Unfortunately for Navy fans, Ricky Dobbs ability to throw the ball is traveling around the country pretty fast. This of course means that future opponents, including Pitt this Saturday, will be ready (and not surprised) to find a Navy team that is capable of scoring consistently through the air. According to Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt, Dobbs first of two touchdown passes to Marcus Curry in week one of the season against the Buckeyes was more than enough proof of the junior's ability.
"It was as good as any throw by a quarterback (that I've seen) around the country," complimented Wannstedt. "I think that's how Navy got back into the Ohio State game. They hit two big passes on them."
The contest against the Buckeyes was not the first time the Pitt coach saw Ricky Dobbs in action. The junior played sparingly against the Panthers in last season's 42-21 loss to Wannstedt's team.
"Even though (Navy) has led the nation in rushing the last two, three, four years, they are very efficient when they throw the ball and how they throw it. Off of every running play, they have a designed pass. So when you think you are in a comfort zone…when you think you can get up (to the line of scrimmage) and stop the run is when they throw it," continued Wannstedt. "They put a lot of pressure on you, particularly the defensive backs. They have to play pass, but we need them up there to stop the triple option. That's the dilemma they put you in."
Navy's ability to throw the ball "efficiently" is what Wannstedt believes "separates this season's offense from (past Navy offenses)."
"I think if they have to throw the ball (this year), it's not a panic situation by any means. I think they might be more two-dimensional than they have been in the past."
Perhaps one reason why Wannstedt might be particularly worried about Navy's new founded passing attack is because his team had trouble stopping Buffalo's air assault last week. Even though the Panthers won the game rather easily, 54-27, the Bulls managed to throw for 433 yards and 4 touchdowns against the Big East power.
"(Buffalo) made some outstanding plays (but) we are a lot better than that. I'm not in a panic state, but we have addressed it. I think our players understand that can't happen. I think we will come out (against Navy) and show improvement there."
Add to that disappointing showing the fact that Pitt lost starting safety Andrew Taglianetti for the season to a torn ACL, and there is some reason for concern.
However, just like in the game against Buffalo, Pitt's offense is more than capable of countering any punch Navy's offense throws its way. Its unit is led by Dion Lewis, the third leading rusher in the nation. In just two games, the freshman has already rushed for 319 yards on only 44 attempts which is good enough for an impressive 7.3 yards per carry.
"He's got ability – that's obvious if you see him play. I think the one thing about Dion Lewis that probably goes unnoticed is his maturity level for a freshman," said Wannstedt. "He actually came out of spring practice as our number one tailback. So it didn't take long for him to make an impression on our staff and his teammates. He has been very consistent in everything he does."
The duty of handing the ball off to Lewis goes to Bill Stull. The 6-3, 215 pound senior is off to impressive start as well this season. He has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes and has thrown five touchdowns and only one interception.
"Bill played very well (against Buffalo). He made good decisions. We were clean from an organization standpoint…making calls…making checks. We didn't turn the ball over. And if a quarterback can do that, the big plays will come," said Wannstedt. "I think Bill really needed that game from a confidence standpoint – not just with himself but with the team. Hopefully we can take the positives from that game and roll them into the next."
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for Wannstedt's team this week will come before either team sets foot on Heinz Field this Saturday. To explain, last season Pitt had over two weeks to prepare for the Midshipmen. This year, they only get the routine week to prep for the unique offense they will face.
"(Less practice time than last season) is a concern because it is so different from anything else we will see. It puts a lot of pressure on coaches to be very organized and manage our time wisely. It puts extra pressure on the players to go out there and be efficient (in practice) where we don't have to repeat plays and waste more time than we need to in installing our game plan. Because (the offense) is different, it does take an extra amount of focus in a one week time," said Wannstedt.
"What they do running wise is so different. Their techniques…their chop blocks…everything is quick…so the techniques in defending them are different. You are looking at different plays and you are looking at using different techniques to defend them," he continued.
On the other side of the ball, Wannstedt was also impressed with what he has seen Navy's defense do this year, including against the rush.
"They are very aggressive. They use real good technique. They get good leverage on you. They fly to the ball. They are a little bit more multiple from 4-3 to 3-4…so you have to be ready for both scenarios. I think they have played very good defense the first two weeks…very good."
This will be the last of a three-game series between Navy and Pitt. The two teams are not scheduled to meet again in the foreseeable future. For Wannstedt, the experience of facing the Mids has been well worth it.
"Our kids have an awful lot of respect for Navy. We won't face a team all year that plays harder than Navy…that chases the ball and gives great effort in every situation. Everybody talks about that but I think until you really play them and see it on film in a week-to-week basis, do you really appreciate it."
"We know that we have our hands full this week. It will be a big challenge for us," summarized Wannstedt.