Navy's Hawaii connections relish matchup against Warriors


POSTED: Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The island connections run deep at Navy.

The Midshipmen are led by a coach who went to high school less than a mile up Salt Lake Boulevard from Aloha Stadium. Both Ken Niumatalolo and offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper played quarterback at Hawaii and remain devotees to a system that carried the Rainbow Warriors to their first two bowl appearances.

They're tutoring a quarterback who takes over starting duties from Kapolei graduate Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, and another former Hurricane, Aaron Santiago, is a backup slotback on this year's team.

So Navy's visit in November could feel more like a homecoming than a cross-country journey.

Niumatalolo, a Radford grad, succeeded former UH offensive coordinator Paul Johnson as Navy head coach late in the 2007 season when Johnson accepted a job at Georgia Tech. The transition was close to seamless as the Midshipmen went 8-5 last season, winning the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy and earning a bowl berth for the sixth straight year.

Returning to the postseason will mean overcoming a schedule that begins at No. 6 Ohio State on Saturday and includes seven other teams that played in bowl games last season, including Hawaii on Nov. 28.





        Friday Central Arkansas

        Sept. 12 at Washington St.*

        Sept. 19 at UNLV

        Sept. 30 at Louisiana Tech

        Oct. 10 Fresno State

        Oct. 17 at Idaho

        Oct. 24 Boise State

        Oct. 31 at Nevada

        Nov. 7 Utah State

        Nov. 14 New Mexico State

        Nov. 21 at San Jose State

        Nov. 28 Navy

        Dec. 5 Wisconsin

        *-at Qwest Field in Seattle

“;It is the most challenging schedule we have faced in the 12 years that I have been here,”; Niumatalolo said prior to the start of practice. “;Our kids worked hard this summer. They were challenged by their position coaches to get themselves ready because we knew we were facing a tough schedule.”;

Junior quarterback Ricky Dobbs enters this season as the incumbent to run the triple-option attack.

Dobbs began last season as the third-string quarterback, but sparked the Midshipmen late in the season when injuries hampered Kaheaku-Enhada and backup Jarod Bryant.

Dobbs began his stretch by running for 224 yards on 42 carries against SMU and former UH coach June Jones, a game in which Navy didn't attempt a pass in a 34-7 win.

Dobbs finished the season third on the team with 495 yards as Navy led the nation in rushing yards for the fourth straight year with 292.5 yards per game.

Although he attempted just 16 passes last season, Dobbs could provide a greater aerial threat for the ground-hugging Navy offense than in years past.

“;Ricky has a skill set that is a little different than some of our past quarterbacks and that will help us in the passing game, although we aren't going to turn into Texas Tech or anybody,”; Niumatalolo said.

“;We will probably throw the ball a little bit more, but we know for us to be successful we have to run the ball. ... Our offense isn't filled with bells and whistles and it isn't real fancy, but we just want to win games.”;

Inside linebacker Ross Pospisil returns to anchor a Navy defense featuring seven returning starters. Pospisil led the Midshipmen with 106 total tackles and forced three fumbles last year for a defense that allowed 22 points per game, a drop of 14.4 points off the average from 2007.