HOUSTON — It’s hard to win a football game if you don't have the ball.
Missouri learned that lesson Thursday. In a 35-13 win over Missouri in the Texas Bowl, Navy had possession of the ball for 40:54. Missouri had it for 19:06.
“If they’re running the ball, they’re doing something right and we’re doing something wrong,” cornerback Kevin Rutland said. “That’s what they did. They were able to pound the ball and not stopping them hurts us.”
Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs took advantage of the more than 40 minutes his team had the ball. Dobbs was voted Texas Bowl MVP. He extended his record for rushing touchdowns in a season for a quarterback. He had three rushing touchdowns to finish his season with 27 touchdowns on the ground.
“Ricky Dobbs is a real good player, a real good competitor,” Missouri defensive lineman Brian Coulter said. “He played hard. And he just knew his offense and executed his assignments. So, I give real big props to Navy and also Ricky Dobbs.”
Dobbs had 30 rushing attempts Thursday, gaining 166 yards and getting his three touchdowns. He also attempted 14 passes, completing nine of them for 130 yards and a touchdown.
Dobbs’ touchdown pass put Navy ahead 28-13 with 14:23 remaining in the game. Missouri was able to get the ball into the red zone on the next drive, getting as far as the Navy 13-yard line. But a sack and two consecutive incomplete passes set up a fourth-and-12. Given the margin and the fact there was less than 11 minutes remaining in the game, Missouri attempted to convert the fourth down instead of kicking a field goal. Blaine Gabbert’s pass intended for Jerrell Jackson was incomplete.
“We just tried to keep them off balance,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “They are such a good offense; we just didn’t want to line up what we’ve done in the past. We were just hoping maybe a different look might cause some confusion. We thought it would give a chance to compete and it definitely helped us.”
After getting the ball back with 10:48 remaining, Navy had a 10-play touchdown drive that took 5:52 off the game clock. The Midshipmen had their 35-13 lead with 4:56 remaining.
Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said his team did a great job of simulating Navy’s offense in practices before the game.
“We worked hard at it,” he said. “You really don’t know until you get in the games the speed of it. It’s all about doing your assignment and we had several plays where guys didn’t take quarterback, myself included. Guys didn’t take dive, and that’ll kill you.”
Gabbert threw an interception on the next drive and the Navy fans at Reliant Stadium began to celebrate with 2:38 to go. The Midshipmen made one first down and then knelt to end the game.
Missouri wide receiver Danario Alexander had six catches for 137 yards and one touchdown. His touchdown came on a 58-yard pass on the second offensive play of the game. Alexander broke Justin Gage’s record for career receiving yards at Missouri. He finished his career with 2,778 yards. Alexander had 1,781 receiving yards this season.
“He’s a great player, who didn’t see it coming?” Rutland said. “After the season he’s been having, he’s a great player and he will be missed.”