Navy Midshipmen (0-2, 0-1 American) vs East Carolina Pirates (2-1, American)
Time and Date: 6:00 PM ET, September 24
Broadcast Network: ESPN+
Location: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium - Greenville, NC
ESPN FPI: East Carolina 89.7%
Line: East Carolina -17*
Point Total: 48.5*
All-Time Series: Navy leads the all-time series against East Carolina 7-2
Last Meeting: East Carolina 38 Navy 35 - November 20, 2021
Current Streak: East Carolina, 1
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
Navy utilized their early season bye week to try to right the ship. In Week 1, Navy suffered an agonizing 14-7 defeat at the hands of FCS Delaware. Then, it got even worse for the Midshipmen as they were demolished by Memphis in their home opener. If Ken Niumatalolo wants to prevent a third consecutive losing season, he needs a win against ECU as Navy’s schedule gets considerably more difficult as the season goes on.
Niumatalolo likely used this week trying to find a spark on offense, which is the main issue for the Midshipmen. While Navy has always employed a rushing by committee style in their triple option scheme, they usually find a player or two who stand out above the rest. Through two games, Navy’s leading rusher is a wide receiver, Maquel Haywood, who has the lowest rushing attempts of any starter on offense. Haywood has 82 yards.
Even if Navy finds an offensive weapon, they need to be able to make stops on defense. While there are no apples to apples comparisons a year later, the Midshipmen lost by 17 more points against Memphis despite having the home field advantage this time around. Last season, Navy lost four one-score games. This group may struggle to keep games as close.
Navy’s situation pales in comparison to what is happening at ECU. Mike Houston is in Year four of what appears to be a successful program rebuild. While the last Pirates head coach Scottie Montgomery failed to win more than three games, Houston went 7-5 and finished tied for third in the American during his third season in Greenville. Through three games, Houston’s squad looks like it can push for another bowl game berth and winning season.
ECU gave NC State all they could handle in their first game of the season when they lost on missed field goal as time expired. However, the Pirates have rebounded nicely with two wins over Old Dominion and Campbell. While it comes against lesser competition, the Pirates have improved each game by scoring more points on offense while simultaneously giving up less points on defense than each prior game. This culminated this past weekend with the aforementioned 49-10 win over Campbell.
However, this game was really all about fifth Year Senior QB Holton Ahlers who is red hot. Ahlers became the all-time leader in yards for ECU while also setting a new high for passing yards in a career for the American Athletic Conference. Ahlers was dropping dimes and finished 17/20 passing with 263 yards and three TDs.
Holton Ahlers dropped some dimes last night. This may have been his best one. pic.twitter.com/kCFV6M3pKs— Stephen Igoe (@StephenIgoe) September 18, 2022
While ECU will have to adapt to the triple option, Navy haven’t looked a threat so far. Meanwhile, Ahlers can do no wrong at the moment on offense. ECU will blow Navy out at home, 35-17.