ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Navy had two weeks to prepare for East Carolina and was playing at home in the American Athletic Conference opener for both programs.
The Midshipmen also had another advantage in taking a 42-10 win over the Pirates on Saturday, resurgent quarterback Malcolm Perry, who was shifted to running back for a portion of last season.
ECU coach Mike Houston said he couldn’t replicate the speed or precision of the Navy option offense in practice and it showed.
Perry kept 24 times for 156 yards and four touchdowns. He completed 5 of 7 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns.
The Pirates (1-2) were hoping to build on a 48-9 home win over Gardner-Webb.
“We kind of took a step back today,” said ECU defensive tackle Alex Turner. “But we all know that Navy runs an interesting kind of offense. … We didn’t fit up right like we should.”
Another FCS foe awaits
ECU has fallen into something of a pattern. After losing 34-6 to start the season at N.C. State, the Pirates returned home to bounce the Bulldogs.
Another Football Championship Subdivision program, William & Mary, comes to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday for a 6 p.m. kickoff after a road loss to a Football Bowl Championship team.
“The sun will come up tomorrow and we’ll operate the same as we have,” Houston said. “We’ll operate the same way we have for every Sunday so far this year. It’s one game in a season full of games and it counts the same as all the rest. Next week becomes the biggest game of our season.”
Navy coming back
Navy was 3-10 last season and 2-6 in the AAC. The Midshipmen were picked to finish fifth in the league’s West Division.
“I’ve been here a long time,” said coach Ken Niumatalolo, who is in his 12th season as head coach at Navy. “That’s as complete of a football game as (we) have played in some time. We played well in all three phases.”
Navy is not know for its passing game but that element of the attack was productive.
“It felt good,” Perry said. “That’s what I worked on all summer. I’m still working on it.”
The Pirates were without running back Darius Pinnix, who had 134 yards rushing and two touchdowns last week.
Hussein Howe started in place of Pinnix and netted 31 yards on six carries. Quarterback Holton Ahlers ran for 36 yards on nine carries.
“I thought the running backs today did a great job,” Ahlers said. “Obviously, Darius is a great player and he helps us a lot. But our program is next guy up those guys came out today and played as hard as they could.”
Freshman Demetrius Mauney had 12 rushes for 23 yards.
ECU struggles early
The Pirates did not pick up a first down on their first two possessions and the first two efforts of punter Jonn Young did not swing field position, going for 22 and 27 yards.
“Obviously, it was a worst case scenario, outside of a turnover,” Houston said. “A quick three and out and a short punt was not how you want to start.”
Navy’s first scoring drive was only 38 yards.
“That’s the way it is right now,” Ahlers said. “It’s a new offense. We’ve got young players. We’ve got to keep learning from it. The defenses aren’t stopping us. We’re stopping ourselves.”
The Midshipmen led 468-222 in total yardage.
ECU junior defensive back Davondre Robinson was taken off the field on a stretcher on a cart after his pads were removed and a neck brace was applied late in the game.
“He has movement in his extremities,” Houston said. “It was a precautionary thing.”
Houston said he has not had any delusion about the work involved in rebuilding a program that is trying to avoid its fifth straight losing season.
“The day I took this job, I was not naive,” he said. “I knew that there would be days like this. I told those kids in there (locker room) this is where I want to be. I made the decision to be here with them. I care about them. We’re all on the same page and we’re going to work together.
“I can promise you, no matter what anybody thinks, no one is more driven to get this fixed than that group in that locker room, myself and our coaches.”