Head-to-head: Navy vs. East Carolina

Navy travels to Greenville, North Carolina to face the East Carolina Pirates after a stunning loss to Duke. Pirates new head coach Ruffin Mc Neill, who came from Texas Tech, has brought a more wide open attack to East Carolina. The Pirates lost to Central Florida 49-35 last Saturday in a battle for Conference USA's East division.

These programs only previous meeting was in 2006 when the Mids defeated ECU 28-23 in Annapolis.

East Carolina
Navy rushing offense
East Carolina rushing defense
Navy struggled to get its running game going last weekend as Duke did a terrific job defending the option. They held Navy to just 148 rushing yards and four yards a carry. Navy enters this game ranked tenth in the nation in rushing yards averaging 258 yards a game. Ricky Dobbs led Navy with 83 yards rushing against Duke and scored one touchdown to pass former quarterback Chris McCoy for the most rushing touchdowns in Navy's history. Fullback Alexander Teich, 482 yards and two touchdowns this season, had trouble connecting with Dobbs on the mesh that led to two first half fumbles. The Blue Devils beat the "A" backs and wide receiver blocks all day and allowed only 22 yards rushing combined by Navy's slot backs. East Carolina lost nine starters from last years' Conference USA title winning team and it shows. The Pirates are ranked 92nd in the nation in run defense allowing over 184 rushing yards a game. East Carolina plays a 4-3 defense. Appropriately named senior weak side linebacker Dustin Lineback leads the team in tackles with 74. Senior middle linebacker Melvin Patterson has overcome two straight injury plagued seasons to post 67 tackles. Pirates have allowed 37 points per game. Central Florida ran right at the Pirates last week and they couldn't stop them allowing 265 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.  
Navy passing offense
East Carolina passing defense
Ricky Dobbs completed 13 of 27 passes for a career high 227 yards and two touchdowns last weekend against Duke. It wasn't Navy's day from the start when Dobbs was sacked on the Mids' first offensive series with a pass attempt. Wide receiver Greg Jones had a tremendous game with 9 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown. He also drew a pass interference flag that kept a touchdown drive alive. Aaron Santiago has really helped the passing game, six catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns, since returning from his hamstring injury. Fellow slot back Gee Gee Greene had one catch for 31 yards and averages 15.7 yards a reception. East Carolina has struggled defending the pass this year. The Pirates allow over 255 passing yards a game and rank 103rd in the nation. The Pirates don't generate a lot of pressure up front and are starting two freshmen. Strong safety Bradley Jacobs had a career-high nine tackles against Central Florida. Jacobs a junior college transfer has had a positive impact with two interceptions.  
East Carolina rushing offense
Navy rushing defense
East Carolina runs the Texas Tech style spread passing offense with a single back and four receivers. The Pirates average only 118 rushing yards a game but that's not the focal point of their offense. Starting running back Jonathan Williams leads the Pirates with 483 yard and six touchdowns. The elusive Williams averages five yards a carry. Giovanni Ruffin is physical and splits time at running back with Williams. Ruffin has rushed for 251 yards. Quarterback Dominique Davis is mobile and has rushed for seven touchdowns this year. Navy ranks 65th in the nation against the run. After the first half the Mids did a nice job limiting Duke's running game. Navy allowed 142 yards rushing and only gave up 3.2 yards a carry. It was Duke's decision to attempt to use the clock by running the ball that allowed Navy to get back in the game. Inside linebacker Tyler Simmons led the Midshipmen with a career high 17 tackles against Duke. Nose tackle Chase Burge was extremely active and had 11 tackles.  
East Carolina passing offense
Navy passing defense
East Carolina 's passing offense is averaging 304 yards per game and ranks ninth in the country. Junior transfer quarterback Dominique Davis is mobile with a strong accurate arm and a quick release. Davis has already thrown for 2,333 yards this season while completing 64.9 percent of his passes. Davis has 21 touchdown passes against 11 interceptions. The Pirates run a far more efficient and effective version of the Louisiana Tech and Duke offense that have given Navy fits. They spread the field with four receiver sets and will often use no huddle sets. The Pirates' best receiver is inside slot receiver Dwayne Harris who has 63 catches and has scored six touchdowns. Lance Lewis provides the main threat outside with 48 catches and a team leading seven touchdowns. East Carolina's offensive line does a very good job protecting Davis. Senior guard D.J. Scott, 6-6, 323 pounds, is one of the best offensive lineman in Conference USA. After Navy's abysmal defensive performance against Duke their ranking dropped from 15th in the nation in pass defense to 31st. The Mids are yielding 191 passing yards a game. Navy has had trouble against spread passing teams with their bend but don't break scheme but usually prevail. Against Duke's Sean Renfree it just broke as the Mids had no answers for Renfree who completed 28 of 30 passes for 314 yards and one touchdown pass. He tied a school record by completing his first 16 passes. Cornerbacks Kwesi Mitchell, 3 tackles and Kevin Edwards, 3 tackles, were picked apart underneath as they played their soft zone coverage. Navy needs to tightened their coverage or this can be another long day.  
Special Teams
The Pirates kicker Matt Barbour doesn't have a big leg but is deadly accurate hitting 10 of 11 field goal attempts this year. Punter Ben Ryan averages 40.4 yards a punt. East Carolina's Dwayne Harris returns both punts and kickoffs and can make people miss in the open field. The Pirates have allowed 9.1 yards per punt return but do a better job on kickoff coverage Navy's Kyle Delahooke, after some solid outings, had a poor game against Duke as he averaged just 35.3 yards on his three punts. The special teams kickoff coverage had its second good game in a row. Jon Teague didn't have to attempt a field goal with Joe Buckley out. Marcus Thomas showed good speed on kick returns, returning three kickoffs for 65 yards. Navy does miss Alexander Teich on kickoff returns since he was moved into starting lineup. Punt returner Gary Myers has averaged 6.1 yards a return.  
The new coach Ruffin McNeill from Texas Tech brings a more wide open attack to East Carolina. McNeill took over a team that graduated almost all his defense and is rebuilding it on the fly. He's done a nice job this year. Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley is the youngest coordinator in the country at 27. This game might depend on whether or not Buddy Green's defense can follow the SMU and Louisiana template of rushing four and getting the spread passing offense out of rhythm. Last week against Duke it was Renfree playing pitch and catch with his receivers.  
Navy's will be motivated after their disappointing loss to Duke. Ken Niumatalolo is 9-1 after a loss as head coach at Navy. East Carolina is coming in off a tough conference loss to division rival Central Florida.  

PREDICTION: Navy, 35-31. Navy should be able to run the ball on East Carolina's struggling defense. However East Carolina's spread passing offense is the type that gives the Mids fits. I expect this to be a shoot out.

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