ANNAPOLIS — East Carolina had not been held scoreless for 322 consecutive games, a streak that ended Saturday with a 10-0 American Athletic Conference loss at Navy.
In a recurring theme this season, the Pirate defense played well as the offense sputtered for the greater part of the afternoon.
ECU managed just 34 yards rushing, but stayed with Alex Flinn at quarterback although he was responsible for three turnovers in the first half. ECU had 189 total yards of offense, a season low.
Flinn was ECU’s leading rusher with 12 keepers for 31 yards.
“We were not able to run the ball effectively enough and it turned us into a little bit of a one-dimensional offense for most of the game,” said Pirates coach Mike Houston. “We had some untimely mistakes that would kill a drive.”
With the ground game grounded, ECU stuck with Flinn.
“We had to throw the football in order to have a chance to win,” Houston said. “Based on practice this week, Alex gave us the best opportunity.”
Flinn completed 24 of 38 passes for 155 yards with two interceptions.
Navy scored on its third possession with 2:47 left in the first quarter on an 18-yard run by Alex Tezla. A 39-yard gain by quarterback Xavier Arline preceded the touchdown as the hosts took a 7-0 lead.
Andrew Conrad missed a 49-yard field goal attempt with 10:49 left in the first half after Jason Shuford recovered an Arline fumble at the Navy 48.
The teams traded turnovers in the second quarter as Teylor Jackson forced an Arline bobble that was recovered by Elijah Morris at the Navy 47 with 7:10 left in the half.
Flinn was stripped and lost possession two plays later.
Navy got a 27-yard field goal from Nathan Kirkwood with 8:49 left to play for a 10-0 lead. Kirkwood was 1-for-3 with a miss from 42 yards to close the first half and a 42-yard attempt in the fourth quarter that was blocked by Shavon Revel with 12:08 remaining.
ECU punter Luke Larsen fumbled for a 13-yard loss on 4th-and-4 at the ECU 34 before Kirkwood connected.
“He needs to look at the film,” Houston said of Larsen. “I mean, it’s two up on the outside, you have to kick the ball. There’s no reason for him to hold the ball as long as he did. He knows that. He’ll know that after he looks at the film.”
Houston said he didn’t know if the 31-year-old punter from Australia was looking to run.
ECU had just four penalties for 45 yards but two of those were for personal fouls on offense, which put a struggling attack farther behind the chains.
“We did not sustain drives and do the things we needed to get points on the board and win the ball game,” Houston said.
The Pirates, who slipped to 2-9 overall and 1-6 in the AAC, will host Tulsa (3-8, 1-6) to close the 2023 season on Saturday at 2 p.m. (ESPN+). The Golden Hurricane was topped, 35-28, by visiting North Texas on Saturday.
ECU has had some narrow escapes in keeping its scoring streak intact, most recently in the season opener at then-No. 2 Michigan when Conrad kicked a 33-yarder as time expired in a 30-3 loss at Ann Arbor.
ECU’s last chance to keep the scoring streak going Saturday ended with a 6-yard pass from Flinn to Gerald Green on 2nd-and-19 at the Navy 48 before the clock went to zeroes.
The last time the Pirates were shut out was Oct. 4, 1997, in a 56-0 loss at Syracuse.