Speaking of the Midshipmen, they’ve had a topsy-turvy season thus far. Navy has gotten blown out in two non-conference games against BYU and Air Force, being out-scored 95-10 in those two games. However, the Midshipmen have won inside the conference, knocking off both Tulane and Temple. They are currently the only 2-0 team in AAC play, putting them at the top of the conference standings and in the driver’s seat for the time being. But it’s worth noting that Navy won those two games by a total of five points and needed a miraculous comeback to beat Tulane, so there are lingering questions about whether the Midshipmen are legitimate contenders in the AAC.
Dalen Morris is the quarterback who’s running the Navy triple-option this season. However, it’s Jamale Carothers and Nelson Smith who are betting most of the carriers and doing most of the damage. The problem is that the Midshipmen are averaging just 3.5 yards per carry on the season. The Navy offense is functioning but is far from excelling. Morris isn’t doing much damage as a runner and the Midshipmen are creating a lot of explosive plays in the running game.
Defensively, the Midshipmen are getting pushed around at the line of scrimmage. Outside of the second half of the Tulane game when they pitched a shutout, the Navy defense has been a disappointment. The secondary has been viable to some extent, but the Midshipmen have been unable to stop the run consistently. BYU blew them away in the season opener while Temple gained five yards per carry against Navy last week, indicating that those problems haven’t been fixed.
East Carolina Preview
The Pirates are coming off their first win of the season last week, a convincing 44-24 victory over South Florida. But that was just a small step in the right direction after a pair of lopsided losses to Central Florida and Georgia State. Mike Houston still has a lot of work to do after the Pirates were just 1-7 in conference play last season. The good news is that one more win is all it’ll take to improve upon that record in 2020. However, this week’s home game against Navy might be ECU’s best chance to get a second win.
Despite a strong performance against a suspect USF offense, quarterback Holton Ahlers is yet to take a substantial step forward. He threw more interceptions than touchdowns in ECU’s first two games of the season and has seen his completion percentage and yards per pass average both drop from last year. The good news is the ECU running game has been productive in two of the team’s three games, although it was non-existent in the loss to Georgia State. If Rahjaj Harris can build off of his 115-yard, two-touchdown performance last week, the Pirates won’t have to ask too much of Ahlers, which should help make him a more efficient quarterback.
On the defensive side of the ball, there is just as much work to do for East Carolina. All three teams the Pirates have faced this season have had an abundance of success throwing the ball against the ECU defense. The fact that South Florida had almost as many passing yards against ECU as the Bulls had in their first three games combined is a concern going forward. Fortunately for the Pirates, they shouldn’t have to defend the pass too often against Navy.
Full Game Prediction
As with most games involving a triple-option team, Navy’s offense will be the biggest influence in the outcome of this game. As mentioned, the Midshipmen have been solid if unspectacular rushing the ball while the ECU defense has been able to contain the running game for much of the season. If the Pirates can get a handle on the triple-option and make this a low-scoring game, they’ll have a chance to find their rhythm offensively without forcing Ahlers to carry them.
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