Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Greenville

Navy Midshipmen vs. East Carolina Pirates Pick & Prediction SEPTEMBER 24th 2022

NCAAF | FOOTBALL
TV:
Logo Navy Midshipmen
VS
Logo East Carolina Pirates
48
OPENNER
-17

49o -105
CURRENT
-16.5 -110

+250
MONEYLINE
-300

23
SCORE
20

Quarterback Holton Ahlers and East Carolina will aim to start their conference schedule on a positive note when Navy visits Greenville, N.C., on Saturday afternoon.

East Carolina (2-1) has been humming after a heartbreaking one-point home loss to then-ranked No. 13 NC State in Week 1. The Pirates beat Old Dominion 39-21 before last week's 49-10 romp over Campbell, an in-state opponent from the FCS.

Ahlers threw for three touchdowns last week and is already up to 800 yards and seven TDs on the season while completing 67 percent of his passes. Earlier this season, Ahlers became the American Athletic Conference's all-time career leader in completions with 879.

The fifth-year quarterback has been a part of several East Carolina-Navy games before. The Midshipmen lead the all-time series 7-2, but ECU broke a five-game skid last year with a 38-35 win in Annapolis, Md. Ahlers racked up 405 yards and three touchdowns on 27-of-32 passing, outscoring a Navy attack that gained 345 rushing yards.

"He looks like an NFL quarterback," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "You don't realize how big he is (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) until you see him on the field. He's bigger than our outside linebackers. He's a big dude, smart, composed. ... I wouldn't be surprised if he got a shot on Sundays. He's got all the tools."

Navy (0-2, 0-1 AAC) is coming off a bye week after a 14-7 loss to FCS Delaware and a 37-13 setback to Memphis, both at home. Only one team, New Mexico State, has had a worse scoring offense in all of FBS than the Mids' 10 points per game this season.

But like every coach in the conference, ECU's Mike Houston has spent extra time scheming against Navy's triple-option offense -- increasingly a rarity in FBS football.

Houston said longtime assistant Roy Tesh, currently the Pirates' defensive tackles coach, has experience coaching against the triple when they ran it at previous stops together, including The Citadel of FCS.

"I think that's what we hang our hat on, is being a physical football team," Houston said. "But that's what Navy hangs their hat on too. ... Ken very much believes in a lot of the same things I believe in as far as how you win consistently."

--Field Level Media

PREDICTION
Navy Midshipmen
16
32
East Carolina Pirates

Navy Midshipmen vs. East Carolina Pirates

Nelson Smith ran for a career-high 157 yards and two touchdowns and Jamale Crothers rushed for 82 yards and a score to help visiting Navy remain unbeaten in the American Athletic Conference with a 27-23 victory against East Carolina on Saturday afternoon at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, N.C.

Navy (3-2, 3-0 AAC) ran for 288 yards behind an inconsistent yet opportunistic triple-option attack, holding on after ECU scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.

The Pirates (1-3, 1-2) rushed for 268 yards, with Rahjai Harris gashing Navy for a career-best 172 yards and a touchdown and quarterback Mason Garcia, a fellow freshman, running for 63 yards and a score.

After the Pirates drew to within 27-20 on an 80-yard touchdown run from Harris with 14:15 to go, the Midshipmen went three-and-out, leading to a 39-yard Jake Verity field goal. Navy got the ball back with 6:33 to play and possessed the ball until punting it away with 27 seconds to go.

The game ended when Navy intercepted an ECU lateral attempt near midfield on the final play.

Navy 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.

As a result, 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 Garcia scored from three yards out for his first career TD.

Navy responded with a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped off by a nine-yard Dalen Morris scoring run with 3:48 remaining in the second quarter. A poor snap and hold led to a missed point-after attempt, as the teams entered halftime tied at 13.

Garcia started in place of junior Holton Ahlers, who saw his streak of 15 successive starts end as he missed the game due to COVID-19-related protocols. Four other Pirates, including senior safety Tank Robinson, also were out due to COVID-19 protocol.

For Navy, Tyger Goslin relieved Morris under center in the third quarter after Morris absorbed a late hit while going to the ground. Morris didn't return.

Garcia was 10-for-20 passing for 109 yards.

--Field Level Media

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