Navy Football: Inside Slant

The Midshipmen, ending rival Army's bowl dreams with a 17-3 victory in Philadelphia, now turn their attention toward the Tigers, plus the chance to win 10 games in a season for the first time since 1905.

INSIDE SLANT

Now Navy can start thinking about the Texas Bowl, and Missouri.

The Midshipmen, ending rival Army's bowl dreams with a 17-3 victory in Philadelphia, now turn their attention toward the Tigers, plus the chance to win 10 games in a season for the first time since 1905.

Navy beat Army for the eighth consecutive time in a tooth-and-nail battle that saw the Midshipmen trail 3-0 at the half. After playing their service-academy rival, the Mids have to come up with a whole different motivation to play well enough to knock off Missouri.

"Most people understand what this game is about," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said of the contest against Army. "This isn't the biggest rivalry in college football. It's the biggest rivalry in sports."

In other words, the Army is the Super Bowl for Navy, which hasn't allowed a touchdown to the Black Knights in the past three games.

And now, it's the 8-4 Tigers, winners of their last three games, going against the 9-4 Mids, who will be trying to end a three-game bowl losing streak when the teams meet on New Year's Eve in Houston.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Navy heads for its seventh straight bowl game but takes a three-game bowl losing streak to the Texas Bowl against Missouri.

--The Mids are 0-2 all-time against the Tigers, but the programs haven't met since 1961, when Missouri beat Roger Staubach and Navy in the Orange Bowl.

--Navy still has a chance at its second 10-win season in 129 years of playing football. The 1905 team went 10-1-1.

--The Mids have won at least eight games seven straight seasons.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: When you're talking Navy offense, you're always talking about the triple option, and it's led these days by Ricky Dobbs, the junior quarterback who has already tied the Football Bowl Subdivision record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a season -- with two games left. Navy will not win its fifth consecutive national rushing title; it sits third in the country in that category. The Mids face a stingy Missouri rushing defense that ranked 12th in the country and had allowed 96.49 yards per game on the ground. The Navy passing game appears on occasion, and you may see it some against a poor Missouri pass defense. Navy is just 80th overall in team offense, 53rd in scoring and tied for 25th inside the red zone.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Mids had two weeks between the loss at Hawaii and the Army game, and you know the coaches were working on the defense, shredded in the Pacific, much of the damage through the air. Now, Navy faces the No. 13 passing attack in the country in Missouri. Navy was 41st in the country against the run, 60th against the pass, 44th in team defense, 33rd in scoring defense and tied for 18th inside the red zone.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Navy QB Ricky Dobbs and the Navy option against the Missouri rush defense -- The Midshipmen do their damage on the ground, and the Tigers have been successful at stopping the run. Nice matchup.

OTHER KEY MATCHUPS: The Navy defense against Missouri's potent passing attack -- Anyone who saw the Mids' loss at Hawaii saw a team pass the ball up and down the field against Navy. Tigers sophomore QB Blaine Gabbert, who took over for Chase Daniel, threw for 3,302 yards, 23 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.

Navy against the post-Army letdown -- It's no secret how important it is for Navy to beat Army, which happened for an eighth straight time to end the regular season. Now, the Mids have to get themselves keyed up for a trip to Texas and a showdown with Missouri in the Texas Bowl. Navy has lost three straight bowl games, all, obviously, after beating Army.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have a lot of respect for Navy on and off the field certainly, and in terms of the game, we will need to be prepared to go out and play our best against a very good football team that presents some unique challenges." -- Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, after finding out his Tigers would be facing Navy in the Texas Bowl.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

BOWL BREAKDOWN: Navy vs. Missouri, Texas Bowl, Dec. 31, Houston -- An interesting matchup between Navy and its triple option and Missouri and its stingy rushing defense. These programs haven't met in almost 50 years. Each has four losses this year, but Navy has nine wins to eight for Missouri.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Ricky Dobbs -- He got at least some Heisman Trophy mention late in the season, and with good reason. With Army and the bowl game still ahead, he already had 23 rushing touchdowns, tying the Football Bowl Subdivision record. He missed almost two complete games and is playing with a cracked kneecap.

FB Vince Murray -- Dobbs leads the Mids with 924 net yards rushing, and Murray was second, with 884 yards and six rushing touchdowns. Both could wind up with 1,000 yards rushing.

LB Ross Pospisil -- He led the Mids in tackles with 91, including 6.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks. He also had three pass breakups and had forced one fumble and had a recovery.

Slot back Marcus Curry -- An injury knocked him out of three games, but he netted 442 yards and scored four touchdowns. He is always a threat.

ROSTER REPORT:
--QB Ricky Dobbs continues to play with a cracked kneecap and isn't about to sit now.


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