The turning point of the game came at an all too familiar spot for Navy. Facing a fourth and goal from inside the two yard line with just under ten minutes to play in the third quarter, Ricky Dobbs hit a wide open Bo Snelson on the fingertips but the slot back couldn't hold onto the football. If Snelson catches the ball, the game would have been tied. He didn't and the Aztecs went on to dominate the rest of the way. The miscue, just in sight of the goal line, brought back memories of how the 2010 opener ended for the Mids. It was almost as if the entire season came full circle.
Fortunately for Navy, in between the opener against Maryland and the finale against San Diego State, they won 9 of 11 games. And don't get me wrong 2010 will go down as an extremely successful season for the Mids. 9 wins, beating Army and Notre Dame, and a record 8th consecutive trip to a bowl game are all noteworthy accomplishments. But I can't just help but get frustrated when I think of just how close the team came to putting together the dream season all Navy fans had visions of back in August. The aforementioned Maryland game, in addition to the Air Force and Duke loses, were all winnable.
It does help a little bit to know that for the first time all season I thought Navy wasn't the better team on the field. San Diego State is good – really good. They showed up (albeit in their backyard) on Thursday and played nearly a flawless game. As I stated last week in this column, I thought it would take Navy's best game of the season to win, and it just wasn't to be.
A lot of people may take this comment the wrong way, but I think it is safe to say that this is the most disappointing 9-win season in Navy football history. The irony is that I have a big smile on my face as I say this because I don't think there is a better compliment that could be given to this team. Because of a smart and dedicated coaching staff and committed and resilient players, Navy fans are in the midst of enjoying a once unfathomable string of success of football in Annapolis. So much so that spoiled fans like me can now describe a 9-win season as ‘disappointing' or ‘frustrating.' How great is that? Maybe I should change my address to Tuscaloosa or Gainesville. Oh wait, that's right Florida won't even win 9 games this season.
I'm not sure what I will miss most about this senior class and perhaps there will be another column down the road to really get into that, but for now I know I'm going to miss Ricky Dobbs and Wyatt Middleton. Not just because of their on-the-field brilliance, but for their composure and maturity off of it as well. There is no doubt that Dobbs will go down in Navy football history as having to answer more questions from the media than any other player. He gave a lot of his time so we could get to know him better. And the same is true about Middleton. Their leadership and candor will be tough to replace.
There will be plenty of opportunities to look back on the 2010 season, but right now, even after a frustrating finish which echoed the year's disappointing start; my thoughts are with the team's seniors. They gave Navy fans a lot of thrills over the past four years and for that we should all be thankful.