Navy Football opened up their first ever conference slate in the American Athletic Conference by doing what they do best. In front of 34,717 fans, the Navy offense gashed ECU's defense for 415 yards rushing, running the triple option to near perfection, defeating ECU 45-21, and putting the rest of the AAC on alert.
Keenan Reynolds and Co. were able to move the ball almost at will. Reynolds would finish the game with 5 rushing touchdowns, setting the AAC rushing TD record in his first conference game, and giving him a whopping 70 rushing touchdowns for his career.
In what was an absolutely gorgeous day in Annapolis, ECU won the toss and elected to receive to begin the game.
After driving down the field to the Navy 32, the ECU offense stalled on their opening drive and they turned the ball over on downs.
Navy took over and marched all the way down the field, using a combination of a heavy dose of Chris Swain sprinkled with the speed of Dishan Romine. Reynolds capped off the drive with his 66th rushing TD of his career to put the Midshipmen up 7-0.
ECU came right back and scored using an 11 play 75 yard drive that culminated with a 2 yard touchdown pass from Blake Kemp to Jimmy Williams to tie the game at 7-7.
On Navy's next drive, it was another steady dose of Swain and Quentin Ezell as Navy covered the length of the field and Reynolds took it in from one yard out to make it 14-7. Reynolds rushing stat line at this point of the game read 2-2-2.
ECU used a nice 36 yard completion from Kemp to Isaiah Jones to get on the Navy side of the field but Davis Plowman missed a 48 yard field goal attempt wide left and Navy took over on the 30.
After alternating kickers in the first two games, ECU went with Plowman as the kicker and it failed to pay off on their first attempt of the half.
Navy drove down the field for the third time in three tries using a 23 yard completion from Reynolds to DeBrandon Sanders to start things off and finishing with another touchdown run from Reynolds, his 68th of his career to put Navy up 21-7.
On the ensuing ECU drive, Navy forced a three and out as Josiah Powell made up for a missed tackle on second down to get pressure on Kemp on third down and force the punt.
Navy made it 4 for 4 to start the game as they used another mix of Swain and Ezell to overcome a personal foul penalty committed by Jamir Tillman after a long Keenan Reynolds run and Swain punched it in from 4 yards out to put Navy up 28-7.
The final drive of the first half saw two big blows for the Navy defense. Not only did they allow ECU to march all the way down the field and score a touchdown on a 17 yard completion from Kemp to Bryce Williams with 3 seconds to go in the half, but they lost arguably their best linebacker for the rest of the game as Daniel Gonzales was ejected for targeting.
After 42 points combined in the first half, the third quarter saw both teams swap turnover on downs to each other on their first two drives. After getting to the ECU 33, Navy went for it on 4th and 8 and came up a yard short.
ECU took over at their own 26 and drove to the Navy 41 before being stuffed on 4th and 1 as Will Anthony got into the backfield and made a great play.
Navy took over and drove down to the ECU 26 before the ball slipped out of Reynolds hand and Navy was forced to punt for the first time in the game.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Amos Mason darted into the backfield and sacked Blake Kemp, forcing a fumble in the process. It was Mason's first career sack and first career forced fumble.
Will Anthony recovered the fumble and gave it back to the offense, and Reynolds wasted no time orchestrating a 17 yard drive that culminated in his fourth rushing touchdown of the day and 69th for his career.
ECU was able to put together a 12 play 93 yard drive on their ensuing possession, finishing it off with Kemp's third passing TD of the game to cut the lead to 35-21.
The Midshipmen got the ball back with just over 10 minutes to go in the game and Reynolds orchestrated one of those back breaking, time consuming drives that every Navy fan loves to see. He drove the team all the way down the field, eating up over 7 minutes off the clock and finishing the drive off with his fifth rushing touchdown of the day and 70th of his career.
That set an AAC record for rushing touchdowns in a game in Navy's first game in the conference.
On the ensuing ECU drive, an interception by Tyler Goble sealed the game for the Midshipmen, as they would tack on a 25 yard field goal for good measure to make the final score 45-21.
We will have a detailed recap and analysis following the post-game press conference.