Score this one as another disappointing chapter in East Carolina’s football series with Navy.
We analyzed it all week. The Navy numbers against the Pirates were astounding in the series. Everything pointed to another Midshipmen blowout.
Most of the time in sports a preliminary look doesn’t always pan out. This time it did.
Navy dominated from the very start, again. The Midshipmen played what Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo would call one of their best games in years. It came at the Pirate’s expense in a 42-10 loss.
“Congratulations to Navy,” ECU coach Mike Houston would say after the game. “I thought they had a great plan on both sides of the ball and special teams. I thought their kids looked extremely prepared. They had a lot of energy to start the game and a great atmosphere.”
That energy to start the game set the tone. The Pirates had a dreaded three and out and then a short punt. Two of the keys to the game, controlling the football on offense and field position, were negated in the game’s first series.
“I thought that we did not handle some of the adversity early very well,” said Houston. “Obviously, we made a lot of mistakes. That being said, it is my responsibility to make sure the team is prepared. So it is my responsibility to get it fixed.”
The Pirates were hoping to slow down the Navy option on defense and control the football and put points on the board on offense.
Like the N.C. State game, though, the Pirates were manhandled up front.
Whether it was scheme, or talent or a combination of both, the day turned into another disaster in this seven-game series with the Middies.
Senior defensive tackle Alex Turner was visibly upset after the loss.
“We kind of took a step back today,” said Turner. “We all know that Navy runs an interesting offense and we didn’t fundamentally correct it or fit up right like we should have. Every day we are going to start new, so tomorrow we are going to have to start new and get ready for William & Mary coming up.”
While the defense had obvious issues with the option, it was the ECU offense that, perhaps unexpectedly, failed to hold up its end of the bargain.
“We have to keep pushing,” said ECU sophomore quarterback Holton Ahlers. “We have hurt ourselves more than the defense has stopped us. That is just the way it is right now. We have a new offense. (We have) young players. We have to keep learning from it. The defenses aren’t stopping us, it is us stopping ourselves.”
The Pirates now host William & Mary at home and then travel to Old Dominion.
These are certainly two ‘winnable’ games before the Pirates dive back into conference play in the American Athletic Conference.
This is a team that will continue to grow and improve.
“We just have to keep working and keep getting better every day,” said Houston.
ECU still has a great shot at a winning record in September to gear up for some success in the AAC.