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Preview, How to Watch: In Annapolis, Navy hosts East Carolina

Navy has beat ECU in five consecutive games.

Navy v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

This week is a start of a new season for the Navy Midshipmen football team. Wipe out the record, and focus on ending the season strong with three big wins: ECU, Temple and Army.

If you split the schedule into thirds, you will see three completely different Navy football teams.

The first third was before the first bye week. Navy was outscored by a tilt of 72-10. After everyone looked a bit lost, Ken Niumatalolo took over play-calling duties from Ivin Jasper.

In the second third, Navy went 2-5 but battled in every game including one against a potential playoff team in Cincinnati. Here, the offense began to go back to its old ways. The defense has improved every game, especially in the secondary.

Now, the final third. The memory-making one.

Navy will look to upset a bowl-eligible East Carolina, then top Temple on a short road trip, and then beat the biggest rival of them all in Army. It all begins Saturday at Navy-Marine Corp Stadium against the Pirates.

East Carolina clinched its first bowl-eligible season since 2015 with a 30-29 victory in overtime over Memphis last Saturday.

Quarterback Holton Ahlers did not throw a single touchdown on Saturday, although he passed for 313 yards and helped the team to double the first downs that Memphis had. On defense, they kept the Tigers quiet on the ground as they had only 108.

The Midshipmen will look to win its sixth straight against the Pirates on Saturday, as ECU will look for their first win against Navy since 2011.

Navy Offense vs. ECU Defense

Outside of the Notre Dame game, the Midshipmen offense keeps getting better and better. They’ve outrun their opponent in three consecutive games and now rank 16th in the country in rushing offense. In six of their last seven games, the Midshipmen have scored 17+ points.

The Midshipmen may have some injury issues behind center though, as Tai Lavatai did not play the whole second half against Notre Dame with a neck injury.

Luckily for the Midshipmen, ECU has a very mediocre rush defense. They rank 60th in the country but have yet to have given up more than 108 rushing yards in a game this month.

The Pirates are led by its leading tackler, Ja’Quan McMillian who has 49 tackles, and five interceptions on the season.

ECU ranks 76th in the country in total defense.

Navy Defense vs ECU Offense

ECU’s bread-and-butter is its offense. Navy over the last couple of seasons has become a stalwart on defense. Expect a battle on that side of the ball.

Holton Ahlers ranks 24th in the nation in passing yards, along with passing for 14 touchdowns this season. On the ground, the Pirates have rushed for 100+ passing yards in all but two of its games this season.

A lot of that rushing success comes from freshman sensation, Keaton Mitchell. Mitchell is only 17 yards away from picking up the first 1,000-yard rushing season for ECU since Vintavious Cooper did so in 2013.

In the air, Tyler Snead has 56 catches (24 more than the next closest guy) for a grand total of 627 receiving yards. Ahlers airs the ball out to all his receivers though, as 10 different Pirates have a catch this season.

For the Midshipmen, they’ve kept their opponents quiet on offense, especially in the month of November where the opponent has not picked up more than 300 yards of total offense. Outside of the first game against Marshall, the Midshipmen have not given up more than 35 yards.

Navy has been averaging two defensive turnovers a game, as senior leader Diego Fagot is leading the way once again with 78 tackles.

Sadly for the Midshipmen, senior captain Kevin Brennan will not be available for the final three games this season.

HOW TO WATCH

  • When: Saturday, Nov. 20 – 3:30 P.M. EST
  • Where: Navy-Marine Corp Stadium – Annapolis, Maryland
  • Watch: John Sadak, Randy Cross and Sheehan Stanwick Burch will have the call on CBS Sports Network
  • Spread: Most books have the Pirates as a four-point favorite with the over-under set at 47.