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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 27, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (50,000) -- Greenville, North Carolina. Television: FCS. Home Record: Navy 2-1, ECU 3-0. Away Record: Navy 2-1, ECU 2-3. Neutral Record: Navy 0-1, ECU 0-0. Conference Record: Navy 0-0, ECU 4-1. Series Record: Navy leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: Two teams riding waves of momentum are set for a head on collision when the Navy Midshipmen invade Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for non-conference action with the East Carolina Pirates.
Navy is above .500 for the first time this season after a disappointing 1-3 start. The Midshipmen extended their winning streak to three last week with a thrilling come from behind 31-30 victory over Indiana. Navy began its winning streak by defeating both Air Force and Central Michigan on the road. Ken Niumatalolo experienced his first losing season as a head coach in 2011 when Navy finished 5-7. Now in his fifth season at the helm of the program, his career record is 36-24.
ECU won its second straight and third in four outings last week as it took down UAB, 42-35, in a C-USA shootout at Legion Field. The Pirates return home this week where they are 3-0 with an 22-point average margin of victory this season. However, ECU has lost its last four non-conference home games against FBS opposition. The Pirates will become bowl eligible for the sixth time since 2006 if they manage to defend their turf this week. Coach Ruffin McNeal comes in with a 17-17 career record and a 16-17 mark with the program.
This will be only the fourth meeting between these programs. Although Navy holds a 2-1 edge in the rivalry's history, ECU picked up a 38-35 victory when these team's met in Annapolis last year.
Navy struggled to score early on this season, but it has improved in recent weeks. Although they average just 21.1 ppg, the Midshipmen have scored 90 combined points during their three-game winning streak. The increased scoring output is a direct result of improved ball security as Navy has not turned the ball over in three straight games.
The Midshipmen have a notorious tendency to pound away with the triple option rushing attack. Navy's commitment to the run has given it the 13th ranked rushing offense in the FBS with 236.7 yards per game and the 117th ranked passing offense with 116.4 yards per game.
Navy uses a stable of different style runners in its offense. Fullback Noah Copeland (89 carries, 380 yards) and slot back Gee Gee Greene (56 carries, 380 yards, TD) are the top performers out of the backfield.
With Trey Miller on the injured list last week, Keenan Reynolds started under center and threw for 96 yards and a touchdown on 8-of-13 passing. Miller is probable to return this week, but Reynolds could still see significant action, especially after finishing off last week's fourth quarter comeback with the game-winning touchdown pass.
Greene is the team's leading receiver with 187 yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions. The wide receiver tandem of Shawn Lynch and Brandon Turner have gained 167 yards and a touchdown each.
Despite picking up the victory last week, Navy allowed Indiana to gain 417 yards of total offense, one week after holding Central Michigan to just 221 yards. The Midshipmen have held their last five opponents to an average of 15.8 ppg.
Linebacker Keegan Wetzel is off to a great start to his senior campaign, recording 36 stops and team-highs of 8.5 TFL and four sacks. Jordan Drake will look to be a playmaker for the second game in a row after returning an interception for six at a crucial point in last week's win over the Hoosiers.
The ECU offense is coming off of its best performance of the season, as it set new season-highs with 42 points and 600 yards of total offense against UAB. The Pirates have eclipsed the 40-point mark in back-to-back games and now average 382.5 yards and 25.8 points per contest.
Shane Carden took over as the starting quarterback early on the season and has shown steady progression each time out, completing 64.1 percent of his passes (141-of-210) for 1,685 yards, 11 TDs, and five interceptions. The sophomore quarterback set a new career-high with 386 passing yards his last time out.
Justin Hardy has made Carden's life as a first-year starter much easier by reeling in everything that comes his way. Hardy has more than three times as many yards (749) as any other receiver on ECU and eight of the team's 13 touchdown grabs.
Vintavious Cooper is the go-to-guy out of the backfield for the Pirates. The junior tailback leads the team with 630 yards on 111 carries.
The Pirates have a winning record despite having a streaky defense. ECU allowed UAB to surpass its season averages in points (35) and total offense (401) last week. In the same contest, UAB gained only 82 rushing yards which is encouraging going into a game versus Navy. The unit has played well in terms of forcing turnovers as well, recording five interceptions and recovering nine fumbles.
Damon Magazu (48 tackles), Jeremy Grove (55 tackles, 3.5 TFL, two FF) and Chip Thompson (33 tackles, two INT) anchor the defense. The team has 13 sacks this season, with Gabriel Woullard notching a team-best 2.5.
Carden has looked great over the past two weeks against Memphis and UAB, but Navy will be a tougher test. ECU's sophomore quarterback needs to be efficient as the Midshipmen are capable of dominating the time of possession battle. The Pirates hold a slight edge due to their homefield advantage, but one miscue by either side could be the outcome's deciding factor.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: East Carolina 34, Navy 28
10/24 10:32:01 ET
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