Navy @ ECU: Keys to a Pirate Victory

Here are three keys to an East Carolina upset over Navy on Senior Day.

(Photo: James Guillory, USA TODAY Sports)

1. Protect the football

If the Pirates turn the ball over five times again on Saturday as they did last weekend, this game is simply going to get ugly. Navy is one of the country's most disciplined teams, having turned the ball over eight times on offense all season. The Pirates? They're one of the most snake-bitten teams in college football, having given the ball away 22 times, and when ECU does turn it over, it seems to always come in bunches. Facing a team that chews up clock and scores plenty of points, even one to two turnovers could be too much to overcome in this one. Regardless of who's at quarterback or running back for East Carolina, those people simply must protect the football at all costs.

2. Contain the triple option

One thing is assured heading into Saturday: Navy is going to get its fair share of yards on the ground. The Midshipmen run the vaunted triple option attack that, and when it's executed properly, it's nearly impossible to stop (as ECU has clearly seen in the past). Navy has amassed 500-plus yard gains on the Pirates before, and it's mostly killed ECU with the big plays. As Pirate coaches said earlier this week, they just can't allow the huge plays again on Saturday. If ECU gets to third and fourth downs enough times, it will increase its chances of eventually getting a stop. But if Navy is ripping off 7-8 yards a play and hitting a 30 or 40-plus yarder every now and then, ECU is done.

3. Don't fall behind early

ECU has had major trouble in the past keeping Navy from racing out to big leads early, and that's a problem, as it just plays right into the Midshipmen's hands. Navy jumped out to a 28-7 second-quarter lead in the 2015 45-21 victory, and a 14-0 edge in the 56-28 triumph in 2012. When the Pirates beat Navy in 2011? ECU took the 17-7 lead in the second quarter. The Pirates don't have the defensive personnel to stop Navy enough playing from multiple deficits down on Saturday, so they must find a way to weather the storm early, and getting out in front after the game's initial possessions would certainly instill some much-needed confidence throughout the ECU sidelines.

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