Senior fullback Nelson Smith ran for a career-high 157 yards and two touchdowns, leading Navy to a 27-23 victory over East Carolina on Saturday afternoon at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. With the win, the Mids improve to 3-0 in the American Athletic Conference and sit alone in first place.
Jamale Carothers also notched 82 yards with a touchdown to pace the Midshipmen efforts on the ground. Navy quarterback Dalen Morris, who scored his first-career rushing touchdown in the first half, was knocked out of the game on a late hit with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.
The Midshipmen struggled to find an offensive rhythm for much of the first half, mixing a pair of turnovers and two punts in with a touchdown over its first five possessions. Navy was able to get rolling in the third quarter on the ground and started to impose their will on the Pirates to then hold off a late rally in the fourth for the victory. It was a much more consistent performance this week from the Midshipmen unlike the past four weeks. It did help to be going against a short-handed Pirates on the offensive side of the ball.
East Carolina started three successive drives inside Midshipmen territory, but the Pirates came away with just 10 points during that span. The Pirates put together an eight-play touchdown drive to take their first lead of the afternoon with 7:03 to go before halftime, punctuating the possession when backup Mason Garcia scored from three yards out for his first career TD.
Freshman running back Rahjai Harris exploded for a career-high 172 yards on 22 rushes and a touchdown while quarterback Mason Garcia– who played in place of regular starter Holton Ahlers, completed 10-of-20 passes for 104 yards. Garcia also added 63 rushing yards and a three-yard touchdown run. Harris nearly became the first East Carolina running back to collect a 200-yard effort since Breon Allen’s 211-yard showing against North Carolina back on Sept. 20, 2014.
Ahlers, along with running backs Darius Pinnix & Demetrius Mauney, defensive end Damir Faison and senior safety Tank Robinson were all out due to COVID 19 protocols. The Pirates fought hard and have shown major growth in comparison to their previous games against Navy, but ultimately came up short.
If Ahlers is in the line-up we may be talking about an East Carolina victory especially with how well the defense played against the triple-option. Navy was successful late in the game but all in all successful by keeping themselves in the game throughout and creating turnovers early on.
The Pirates are starting to show some solid signs the past two weeks. Hopefully, the team will have to regroup this week with some time off and rest to get everyone healthy.
Up next for the Pirates is a bye week. Then they will travel to Tulsa for a Friday Night matchup on Oct. 30.
As for the Midshipmen, they will be hosting the Houston Cougars next Saturday Oct. 24.