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Navy elects to stick solely to ground game in sound win over SMU

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Down to his third-string quarterback, with a hard rain falling and winds whipping, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo modified the game plan.

In came Ricky Dobbs, subbing for the injured Jarod Bryant, and Dobbs ran, ran and ran some more.

He ran for 224 yards and four touchdowns on 42 carries as Navy became the first major college team in 11 years to not attempt a pass in its 34-7 victory against SMU on Saturday.

Navy, fourth in the nation in rushing coming in at 296 per game, ran 77 times for 404 yards. The last team to play a game without throwing a pass was Ohio University in a 21-17 victory against Akron on Oct. 25, 1997.

"The elements helped us. It was windy and rainy," Niumatalolo said. "The weather that we had today definitely was an advantage for us."

The second half was played before a crowd of just several thousand, in part because of the downpour.

Dobbs replaced Bryant, who injured his right shoulder on a 20-yard run in the first quarter, and quickly directed the Midshipmen (5-3) to two touchdowns on runs of 2 and 5 yards. He carried the ball on his first eight plays.

Niumatalolo reinserted Bryant early in the second quarter, but he was hurt again six plays later.

Dobbs returned and two plays later ran for 38 yards, and scored from a yard out on the next play. He added a 7-yard run early in the fourth quarter.

"It was totally unexpected," Dobbs said. "A lot of times when you see the star quarterback get hurt, you can see a team get morally down."

The sophomore, who played briefly in three games this season said he enjoyed playing in the rain. He said it reminded him of playing as a child, and he didn't even mind not throwing a pass.

"It didn't matter to me. We had the lead, and the way the weather was, we didn't need to pass," Dobbs said. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

His coach said that it wasn't so much Dobbs' inexperience that altered his play calling. It was the conditions.

"It was bad out there," Niumatalolo said. "You could see that they were having a hard time even getting the snap."

Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada began the season as the Mids' quarterback, but aggravated a hamstring injury in a win over Wake Forest on Sept. 27 and was replaced by Bryant.

Free safety Wyatt Middleton said Dobbs' performance didn't shock him.

"We always knew he could play," Middleton said. "He is very elusive, and that's one of his strengths."

Navy, which became the second major college team to play 1,200 games, can qualify for the Eagle Bowl in Washington on Dec. 20 with one more win.

SMU (1-8) began the game 11th in the nation in passing, averaging 302 yards per game, was held to 144 yards -- 27 in the second half -- and trailed 27-0 at halftime.

Bo Levi Mitchell, the Mustangs' freshman quarterback, had a pass intercepted by the Mids' Jeff Deliz in the first half. He's had 19 passes picked -- most in the nation. Mitchell, who threw four touchdown passes in each of his last two games, was 16-for-28 for 157 yards.

SMU ran 11 times and lost 13 yards -- the first time Navy held an opponent to negative yards on the ground in nearly 30 years. On Oct. 28, 1978, Pittsburgh lost 28 yards on the ground.

"It's just frustrating," SMU coach June Jones said. "You have to be able to overcome the conditions. We weren't able to today."

SMU scored on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell to Aldrick Robinson with 5:25 to play in the third quarter. Robinson, who entered the game leading the nation in receiving yards, had seven catches for 94 yards. It was his 11th touchdown reception this season, tying Emanuel Tolbert's school record set in 1978 for most in a season.

Navy's Shun White scored on a 23-yard run early in the first quarter. It followed a 14-yard punt by the Mustang's Thomas Morstead. The touchdown gave White more than 2,000 yards in his career -- the eighth player in school history to reach 2,000.

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