout the second half. Dobbs completed all of his second-half passes for 71 yards and a touchdown to help Navy put the game away. The biggest was a 47-yard strike to Marcus Curry on the first play from scrimmage in the fourth quarter that set up the Midshipmen's clinching touchdown.

Second guess: Trailing 21-10, Missouri appeared ready to score and keep the game close later in the third quarter. Missouri’s running game was clicking after accounting for 38 yards on seven previous attempts on the drive. But on third-and-goal from the Navy 2, Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert tried a pass and was sacked by Craig Schaefer for a huge 10-yard loss. Missouri got a field goal on the drive, but could have scored a touchdown that would have kept them in the game.

What it means: Navy posted a 10-win season for only the third time in the 129-season history of the program and for the first time since 2004 as they emphatically proved they can play with BCS-level schools. Missouri’s loss put a disappointing conclusion in a game that really wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. The Tigers need to get more consistency from Gabbert and improvement from a defense that couldn’t seem to adjust to the Midshipmen’s triple-option despite having nearly a month to prepare for the bowl game. With Nebraska loaded for next season, the Tigers will be challenged to maintain pace with them in 2010.


Instant analysis: Navy 35, Missouri 13

December, 31, 2009
Navy had the least time of any school to prepare for its bowl and still found a way to best Missouri 35-13 in the Texas Bowl.

The bowl win is coach Ken Niumatalolo’s first as head coach and the team’s first bowl win since 2005. The Midshipmen finished the season 10-4, the third 10-win season and first since 2004.

How the game was won: Navy’s running game was too much for the Missouri defense to handle. The Mids rushed for 389 yards, the most the Tigers have allowed since playing Texas in 2005, and kept the Missouri defense off guard with a diverse offense that also had 130 passing yards.

Stat of the game: Navy held the ball for more than 40 minutes on Thursday, which didn’t allow Missouri to crawl back into the game after it got down two possessions.

Player of the game: Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs had a rough start with two turnovers, but recovered to pass for 130 yards and rush for 166. He accounted for four of the Midshipmen’s five touchdowns.

Unsung hero of the game: Defensive coordinator Buddy Green, who had a short time to plan the game, came up with a great scheme to disrupt Missouri’s high-powered offense and almost eliminate the effectiveness of star receiver Danario Alexander. The Midshipmen held Missouri to its third-lowest offensive output of the season behind Texas and Nebraska.

Record performance: Dobbs became the third quarterback in Navy history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 1,000 yards in a season. He also set a Texas Bowl record with three rushing touchdowns.

Three keys: Navy in the Texas Bowl

December, 31, 2009
Navy Midshipmen(9-4)

1. Watch Alexander: Missouri makes no secret that its plan is to get the ball to star receiver Danario Alexander, who led all receivers in yards this season. However, stopping him is another story. Navy doesn’t have one player who can match him man-to-man, so they’ll have to get some safety help to keep Alexander quiet and force Missouri to find other options.

2. Test the run defense: Missouri’s run defense ranks 12th in the country, allowing 96.42 yards per game, but it hasn’t faced an option offense in quite some time. Navy is the nation’s fourth-best rushing team and it’s going to need quarterback Ricky Dobbs to lead them against a tough Missouri front.

3. Diversify: One of the qualities that has made Dobbs so successful this season has been his ability to diversify the offense and give the Midshipmen a quality passing attack. Missouri is going to stack the box to stop the run, which will leave Dobbs with a couple of opportunities to find open receivers over the top.

Texas Bowl: Missouri (8-4) vs. Navy (9-4)

December, 30, 2009
Here’s all you need to know about the Texas Bowl matchup between Missouri (8-4) and Navy (9-4) on Thursday.

WHO TO WATCH: Danario Alexander, WR, Missouri

Biletnikoff Award voters made a dreadful mistake by not adding Alexander to their watch list late in the year after Alexander's one-man assault on Big 12 defenses over the last half of the season. Alexander nearly made history by becoming the first wide receiver in NCAA history to post four straight 200-yard receiving games after notching 214 yards against Baylor, 200 against Kansas State, 173 yards against Iowa State and 233 yards against Kansas in his final game. He produced 107 catches this season after recording 78 catches over his first three seasons at Missouri, finishing 2009 as the nation’s leader in receiving yards (1,644) and average receiving yards per game (137.0). The tall, angular Alexander will be difficult for the undersized Navy secondary to contain. And his breakaway speed will be a concern for Navy every time he touches the ball.

WHAT TO WATCH: Missouri’s run containment against Navy’s triple-option

Missouri defensive ends Aldon Smith and Brian Coulter will be challenged to stop Navy’s strong outside running game keyed by quarterback Ricky Dobbs and his pitches to running backs Marcus Curry and Bobby Doyle. Missouri doesn’t see this offense very often, but the Tigers have had a long time to prepare for Thursday’s game after ranking 15th in rush defense during the regular season. Missouri’s defensive linemen need to do a good job of staying on their feet against Navy’s undersized offensive linemen and its storied ability at cut-blocking. Missouri linebackers Andrew Gachkar and Sean Weatherspoon also need to maintain their lanes of pursuit as they try to stop Dobbs, who rushed for 1,037 yards and set an NCAA single-season record for a quarterback with 24 rushing touchdowns.

WHY WATCH: Contrasting offensive styles make for entertaining games

Navy and Missouri have two of the nation’s most intriguing offenses. They just account for their yards in different ways. The Midshipmen rank fourth nationally in rushing, but 119th in passing offense. Missouri is 14th passing, but are 81st rushing. Missouri’s quick-strike offense keyed by quarterback Blaine Gabbert and Alexander would appear to give the Tugers a firepower edge, although Navy has been effective this season and would have its first 10-win season since 2004 with an upset.

PREDICTION: This should be a classic battle of different offensive styles. Tiger fans have been vociferous about their disappointment in getting the Texas Bowl, their fourth Texas-based bowl in the last four seasons, despite other Big 12 teams with lesser records being snapped up ahead of them in the conference’s pecking order. Gary Pinkel’s team can’t afford to let those bad feelings linger, or it could be a long day against the underrated Midshipmen. But this game looks like a good draw for Missouri, whose big-play passing offense and strong rush defense appear well-suited to control Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo's plucky team. Missouri 42, Navy 24.
Missouri and Navy have met twice in their histories, but not since 1961, and Navy has never won. The Midshipmen are hoping to break that streak on New Year's Eve in the Texas Bowl, but they will be facing an offensively potent Missouri team with statistically the best receiver in the country. It will be a big challenge for a Navy team that had one less week than Missouri to prepare.

WHO TO WATCH: Ricky Dobbs, QB, Navy

It’s probably fair to say that Navy would not have eight wins this season if it wasn’t for Dobbs. He leads the team in rushing and passing and has accounted for 29 of the team’s 45 offensive touchdowns this season. While Dobbs is an effective runner, he’s also brought a passing element that the Midshipmen haven’t had in awhile. That makes Navy hard to defend considering it’s the nation’s No. 3 rushing offense as well.

WHAT TO WATCH: Navy’s pass defense against Danario Alexander

Navy doesn’t have a bad pass defense, it’s only allowing 207.08 yards per game, but it hasn’t faced a receiver like Missouri’s Danario Alexander. Alexander leads the country in receiving yards with 137 per game and had 1,644 total yards this season. He had 200 yards in three of his final four games and had eight 100-yard receiving games. Because of Alexander’s size and speed, the Midshipmen are going to have trouble containing him.

WHY TO WATCH: Contrasting styles

This is a matchup of one of the best rushing offenses vs. one of the best passing offenses, and it will test the game-planning and discipline of both teams. Missouri’s defense will have to stay in its gaps to make sure Navy doesn’t go running by it, and Navy will have to buckle down in the secondary to make sure the Tigers don’t exploit it. Neither team has faced anything like what either opponent runs this season.

PREDICTION: Missouri’s rushing defense is actually quite good and has had three weeks to prepare for the triple option Navy brings. On the other hand, Navy doesn’t have a player with the athletic ability to cover Alexander, and that will be the difference. Missouri 34, Navy 21.