The Navy offense sputtered plenty in the early part of this season, missing out on red zone opportunities while looking discombobulated at times.
The low point came in a 14-6 loss at Air Force, breaking the Midshipmen’s dominance over the service academies. It was their lowest point total since getting shut out 34-0 to Rutgers in 2006, and the fewest points scored under coach Ken Niumatalolo.
But in a 35-17 win over Notre Dame last weekend, the offense looked unstoppable again. The Midshipmen had their offensive line making plays, quarterback Ricky Dobbs looked like his old self and a new star emerged at fullback.
Alexander Teich ran for a career-high 210 yards, becoming the first Navy fullback to go over 200 yards. We will see what he does for an encore performance Saturday against Duke, when Navy has a chance to clinch a spot in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Of course, to those who follow Navy, Teich is not new. He is the same player who started last season.
But an injury sent him to the bench. It was a twist of fate that got him back into the starting lineup this season. You would never know that if you watch him practice. Teich goes all out whether he is the starter, backup or relegated to fourth string.
“He’s one of the hardest-working guys on our team, which says a lot because we have a team full of hard workers,” Niumatalolo said. “He’s a weight room freak, works hard in offseason conditioning. Even when he lost his job, that didn’t change. He always trained as if he was the starter, which has been impressive to me from afar.”
Teich started the first five games of last season before an ankle injury put him on the bench. In his place, Vince Murray emerged and played exceptionally well. Murray kept his starting job even when Teich was healthy enough to play.
The roles have reversed this season. Murray started the first five games of the season, but a knee injury early against Wake Forest has sent him to the sideline. Teich ran for a then-career-high 95 yards in his first start of the year against SMU before his huge game against the Irish.
Murray is close to returning, but Teich has played so well that he will most likely remain in the starting lineup, Niumatalolo said. One reason is chemistry. Navy has won the past three games. In those contests, it has scored a touchdown in all 12 red zone opportunities.
No matter who starts, neither player holds a grudge against the other. The two are roommates on the road and pull for each other.
“Both of us have learned a lot and helped each other,” Teich said. “We’ve always pushed each other no matter what we’re doing, whether it’s running sprints or in the weight room. If Vince is going hard, I’m going to want to go harder. I’m sure when he sees me going hard, then he’s going to want to go harder, too. That’s made us better as fullbacks and teammates.”
Teich learned his work ethic from his father, who used to tell him, “If you’re going to do a job, don’t do it halfway, do it all the way.” His grandfather served in the Army, and various other family members have a military background as well. Teich decided he wanted to serve this country after 9-11. Though he was only a seventh-grader, he knew he had to give something back.
That is one of the big reasons he chose the Naval Academy.
After his performance last week, there is no doubt Navy is happy he did.