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.
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
"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
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
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
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