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Navy @ ECU: Q&A with Navy Play-by-Play Voice Pete Medhurst

A look at the Pirates’ Senior Day match-up with the Midshipmen from a Navy perspective

NCAA Football: Tulsa at Navy
Will Worth, who began the season as Tago Smith’s back-up, has run more than 900 yards and 18 touchdowns for the Midshipmen.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

With last Saturday’s 55-31 blowout loss to SMU, the ship has sailed on East Carolina’s slim postseason hopes.

Since their bowl hopes are dashed, the Pirates (3-7, 1-5) will now have the unenviable task of preparing to face Navy’s vaunted triple option attack on Senior Day. The game was originally slated for Thursday, October 13th, but was rescheduled due to Hurricane Matthew.

The Midshipmen (7-2, 5-1) are coming off a critical 42-40 home win over Tulsa and are seeking to lock up the AAC West.

Saying that the Navy program has had its way with ECU over the years would be an understatement, as the Middies hold a 4-1 lead in the series and have scored 45 or more points in three of their four victories. Ken Niumatalolo’s club has been most dominant when playing in Greenville, as his 2010 and 2012 teams combined for 132 points and 1,023 rushing yards in blowout wins. In Ruffin McNeill’s first-season, Navy produced a 76-35 victory before returning to sink ECU by a 56-28 final in 2012. Last season, Navy captured a relatively easy 45-21 victory in Annapolis during which it ran for 415 yards.

Today, Navy’s fourth-year play-by-play Pete Medhurst (@PeteMedhurst on Twitter) joins us as we take an in-depth look at the Navy football program and this weekend’s match-up with East Carolina.

UDD ECU Beat Writer Bubba Rosenbaum:

Having been around Navy football for at least a couple of decades while serving in various capacities for the Academy’s Radio Network, talk about “Coach Ken” and the job he has done at building the program over the last nine years since taking over when Paul Johnson left for Georgia Tech. The Middies have won at least eight games in each year of his tenure except 2011. He is obviously extremely committed, as he turned down an opportunity to become the head coach at BYU and coach his son.

Navy Play-by-play Voice Pete Medhurst:

Coach is a very genuine guy. I think he gave BYU a very good listen. Religion and family are top priorities for Coach and I think he felt comfortable in the end staying where he has a great staff and a winning program.

UDD ECU Beat Writer Bubba Rosenbaum:

With the loss of star quarterback Keenan Reynolds and nearly every starter on offense, there was undoubtedly a lot of attention focused on how potent Navy’s attack would be. Tago Smith, who entered the season as Reynolds’ replacement under center, went down in the season opener and Will Worth was suddenly elevated into the starting role.

Worth has responded by performing like a seasoned veteran, as he leads the team with 915 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground. He’s also thrown for 1,146 yards and seven scores.

Talk about that transition, Worth’s remarkable performance to date and what the first-year starter brings to the table for an offense that is producing over 35 points per game.

Navy Play-by-Play Voice Pete Medhurst:

Two words: Ivin Jasper. Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks coach simply gets the next guy ready. Every time. Mids employ a two huddle practice regimen and it proves to be a winning formula. Some teams the backup barely breaks a sweat, but, not at Navy.

UDD ECU Beat Writer Bubba Rosenbaum:

The fullback is also a focus point of Navy’s triple option attack. After the loss of Chris Swain—who produced 1,023 yards and 10 touchdowns a year ago, Chris High (473, 6.7, 5) needed to step up and seems to be doing so. Discuss his performance and also address which slot backs the Pirates need to be most aware of.

Navy Play-by-Play Voice Pete Medhurst:

These positions have been positions of great strength and depth of the program. Mids have always had two or three guys ready at fullback and this year have gone as many as seven deep at slot with production. High, who has been hampered by an ankle, has been solid when healthy, while Shawn White and Myles Swain, Chris’ brother have been awesome when called upon.

UDD ECU Beat Writer Bubba Rosenbaum:

When Navy passes, it will often be off play-action and frequently results in big play opportunities in the vertical passing game. Jamir Tillman was the leading receiver in 2015 and currently tops the team again. He finished with 29 receptions for 597 yards and five scores last year and has 29 catches for 459 yards this season.

How does Worth’s throwing ability compare to Reynolds and other than Tillman who do the Pirates need to be wary of when Middies throw?

Navy Play-by-Play Voice Pete Medhurst:

Worth throws a terrific ball. Been very accurate, I think like all QB’s he just needed to play to gain the true timing of game speed and each week has been better and better. The fact that the staff entrusted him to throw on 4th and 6 to put Notre Dame game away tells you how they feel about him. Plus, the offensive line has been incredible this year, not only dominant run blockers, but they have held up in passing situations very well.

UDD ECU Beat Writer Bubba Rosenbaum:

Defensively, the Midshipmen are ranked anywhere from 8th to 12th (last) in most defensive statistical categories and have been especially poor versus the pass—which is East Carolina’s strength. Who are some of Navy’s top playmakers on that side of the ball on each level of the defense and how do you see them matching up with the potent but mistake prone Pirates?

Navy Play-by-Play Voice Pete Medhurst:

Amos Mason leads a solid front three, while Micah Thomas and Freshmen Alohi Gilman have proven to be tackling machines. East Carolina’s offense is as challenging to play as any in the conference. Zay Jones is a pro. This league is gifted with several pros and it just challenges the defense, outside of Alabama and maybe LSU, who else is playing dominant defense or stopping these spreads????

UDD ECU Beat Writer Bubba Rosenbaum:

In addition to being the play-by-play man for Navy Football, what other capacities do you serve in for the Naval Academy or otherwise? Glancing at your bio, you seem to be involved in a variety of different sports in a number of different roles.

What are some of your most memorable moments as a play-by-play man for Navy football and in general—regardless of the sport? Are there any broadcasters—television, radio, etc.—that you really admire and seek to emulate in ways while maintaining your individuality?

Navy Play-by-Play Voice Pete Medhurst:

I think for me personally, telling the world about incredible student athletes is a blessing and privilege. Calling an Army-Navy game, Navy Mens lacrosse team in the 2004 National Championship game, Navy’s womens hoops team qualifying for the NCAA Tournament the first time, and the wins over Houston and Notre Dame this year have to be up there.

I have always admired Verne Lundquist. I can do any sport, and Verne’s versatility represented a great example to follow. Bob Socci, our former voice, who now calls New England Patriots games, taught me there was another level to preparation to this job. Dave Johnson, current radio voice of the Washington Wizards who gave me my first radio shot. Big fan of Mike Tirico, Brent Musburger, Tim Brando and current Duke Voice Bob Harris. As a guy who calls horse racing as well, NBC Voices Tom Durkin and now Larry Collmus, Dave Rodman, voice of Laurel Park and Preakness at Pimlico are great at what they do.

UDD ECU Beat Writer Bubba Rosenbaum:

Navy is currently a touchdown favorite over East Carolina—which is somewhat surprising given both teams performances to date. While the Pirates could very well have quite a bit of success against the Middies’ D, if their turnover troubles rear their ugly head again then this is a game that will likely become a blowout in a hurry.

What’s your take on Saturday’s match-up and how do you see it unfolding?

Navy Play-By-Play Voice Pete Medhurst:

No doubt ECU can move the ball. Last time coach Montgomery saw Navy, he was on staff at Duke that pounded us. No matter the opponent, we always have to play the perfect game. Coach Niumatalolo always stresses the margin for victory and success for us is small. Attention to detail will always be the key for Navy. Fans should be in store for a very entertaining game in one of my favorite places to go to.