Week 9 football preview: Navy at East Carolina

Reynolds Indiana

Keenan Reynolds eludes Indiana defenders en route to the end zone Saturday. A win this weekend at East Carolina would be the freshman’s third straight as Navy’s starting quarterback. (US Presswire photo by Evan Habeeb)

What Navy fans need to know as the Mids do something the Navy’s been pretty good at — fight Pirates.

Who, where, when: Navy (4-3) at East Carolina (5-3, 4-1 Conference USA), Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

TV: Fox College Sports Atlantic (Adam Alexander and Gary Reasons have the call; check here to see if you can tune in).

Gambling is illegal in most states: East Carolina is a 3.5-point favorite.

Revenge game: Navy missed a game-tying field goal with eight seconds to play as the Pirates wrecked homecoming last year with a 38-35 win in Annapolis. Quarterback Trey Miller, subbing for an injured Kriss Proctor, threw fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Brandon Turner and Matt Aiken, and Gee Gee Greene led the Mids with 92 yards on the ground. More about the game, and about the controversial call involving Aiken that Navy fans might rather forget, here.

That Hardy boy: While Aiken’s coming off some heroics against Indiana, he won’t be the receiver to watch Saturday. That honor goes to Justin Hardy, an ECU sophomore who ranks 18th in the nation in yards per game (93.63) and has hauled in eight touchdowns. Hardy’s presence in ECU’s spread offense adds to the pressure faced by Navy’s young secondary, especially cornerbacks freshman Kwazel Bertrand and sophomore Parrish Gaines, who’ll look to build on his game-clinching interception last week. More about the defense here.

Elite company: Want to avenge a game lost after a missed field goal with seconds left? Then you want Nick Sloan on your side. The Navy freshman has made all 17 extra-point attempts and all seven field goals he’s tried this season. The only other perfect kicker in the nation is Alabama senior Jeremy Shelley, who’s been a bit busier (35-for-35 on extra points, 8-for-8 FGs).

Clearing the middle: The mission for Navy blockers on Saturday — keep 327-pound ECU sophomore Terry Williams from clogging the Mids’ triple-option attack. Williams, who outweighs Navy starting center Tanner Fleming by more than 50 pounds, has returned from an early-season suspension to record 4.5 tackles for loss, second-most on the team. If the line can’t wall off Williams, sophomore fullback Noah Copeland, who leads the team with 89 carries on the year, may have a long day going up the middle.

Praise for Reynolds: What can you say about a freshman quarterback coming off the bench to beat Air Force, then winning on the road at night against Central Michigan and leading a homecoming rally to beat a Big Ten school? Here’s what some have said so far regarding Keenan Reynolds; more praise to come if he can win on the road again to move Navy within a game of bowl eligibility.


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