The Navy Midshipmen plan to come by land and sea into Qualcomm Stadium to battle it out with the San Diego State Aztecs on Thursday, December 23, in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
This game will have all the crowd excitement as any of the BCS Bowls: San Diego State plays all their regular season home games at Qualcomm Stadium. The largest United States Naval base, including the principal homeport of the United States Pacific Fleet, is located in San Diego.
This year the Midshipmen (9-3, 1-A Independent) come into town riding a four-game winning streak. Winners of seven of their last eight games, Navy’s last loss came at the hands of Duke on October 30. The Blue Devils went into the fourth quarter leading the Midshipmen 31-7. However, Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs threw for two touchdowns and the Midshipmen defense finally held its ground to give Navy a 34-31 victory. Navy completed its season as the Independent School with the best record. Notre Dame finished second at 7-5 and Army finished third at 6-6.
A quick glance at San Diego State’s (8-4, 3rd MWC) last four games, one could believe that a 2-2 record is not the way to come into a bowl game. A closer look would reveal that the back-to-back losses in the middle of November were to #3 TCU and #23 Utah. Additionally, the 40-35 loss to the TCU Horned Frogs and the 38-34 loss to the Utah Utes should give credit the how well the Aztecs have played this year. In fact, all four losses this year were a by a combined 15 points.
Navy boasts the fifth overall rushing offense per game among all Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools. Dobbs, the senior quarterback from Douglasville, GA, led the Midshipmen in rushing with 860 yards and 13 touchdowns on 242 carries. When Dobbs isn’t running, he’s passing 1380 yards and 12 touchdowns on 74-135 passing.
Dobbs also has three running backs that average six yards a carry on 272 carries this year. Alexander Teich and Gee Gee Greene both have five touchdowns each and Teich and Vince Murray have touchdown runs of 64 and 42 yards respectively.
Leading the Midshipmen in receiving is Greg Jones, who is averaging almost 20 yards a catch on 30 receptions. Greene is Dobbs second favorite target, averaging just over 15 yards a catch on 17 receptions.
The Aztecs bring a lot more firepower to this war. San Diego State is ranked 11th overall in FBS rankings with 297 passing yards per game. The Aztecs also average 35 points per game, well enough for 20th in the FBS rankings. While San Diego State has not scored more than 50 points in any one game, they have been within a field goal of that mark on three separate occasions. On four occasions San Diego State was held in their 20’s, winning twice and losing twice.
Leading the charge for San Diego State is junior quarterback Ryan Lindley. Lindley boasts a 2010 QB rating of 146.07, placing him in the Top 25 of all Division 1-A quarterbacks. While completing just above 56 percent of his passes, Lindley has thrown for 3,554 yards with 26 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. He has been sacked nine times this year, which is an improvement over 15 times last year and 13 times his freshman year.
Lindley’s two primary targets are Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson. Brown, a senior from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., recorded his first 1000-yard season this year, grabbing 61 catches for 1,187 yards and nine touchdowns. He has recorded at least three catches in every game this year and had an eight-catch, three-touchdown performance against #23 Utah.
Like Brown, Sampson is also a senior who recorded his first 1,000-yard season. Sampson caught 65 passes for 1,175 yards and eight touchdowns. Against #23 Utah, Sampson became Lindley’s go-to receiver, catching 12 passes for 154 yards. While he didn’t get into the end zone, Sampson did average 12-yards a catch, allowing the Aztecs move the chains on each reception.
With so many teams using the passing game to setup the run, running back Ronnie Hillman just waited and took advantage of what the defense gave him. What the freshman from La Habra, Calif. did was run for 1,304 yards and 14 touchdowns on 234 carries. In five games Hillman ran for over 150 yards, including a 228-yard, 23-carry performance against Missouri.
It will be difficult for the Midshipmen to try to contain the all of San Diego State’s weapons. Defensively, Navy is capable of holding scores in the 20s, as evident in their 22.3 points per game average. However, the Midshipmen don’t play in the Mountain West Conference, where they have to play the likes of TCU, Air Force, BYU and UNLV. These schools, along with San Diego State, like to pass, and Navy does not have the defensive tools necessary to prevent an possible shock and awe campaign waged by the Aztecs.