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Game Center: Navy 56, East Carolina 28

Oct. 27, 2012 | Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium | Attendance: 48,327

Features >> Inside Game Day | Photo Gallery | Post-game Audio

Inside Game Day
Saturday, October 27, 2012

By Al Myatt

Navy stars in 'That '70s Show'

By Al Myatt
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GREENVILLE — As far as relevant time travel goes, East Carolina is much more interested in next week than what happened with a decades-old offense that successfully invaded Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium again on Saturday.

ECU took a 56-28 loss to Navy in a matchup that was too similar for Pirate fans to a 76-35 blowout defeat from the Midshipmen in 2010.

The biggest differences were more rain this time around and fewer points for Navy's challenging option offense.

Still, the Midshipmen had 563 total yards of offense while throwing just five passes. Many Conference USA teams throw it that much on their first possession.

It was a return in a sense to those thrilling days of yesteryear when ECU coach Ruffin McNeill was playing strong safety for the Pirates in the 1970s and Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye had ECU's wishbone running at full speed.

Insert Navy true freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds in the role of Leander Green. The ECU defense seemed to be chasing ball carriers all afternoon.

Reynolds was exceptional in his execution, correctly reading the dive, keeping or pitching adroitly left or right as Navy ran for 512 yards. Reynolds took monster hits from the likes of beastly linebacker Derrell Johnson play after play and was seemingly unfazed.

"He's very talented," McNeill said of Reynolds, who has been instrumental in a four-game winning streak after Navy's 1-3 start. " ... He's got athleticism. He's quick. He's smart. He makes great decisions. Kenny (Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo) has found a good one."

Quarterbacks in any offense are the straw that stirs the drink. In Navy's attack, Reynolds is a blender.

The Pirates tried to present Navy's offense in practice during game week with defensive back Rocco Scarfone playing the part of Reynolds. ECU couldn't duplicate in a week what has become the essential ingredient in the program since Paul Johnson brought the option to Navy from Georgia Southern.

"The scout team is a lot different from facing that unit," said McNeill, who used to see Eddie Hicks taking the pitch in full stride in scrimmages back in the day. "They were really full blast. I can't take anything away from them. They did a great job."

Reynolds ran 10 times for 81 yards and three touchdowns against the Pirates. Of his three completions, two were for scores as the Mids pushed their halftime lead from 21-14 to 56-21 before ECU had a final answer on a 5-yard run by Reggie Bullock with 7:23 to go.

ECU's offense could not keep pace with Navy's level of production and the Pirates defense allowed 7.6 yards per snap, enough to keep the chains in motion for 32 Navy first downs. ECU even coughed up possession on a kickoff return, giving all three sides of the ball a hand in a forgettable afternoon on Bagwell Field.

One consolation of a loss to Navy is knowing that those guys are preparing for the task of national defense. We should all sleep a little better.

The tone was seemingly set as Danny Webster dropped a screen pass on the first snap.

It was perhaps a fitting conclusion to a week that began with vandals defacing the playing surface.

The running of Vintavious Cooper (18 carries, 121 yards, 1 TD) and punting of Trent Tignor were footnotes but bright spots nonetheless.

Cooper dismissed his numbers.

"Overall, as a team, we took an 'L,' " Cooper said. "That's still unacceptable. They way we played tonight really doesn't reflect the way we are as a team. We know we're better than that. ... We need to work hard for what could be a conference championship."

McNeill was anxious to check on noseguard Terry Williams as well as linebackers Gabriel Woullard and Jeremy Grove, who got purple hearts in the battle.

The ECU coach wasn't happy on several occasions with the Big East officiating crew.

"We're one of the least penalized teams in the nation," McNeill said after the Pirates had drawn seven flags for a season-high 78 yards.

The Pirates will have Conference USA officials for next week's noon matchup at home with Houston and it will be match point for bowl eligibility again.

McNeill was far from thrilled at seeing the current adaptation of the option attack, ECU's bread and butter when he wore the purple and gold. He was very brief in his postgame remarks before taking questions.

The adage of 'Don't let one loss beat you twice' was in force even before the players filed back into the Murphy Center on a soggy afternoon.

"That's really big for us because we still have a lot of our goals out there for us," McNeill said. "We don't want to linger much on this one. ... We'll dive into Houston very quickly."

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10/28/2012 04:53:47 PM


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