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ECU Pirates take to the air and land to sink Navy, 38-35:
Davis surpasses two Aaron Rodgers passing records
Annapolis, MD - Jon Teague's 42-yard FG attempt had the height and the distance in the waning seconds of Navy's Homecoming game in front of 34,612 fans, but the ball hit the right upright and fell back on to the playing field as Navy lost its fifth straight game of the season, fourth by three points or less. ECU QB Dominique Davis completed all 26 passes in the first half to set two NCAA records against Navy's very feeble pass defense, or in my eyes its very poor defense in general. The Mids can't stop anybody. Despite their triple-option ball control offense, its defense defeats the purpose as they can't keep anyone from scoring on long touchdown drives. In the first half, the Pirates possessed the ball for 18:13 to lead 17-7. We saw the Mids fall at South Carolina , 24-21, where Marcus Lattimore could not be stopped on the ground. The Saturday before last, Rutgers struggling offense defeated them 21-20 before we saw the Mids' D let Davis (40 of 45 for 372 yards, 2 TDS) open fire at will to complete all 26 first half passing attempts. He broke the record of 23 consecutive in a half held by Cal's Aaron Rodgers and Tennessee's Tee Martin. With 10 straight completions to end the game against Memphis the week before, his 36 straight eclipsed Rodgers mark of 26 over two games. The Mids (2-5) also lost a one-point game in OT after a penalty set them up for a blocked extra point to Air Force.
After a scoreless first
quarter marked by two missed FGS by ECU's Michael Barbour, the Mids completed an
80-yard scoring drive with SB Gee Gee Green scoring on a 13-yard run.
Normally because of Navy's running game, their games are pretty quick because the clock rarely stops, but I've got to say that CSTV takes advantage to extend the game. Every change of possession and every injury timeout is marked by the guy in the red jacket coming out on the field for a TV time-out. It's worse than being at a pro game. I was considering running a bus trip down there to see a game in the future, but my wife would shoot the guy in the red! And I wouldn't blame her. It's ridiculous. The time-outs are all lengthy. The game action has too many interruptions. ECU's band who performed at the half is a fun band during the game. Their primary fight song is and energetic "Yo-ho! Yo-ho! A pirate's life for me!" After their performance, the Navy Drum and Bugle Corps did their stirring renditions of "Anchors aweigh!" and "The Marine Corps Hymn!"
Maybe the music stirred the Mids to start the second half with a bang as Marcus Thomas returned the ball 90-yards for a TD to close the score quickly , 17-14. Once again, Navy's defense folded when ECU started from the 30 and drove the length of the field before Reggie Bullock (26 carries for 104 yards, 3 TDs) carried over from the one. Navy punted from its own six as the O still struggled with Miller ( 5 for 12, 126 yards, 2 TDs) at QB. The punt from the six hit a Pirate blocker up around midfield and Navy recovered, but the officials ruled that he was blocked into the ball. He shouldn't have been that close and the reason wasn't that evident. As it was explained by the Conference USA official who sounded like he hailed from somewhere in North Carolina, Guest Game analyst Frank Lorito blurted, "Hey , wasn't he on the charter bus we saw before the game marked 'Greenville, NC' on the back?" Previously, there was no call by the refs on the play where Proctor was injured on what looked like a blatant roughing the passer call. Navy's D held them to a three and out for the first time. On a one-yard sweep left by FB Alex Teich, Navy finished off a 63-yard scoring drive to trail, 24-21, and that score remained going into the last period. However, Teague's kickoff went out of bounds to start ECU's ensuing drive from their 40.
Seven seconds into the fourth, Bullock scored on a 13-yard run to the right to lead, 31-21. This is where Trey Miller added a new dimension to the Navy offense. He threw a long, high-arching pass to wide open Brandon Turner for a 59-yard scoring pass to cut the score down to three again. Unexpectedly, Navy's D held the Pirates to a three and out once again. Starting from the Navy 35, Miller showed his arm strength again with a 37-yard TD pass to Matt Aiken to give USNA a 35-31 lead. Now the defense had 7:51 left to at least hold ECU to just a FG to maintain the lead and overcome the visitors from working the clock. Starting from their own 24 and utilizing a no-huddle as the had early in the game, ECU moved the ball the length of the field. With 2:14 left, Bullock scored again from 3 yards out to retake the lead, 38-35. Unlike the previous two losses for Navy that we attended when their triple option offense lacked quick-scoring capabilities, we knew the Mids had a chance now having seen Miller throw the ball. From their own 25, Navy got down to the 33 with less than a minute left. On the next play, Miller showed his arm off again throwing the ball near the goal line where WR Matt Aiken made a diving catch as he controlled the ball as he crossed over the goal line breaking the plane for a supposed touchdown. We had a perfect view of the catch from our seats in section 1, 28 rows up. However, when Aiken landed with control, the ground forced him to cough the ball up. The officials ruled the pass incomplete. Navy HC Ken Niumatalolo issued the challenge. The ACC official in the booth confirmed the call, and Navy lost its last remaining time-out! Miller fired to Aiken for an eight-yard gain and the Mids hustled their FG unit on to the field to attempt to tie the score and send it into overtime. The kick went up and fell from high atop the goal post as time expired. Navy's record fell along with it to 2-5. The Pirates sailed away with a record of 3-4. It was an exciting game that went down to the end again with Navy on the short side of the score for the third time we watched them play this year.
ECU hosts a weak Tulane Green Wave next week before four other C-USA games. Navy heads to South Bend where it's not expected to surprise the Irish as it has the last three of four meetings, especially with this defense. If they suffer their sixth loss, four wins in a row are needed against Troy, at SMU, at San Jose, and in their big one versus Army to get a bid to the Military Bowl. Not only are we pessimistic that they will, but to be honest, no team with a defense that bad deserves a bowl bid. They will have to stop all four of them on defense, and that hasn't happened yet. Collegefootballfan.com wraps ups October with our fourth consecutive FBS game when we see Penn State and Illinois square off in a Big Ten battle.
Extra points: Great interview with WHBC out of Canton, Ohio with Dave and Ben on that station on the way down.
Annapolis is one of our favorite towns to visit. We especially enjoy going to the Annapolis Cigar Shop on Main Street where we bought cigars, brought in our own libation and watched games on ESPN with a few Mids who were lighting up and watching as well. This time, the town dock was actually open to go out and view the harbor.
We tailgated at the local Lutheran church where we tailgates with many Purple and Gold fans from ECU. It was amazing how many had left after we returned to the car after the game.
It's tempting to think about going to Dublin, Ireland next season for Navy's opener on Sept 1 against Notre Dame. Never been to Ireland. Sounds like a good excuse to go. "Oh , Honey..." I know she'll say we can't afford it.
The home games next year are slim pickings -VMI, San Jose, Indiana, Florida Atlantic, and Texas State. If I ran a bus tour, I'm not sure what I'd select. But if I did go, I would spend a lot more time before the game reading about all the U.S. Navy history on all the plaques in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Air Force, Pitt, Hawaii and South Alabama come in the following year, but all the kids in town who are friends with my son Eric, and many of whom I've coached in baseball and basketball in town over the years, will most likely be away in college for their freshman year by then. Maybe we can go see some of them play football in college.
With my niece, Katie (Frank's stepdaughter) matriculating at ECU, we talked about venturing down to the rematch in Greenville next season. Haven't been there yet. May be a good opportunity.
The pre-game flyover was performed by the MA 18 "Super Hornets" out of Oceana, Virginia. It's awesome to sit right under that display of power overhead. Go Navy!