East Carolina fell short Saturday as the Navy Midshipmen forced the Pirates to a 66-31 loss in their final home game of the season.
“I thought our guys played with great penalty discipline,” said ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery. “I thought we played hard at times, even when we were down in the game, there was no quit.”
To kickoff senior night at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, the Pirates won the toss and decided to receive. Immediately, in his first start of the season, quarterback Gardner Minshew set the tone with a seven-yard pass to wide receiver Zay Jones.
In an attempt to assist Jones in breaking the FBS all time receptions record, Minshew targeted Jones early and often.
The stands came to life as Minshew connected with Jones for the fourth time for a 40-yard touchdown pass to give the Pirates an early lead.
Navy’s run game went to work for the first time in the game, and would continue to persist throughout the first quarter with zero passing yards by the Midshipmen. Quarterback Will Worth had three keepers in the first possession, including one to end the drive with a touchdown.
The ECU offense continued to target Jones, as a 20-yard pass contributed to the Pirates’ second drive and helped to pick up a first down. After two rushing plays from Devin Anderson and James Summers, respectively, Minshew targeted Jones for yet another long third down pass of 21 yards.
Now on the Navy 19-yard-line, Minshew ran for a pick up of four yards. Followed by three straight Summers carries to put ECU on the Navy six-yard-line. On third and four wide receiver Jimmy Williams caught a pass for the Pirates’ second score of the game to bring the score to 14-7.
The Pirates defense then took the field and forced the Midshipmen to punt on their second possession giving the ball back to the ECU offense. During a nine-play drive of 52 yards, Jones caught his eighth reception of the night and his 388th of his career to break the reception record. At the end of the drive, kicker Davis Plowman set up for a 43-yard field goal to increase ECU’s lead to 17-7.
“It meant a lot to me to have my entire family here and them supporting me, and just to share [breaking the record] with my teammates as well,” said Jones. “It’s a special moment I’m going to remember forever.”
It was then that the game started to take a turn for ECU. On Navy’s first play of its following possession Worth threw his first pass of the game for 47 yards, giving the Midshipmen the ball at the ECU 15-yard-line.
Worth continued to show his mobility as he rushed for three of the four plays for his second rushing touchdown of the game. The Navy defense continued its momentum from its score to force ECU to a three and out.
In just two plays, Navy took the lead at 21-17 with a 41-yard touchdown run by Shawn White. Matters continued to worsen for the Pirates as the offense was forced to a three and out on the following two possessions, and Navy scored touchdowns on its two possessions before the halftime.
Coming back from the half, ECU kicked off to Navy and the game completely fell out from under the Pirates’. The Midshipmen marched down the field in 10 plays to score a touchdown and bring the score to, 38-17.
“In the second half once you’re a possession down, two possessions down it made it really really hard,” Montgomery said.
The Pirates got the ball back and managed to score a quick touchdown in two plays as well. ECU tried for an onside kick, but was unsuccessful, giving the ball back to Navy at the ECU 42-yard-line. Navy went on to score three more touchdowns, which proved to beat the Pirates’ for one additional touchdown.
As been the tale in recent meetings, Navy defeated the Pirates in an upsetting end to senior night, running the Pirates to a 66-31 defeat.
“I just wanted to walk the field one last time,” said Jones after spending extra time at the end of the game on the 50-yard-line. “I cherish that field and that stadium, and what it means to me. It just means so much to me, and I wanted to take that one last walk across the 50.”