East Carolina gashed by Navy in 56-28 loss
GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP)
Coach Ruffin McNeill's team allowed the Midshipmen to roll up 512 yards on the ground during a 56-28 loss on Saturday.
The Pirates (5-4) were favored by a field goal, but wound up again getting trounced at home by Navy - which approached the Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium record for opposing rushing offenses that it set in 2010 by gaining 521 yards rushing in a 76-35 romp.
''You have to make sure you're assignment-sound, and each play is a strain to make sure you carry that out,'' McNeill said. ''Sometimes what happens, a guy has his assignment and tries to do something else. That's usually when the big play happens. ... It's a discipline thing. You have to do it, play-in and play-out.''
This time, most of the damage was done by running back Gee Gee Greene and freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds. Greene had 131 yards rushing while Reynolds rushed for three touchdowns and threw for two more. In improving to 3-0 as Navy's starter, Reynolds scored on runs of 1, 1 and 2 yards to go with TD throws of 15 yards to Casey Bolena and 20 yards to Geoffrey Whiteside.
''We've worked hard - probably our best week of preparation all season - and it was good to see all that stuff come to fruition,'' Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. ''To see it come out on the field was very gratifying for our program.''
Marcus Thomas added a 17-yard touchdown run and Noah Copeland scored from 5 yards out for Navy. The Midshipmen (5-3) rolled up a season-best 512 yards rushing and won their fourth straight. Playing on a field that was soaked because of the approaching Hurricane Sandy, Navy scored on eight of its 11 possessions to put pressure on the Pirates' offense to keep up.
''I think it did get into our team's head a little bit, that they kept scoring,'' quarterback Shane Carden said. ''And that's one of the things, offensively, we can't have. That doesn't affect how we're moving the ball. If they score on our defense, that doesn't affect our offense moving the ball.''
Vintavious Cooper rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown and Reggie Bullock added two touchdown runs for the Pirates, who entered with one of Conference USA's top defenses but allowed its season high in yards rushing well before halftime.
''It's just execution - that's all I can say,'' Greene said. ''I can't really attest it to anything else but execution.''
Navy pulled away by scoring the first five times it touched the ball in the second half. Reynolds ran in from 2 yards out to cap a 10-play, 75-yard drive. Lance Ray fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Whiteside recovered at the East Carolina 29. Four plays later, Reynolds hit Bolena over the middle for just his second completion of the day to make it 35-14 with 8:09 left in the third. He added a 1-yard scoring sneak to push it to 42-14.
Reynolds's earlier 1-yard scoring run put the Midshipmen ahead for good at 21-14 with 2:04 to go before the break, and capped a first half in which their triple-option offense was nearly unstoppable except when they stopped themselves.
''They're a potent offense, so we were trying to get as much space as we could,'' Niumatalolo said.
Navy gained positive yardage on all but four offensive plays in the half - including the final snap, when Reynolds took a knee - and its 244 yards rushing at the break were nearly 100 more than the most the Pirates had allowed in any full game this season.
East Carolina turned Navy's only mistake - Chip Thompson picked off Reynolds in the end zone - into the 2-yard touchdown run by Bullock that briefly tied it at 14. It came after Carden pulled the Pirates to within 14-7 with a 9-yard scoring pass to Justin Hardy on the first play of the second quarter.
Carden finished 19 of 29 for 194 yards with an interception.
Navy was clicking early, producing touchdowns on its first two possessions. First, an untouched Thomas capped the Midshipmen's opening series by bursting through the right side to make it 7-0. Navy then went up by two touchdowns for the first time with 4 1/2 minutes left in the first quarter on Copeland's 5-yard scoring run.