Texas Bowl, As It Happened

It's Ken Niumatalolo's first bowl win. It's Navy's first bowl win since 2005. It's the Midshipmen's tenth win of the 2009 campaign, marking the program's first double-digit-win season since the 10-2 joyride of 2004. What I'd like to see in the future is for Navy to work out a bowl arrangement where – if the Mids win at least nine games against FBS . . .

14:36 left, first quarter: That's Navy's biggest worry today: His name is Danario Alexander. The worst matchup on the field for the Midshipmen shows why he'll be a beast this afternoon in Houston.

12:57: What's encouraging about this Navy drive is that the Mids have already mixed run and pass. Keeping Missouri's defense honest with an occasional (and successful) downfield throw should pay dividends going forward.

11:51: Yes, the quick toss is a great change-of-pace play when a defense hasn't yet seen it in a game.

11:25: Well, Missouri's first possession showed why the Tigers could win even if Navy plays its best. On the Mids' first possession, we've just seen why the Tigers could run away with this puppy. If Danario Alexander beats you, tip the cap. If Ricky Dobbs turnovers – a persistent problem during the regular season – wind up beating the Men of Ken, it will be a long plane flight to Annapolis.

10:03: Um, that was a remotely important stop (and a fabulous job of coverage in the secondary) from Buddy Green's defense.

6:57: Okay, the Midshipmen have told the Tigers that they can and will move the ball. Now comes the most important part: finishing the drive for seven points.

5:51: Dobbs making some mighty fine reads. That pitch is coming out quickly before the defense has a reasonable chance to react and pursue. Sweet.

4:53: I don't like that kind of pass. There wasn't a play action element; it was a basic diagonal sprint-out pass. Either have a play fake on the front end, or employ a throwback/misdirection wrinkle on the back end. Pass plays need to have an element of surprise or disguise for Navy to succeed through the air.

4:44: Clutch play by Dobbs. Big answer on third down.

2:58: It was just a matter of time… as long as Dobbs or his backfield mates didn't put the ball on the grass. Your move, Blaine Gabbert.

2:22: Oh, Bob Davie, I'm glad I didn't have a beverage in my mouth, because it would have come flying out after hearing you pronounce (Russ) Pospisil "Papa Seal." Man, what a belly laugh…

1:42: When Mizzou doesn't throw those quick hitches to its flankers, Navy's secondary is smothering the Tigers on vertical passing routes.

0:05: After giving up a touchdown on defense and a turnover on offense, the Men of Ken really rallied. Much as Stanford turned things around after an awful first five minutes against Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl (now at halftime with the Cardinal leading, 24-17), Navy has reversed course against a Big 12 foe. Will each of these upset bids stay on track? We'll see. Ken Niumatalolo has to be very happy after 15 minutes at Reliant Stadium.

End of First Quarter Score: Navy 7, Missouri  7.

14:50 left, second quarter: Dobbs never had a chance. It looked as though he wanted to go to the left flat, but he lacked the space in which to throw the ball; he could have had the pigskin knocked out of his hands. Too good on the part of Mizzou's defense.

13:56: Impressive display of speed from the Tigers. Both defenses have settled in after being knocked back early on.

11:57: Kwesi Mitchell deflected that pass after reading Gabbert like a coloring book. That's not a bad drop by Alexander; the ball was re-directed by Navy's sophomore cornerback. Fine play.

10:24: Want to know what a bad drop looks like? Marcus Curry offers an example. Dobbs could have run for the first down, but he had an open man, and the ball clanged off Curry's hands.

7:53: Buddy Green's decision to drop lots of people back in coverage is continuing to pay off. The game plan is working for the Buddy System.

5:12: Mental mistakes like that illegal motion penalty just can't happen. Obvious, sure, but what else can you say?

4:02: Go for it, Ken. It's a bowl game.

3:23: Cory Finnerty 1, Jasper Simmons 0. First down, Navy.

2:04: A supreme stomach punch. Ricky Dobbs produces a SPECTACULAR run, is steaming toward the goal line, and then he loses the ball at the 2. A pure. Unmitigated. Killer. Dobbs just can't hang onto the rock, even when he undresses six or seven Missouri defenders and thrills the Houston crowd. Too bad.

1:53: Navy made a terrific coach's challenge in the Notre Dame game, and Niumatalolo should wind up getting the ball back for his team here. As Davie is saying, Navy can't get a touchdown, but the Mids can earn possession at the point where Ram Vela scooped up that clear Mizzou fumble.

1:53: Yup – fumble. Niumatalolo and his staff rule the coach's challenge. Very observant work by the boys in the press box, communicating to Ken on the field. Kudos to Ken for pulling the trigger.

0:45: Dobbs doesn't lose the rock. Dobbs scores. It ain't hard to figure out this fistfight. If Navy doesn't cough up the pill, Mizzou will get sick.

0:13: Geez, Navy's downfield coverage had been so good. Why should a last-minute situation suddenly change the equation?

0:05: Well, at least the Tigers won't get seven, but still…

Halftime Score: Navy 14, Missouri 10.

13:04 left, third quarter: This is a no-brainer. No chance the Mids will punt.

12:45: The quick toss has been a reliable play for Navy today. As long as Niumatalolo and Ivin Jasper don't rely on it too much, it will continue to bear fruit.

12:09: Beautiful, Mr. Jasper. A pass with a misdirection element, as was discussed earlier in this game. Passes must be accompanied by a dimension of disguise. Well done.

11:22: Okay, just don't fumble, and it should be an 11-point game.

10:46: All right, don't fumble or commit idiotic delay-of-game penalties like that one, and it should be an 11-point game. What a terrible lapse by Dobbs. How can that possibly happen?

10:04: I love the change-up. Missouri couldn't have been expecting that pass play to Bobby Doyle. The unintended brilliance of the Ricky Dobbs penalty is that Navy ran an extra buck-thirty off the clock, which will only put the squeeze on Mizzou.

9:47: "Papa Seal"… uhhh, errrr, ummm, Pospisil… picks off the pill, and it's looking mighty good for the Men of Ken right now.

8:17: Dobbs, when he doesn't fumble the ball, can make some magic with those dancing feet and that tremendous upfield vision.

7:08: This is a clinic right now, everybody. Sit back and enjoy… unless you're a beleaguered white-shirted defender from the Big 12 North.

4:37: One more yard, one more play, and the boys will be able to smell sweet victory. Not achieve it, but smell it.

4:30: Are you kidding me? All Dobbs has to do is hold. Onto. The. Ball. That's all he needs to do, and with Missouri not loading the tackle box, he'll get the first down. A fumble messes things up. Incredible.

2:02: To the surprise of absolutely no one with a functioning brain cell, Missouri is mounting a comeback and is feeling pretty happy right now. Navy had the vampire blinded, gagged and bound, and was ready to plunge the stake into the heart, but Dobbs lost control of the weapon, and now the horror movie is unfolding in Houston.

0:00: I profusely apologize for prematurely posting a touchdown on the Missouri side of the ledger. Amazing – and hugely significant – goal-line stand by the Buddy System. Craig Schaefer takes down Gabbert to force a field goal attempt on the other side of the fourth-quarter divide. WOW.

End of Third Quarter Score: Navy 21, Missouri 10.

14:39 left, fourth quarter: That wasn't an NFL-style "stop-fade" or intentionally underthrown back-shoulder ball from Dobbs's right arm. But Navy and its quarterback will surely take it. Don't fumble the ball or commit a penalty, Ricky. Billy-basic execution will deliver a 15-point cushion for the Mids, just moments after the Tigers seemed primed to slice the lead to five points (pending a would-be 2-point conversion after a touchdown).

13:44: Danario Alexander. Sunday paycheck collector in the very near future.

12:51: If nothing else, Navy needs to make Missouri work – and bleed clock – before sticking this ball in.

10:54: But of course, if you're the Navy defense, you don't need to worry about merely working clock. You can just put your foot down and make a stand. Will Missouri coach Gary Pinkel go for it? He's down 15, which means that a field goal would have the value of eliminating the need for a 2-point try. Moreover, it's 4th and 12. I'd probably kick, only because of the down and distance.

10:48: Pinkel goes for it, and the Buddy System confuses the bejeezus out of Gabbert. After that one early play by Alexander, Navy's given away absolutely nothing to Missouri, and has been lights out in the red zone. PHENOMENAL performance from this defense today. Kevin Edwards throwing down big-league ball every bit as good as his five-star effort in South Bend against Golden Tate.

10:11: Dobbs has made just three particularly noticeable mistakes in this game. On every other snap, he's been sensational… and actually, he ran rings around Missouri's defense on the second of his three fumbles. Navy's offense has been B-plus today including the turnovers; without those three miscues – two of them on botched snaps or handoffs – the Mids get an A for the way they've befuddled the Tigers today.

8:00: Chinese water torture in progress, as Navy – in the words of the late, great Hank Stram – proceeds to "matriculate the ball down the field."…

7:00: Drip…

6:00: Drip…

5:00: Drip…

4:56: Nighty-night, Missouri.

3:11: The son of Temple, Tex., ends a storied Navy career with a bowl victory and one more high-impact play on the soil of his native state. Tip your white Navy cap to a decorated linebacker and a great Midshipman, Russ Pospisil.

2:26: It's Ken Niumatalolo's first bowl win. It's Navy's first bowl win since 2005. It's the Midshipmen's tenth win of the 2009 campaign, marking the program's first double-digit-win season since the 10-2 joyride of 2004. What I'd like to see in the future is for Navy to work out a bowl arrangement where – if the Mids win at least nine games against FBS opponents in the regular season – they can be considered for the Holiday, Sun or Gator Bowls. The Holiday has the San Diego presence, and the Sun and Gator have opt-in clauses for Notre Dame. No reason why Navy – like Notre Dame, an Independent – can't work its way up the ladder in the bowl system. No, Navy can't expect a BCS game, but let's see this program get the chance to play bigger boys in the postseason. The program in Annapolis is good enough right now to deserve such an opportunity.

0:00: Happy New Year, Navy people of all ages. For those serving America abroad in danger zones, hopefully this 22-point takedown of Missouri brightened the end of 2009 and the start of 2010.

Final Score in the 2009 Texas Bowl: 10-4 Navy 35, Missouri 13. 

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