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League : NCAAF

EAST CAROLINA vs NAVY Prediction & Preview



#117 United States Naval Academy
Midshipmen -2.5
#118 East Carolina University
Pirates 2.5

Saturday, October 17, 2020 at 12:00pm

Image licensed from USA Today Sports



The Navy Midshipmen and East Carolina Pirates will each look to pick up their second straight victory in an American Athletic Conference clash on Saturday afternoon in Greenville. Navy survived a late rally by the Temple Owls last weekend to win 31-29 as a three-point underdog to move to 2-2 overall. East Carolina is now 1-2 after crushing South Florida 44-24 as a 5.5-point underdog.

After cruising to a 42-10 victory in Annapolis last season, Navy has now won four in a row against the Pirates, including all three meetings since moving to the AAC.


Navy holds on to improve to .500

It's been a roller coaster of a season for the Midshipmen, who have alternated blowout losses with narrow wins en route to .500. Navy is currently atop the AAC standings at 2-0 in conference play, having beaten Temple and the Tulane Green Wave so far.


Despite opening up a 14-3 lead early in the second on touchdown runs by Jamale Carothers and Chance Warren, it wasn't easy against the Owls. Temple quarterback Anthony Russo accounted for three touchdowns to cut the lead to 28-23 with a minute left in the fourth, before Navy put together a trademark 15-play, nine-minute field goal drive. The Owls weren't done yet as Re'Mahn Davis scored with a minute to play, but Navy batted away the two-point conversion and recovered the subsequent onside kick to win 31-29 in a thriller.


The Midshipmen are also 2-2 against the spread, having lost by a combined 95-10 scoreline against the No.14 BYU Cougars and Air Force Falcons while also beating Tulane outright as a 6.5-point underdog. The over is 3-1 in Navy games this season, with the 40-7 loss to rival Air Force going under by half a point.

As expected from a triple-option team, Navy almost exclusively runs the ball with 166.8 rushing yards per game on 47 attempts, resulting in 17 points per game. Dalen Morris has hit on a few big passes downfield, completing 10 of 17 attempts for 203 yards and a touchdown. Fullback Nelson Smith has been Navy's most effective offensive player with 38 carries for 185 yards and four touchdowns, including 120 yards and two scores to help beat the Owls.

“The fullback is the first layer of the triple option. If he’s going, everything else opens up. Those boys ran hard,”Morris told the Capital Gazette.

Navy's defense allows 37 points per game on 275.3 rushing yards per game, as the Midshipmen have played mostly run-heavy teams themselves. The unit is dealing with some injuries, as top linebackers Diego Fagot, and Tama Tuitele both missed last Saturday and are questionable. Safety Evan Fotchman, who has 15 tackles and an interception this season, is also questionable with an undisclosed injury.


East Carolina gets in the win column

After winning just a single conference game a year ago, East Carolina is now 1-1 in AAC play this season following the comfortable victory against South Florida. The Bulls took a 7-3 lead, but it was all East Carolina after, as the Pirates rolled to a 31-point first-half highlighted by Holton Ahlers' 75-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Johnson. The beleaguered Pirates defense helped out, allowing only a single touchdown in the second half. Johnson finished with two scores, and the Pirates ran the ball for over 200 yards as a team.


"That was the big focus of the week, we had to run the ball better. We really wanted to get the ball to C.J. He should've had a bigger night than he did," head coach Mike Houston said to 247sports. "He had a couple of balls he probably should've been able to convert there also. But certainly the two huge plays are difference-making plays. He has that ability."

East Carolina is now 2-1 against the spread this year after managing a last-minute cover as a 27.5-point underdog against the UCF Knights before losing 49-29 as a one-point favorite against the Georgia State Panthers. All three Pirates games have gone over the total this year.

Ahlers had his best game of the year by far against South Florida, completing 17 of his 26 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns. The junior is now completing 57.1 of his passes for 673 yards, six touchdowns, and four interceptions this year, with East Carolina averaging 33.7 points per game. Despite the good effort on Saturday, the Pirates' defense is still allowing 41.3 points per game, including 317.3 yards per game through the air.

East Carolina has not released an updated injury report. Still, starting offensive tackles Noah Henderson and D'Ante Smith have missed the last two games, and it's unclear if they will be available Saturday.

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