Navy's offense never really seemed in-sync all game and it wasn't until there was just over four minutes left in the game that the Mids could breathe a sigh of relief. That exhale came courtesy of a 44-yard pass from Ricky Dobbs to Greg Jones on third and 18 from their own 19-yard line. Jones outfought two Georgia Southern defenders for the ball on what turned out to be the last drive of the game. Navy went on to convert two more first downs, one courtesy of an Eagles personal foul, to run out the clock.
A game, that was billed by some as the ‘Paul Johnson Classic' because both head coaches, Navy's Ken Niumatalolo and Georgia Southern's Jeff Monken were Johnson assistants turned into a defensive struggle. Neither high-powered triple option offense was able to move the ball at all. After amassing over 400 yards rushing against Maryland on Monday, Navy was held to 109 yards on 43 carries.
According to Navy's head coach, Georgia Southern deserves a considerable amount of credit for his team's offensive woes on Saturday.
"We didn't execute very well (on offense), but a lot of that had to do with them," said Ken Niumatalolo.
Luckily for the Mids' stagnant offense, its defense shut down Monken's offense to the tune of 73 yards rushing and 109 total yards of offense.
After failing to score on five of seven trips against the Terrapins, it seemed as if Navy was all set to break through the goal line on its first possession. Aided by an impressive 55-yard kick-off return by Alexander Teich, Navy found itself on Georgia Southern's seven yard line with a first and goal after a Dobbs 10-yard scamper. However even with the help of two Eagles off-sides penalties, Dobbs still faced a fourth and goal from the one-yard line – the same scenario the team had just five days earlier. However this time, albeit much earlier in the game, Niumatalolo decided to settle for an 18-yard Joe Buckley field goal.
"After last week, I just wanted us to have something positive to start the game off with. If that didn't happen last week, I probably would have went for it," he said. "We had such a great kick-off return and I didn't want to come out empty handed."
After the two teams exchanged punts, Navy nose tackle Shane Bothel sacked Georgia Southern quarterback Jaybo Shaw, causing him to fumble which was recovered by Billy Yarborough at the Eagles' 25 yard line. But the Mids' offense couldn't muster more than a yard and once again Buckley was called on to boot a field goal – which he did from 42-yards out.
Four punts later – two by each team, Monken decided to try a fake punt from the Eagles' own 39-yard line with six minutes left in the first half. The plan backfired as Navy's John Howell tackled Tobi Akinniranye short of the first down marker. It took Navy eight plays and almost five minutes to score its only touchdown of the day on a one-yard sneak by Dobbs.
With the score 13-0 to start the second half, there was a sense amongst the faithful at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium that if Navy could score one more touchdown in the third quarter that they would be able to put the game away. However, it never happened. In fact, Georgia Southern came out of the locker room fired up. And after a 49-yard return by Laron Scott, the Eagles drove right down the field. Running back Robert Brown converted two third down plays for Georgia Southern before the possession stalled at the Navy 17-yard line. Facing a fourth and eight, Monken rolled the dice again and went for it. This time his risk paid off as Shaw threw a touchdown pass to J.J. Wilcox to pull the Eagles within six points.
Neither team would cross their opponents' 40-yard line over the next 15 minutes until Dobbs completed the 44-yard pass to Jones on the final drive of the game.
"We are very fortunate to come out of here with a ‘W'," said Niumatalolo. "It was a short week – I think I saw that Virginia Tech lost – this is tough, playing on a Monday and then on Saturday, but our kids battled…especially on defense. It kind of reminded me of a spring game. Fortunately we had six more points than they did."
When asked how it feels to be 1-1 on the season, Navy co-captain Wyatt Middleton echoed his coach's sentiment.
"It's better than 0-2," he said.
Tuani led the Mids with nine tackles and a half-sack while Simmons pitched in with seven stops including six of the solo variety.
Navy fullback Vince Murray led all rushers with 50 yards on only 9 carries.
The game was played in front of 33,391 fans – the largest opening game crowd in Annapolis since 2006 when the Mids beat East Carolina.
Navy will look to go to 2-1 when they travel to Reston, La. next week to take on Louisiana Tech.
- - After the game, Niumatalolo said Dobbs suffered a sprained ankle in the second half, but the quarterback told the media that he was "100 percent fine."
- The entire Georgia Southern coaching staff charged after the referee after the last play of the game to ‘discuss' the personal foul penalty that resulted in Navy's final first down.
- Navy did not run one toss sweep play the entire game. To compare, Georgia Southern used the play five times. When asked about the lack of plays on the perimeter, Niumatalolo acknowledged that the team "probably could have gotten the ball on the edge a little better, but they were also firing their corners so we wanted to stay away from a big turnover."
- Gee Gee Greene was the only Navy slot back to run the ball. He had 9 yards on four carries.
After Dobbs limped to the sideline in the second half, his back-up Kriss Proctor was seen warming up on the sideline. However, he never entered the game.
- After going in a no-huddle offense for the first three possessions, Navy opted to huddle the rest of the game.
- With his TD today, Dobbs has now scored a TD in all 15 of his starts.
- Aaron McCauley's sack in the second half was the first of his career.
- Georgia Southern's first, non-penalty enabled, first down came with eight minutes left in the second quarter.