Season so far
The Mids oddly positioned bye week during the second week of the season means that for the foreseeable future most teams will have played one game more than Navy. East Carolina got off to a sloppy start against a Towson team which is two years removed from an FCS Title Game appearance, but which finished just 4-8 in 2014. The Pirates did have a breakout star in this performance, however, with senior running back Chris Hairston ripping off four touchdowns in the win. This was followed by a loss at Florida where the Pirates entered as three touchdown underdogs, but were only a touchdown away from tying the game when quarterback Blake Kemp fumbled deep in Florida territory with 12 seconds remaining. This puts the Pirates at 1-1 on the season.
Injuries and Suspensions
ECU has a host of injury problems which began when sophomore quarterback Kurt Benkert was ruled out for the season in late August less than a week after being named as the Pirates starter. Just this week the quarterback position took another hit when junior Cody Keith, the backup to start the season, announced he was leaving the team to concentrate on getting his body healthy. This makes what was once a position of strength for the Pirates a serious question mark after starter Kemp.
The Pirates have been hit hard by injuries in 2015. Senior backup linebacker Jeton Beavers is out for the year with an ACL problem and offensive lineman Dontae Levingston is still struggling to get back to fitness after he picked up a shoulder injury against Towson. One piece of good news for ECU is that true freshman wide receiver Deondre Farrier (initially a Florida commit) could well be available to play for the first time this season. Farrier would add an instant dose of speed and explosiveness to the passing attack.
One of the big challenges for Navy this game will be adjusting to the pressures of conference play. In seasons gone by the Mids have focused on the Army, Air Force and Notre Dame games, treating those as the most important on the schedule with the other games not having as much meaning. Now though Navy has a full conference schedule in addition to the aforementioned games, in essence giving the Mids just one game of down time (Colgate) during the year. Ken Niumatalolo will be preaching all week about how conference play changes a player’s mindset and it will be very interesting to see how the Mids adjust on Saturday.