Oct 10, 2020; Annapolis, Maryland, USA;  Navy Midshipmen fullback Nelson Smith (43) runs for a second half touchdown against the Temple Owls at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

News Articles

Navy’s option won’t surprise ECU

In his 25-year career at Navy as an assistant and head coach, Ken Niumatololo has been immersed in a disciplined, consistent approach with a commitment to triple-option football – in part owing to the fact that few teams around the country employ the ground-first offense.

It has worked to the point that Niumatololo earned his 100th victory at Annapolis last week in his 14th season.

This week, however, he’s aware that his team’s opponent — East Carolina, with a first-year coaching staff — will be familiar with the challenge of facing the unusual offense.

“It’s not like we’re going to sneak up on them or anything,” Niumatalolo said of the Pirates, with coach Mike Houston. “Coach Houston is very well versed in the triple option. The things we do are not going to be anything new for him. They’ve got a lot of guys on their staff who have seen what we have done.”

The Midshipmen have been especially solid against East Carolina during Niumatololo’s tenure, a trend they hope to maintain when they visit their American Athletic Conference rivals on Saturday afternoon.

Navy (2-2, 2-0 AAC) is coming off a 31-29 victory over Temple, and despite two blowout defeats this season to Brigham Young and Air Force, looks to move to 3-0 atop the American Atlantic Conference.

Against ECU, Navy has won four straight overall in the series, including last year’s 42-10 home victory, scoring touchdowns on its first four possessions and stifling the Pirates after that.

Houston knows falling behind against a team playing the option can make things particularly difficult.

“Hopefully we can get off to a much better start and be much more effective this year,” he said. “Obviously, being able to be productive offensively is going to be an important factor.”

Houston’s experience with the triple-option dates to more than a decade ago, when he was defensive coordinator for option-devotee Fred Goldsmith at Lenoir-Rhyne.

“The program was in bad shape and Coach Goldsmith needed to do something to improve the situation quickly,” Houston told the Capital-Gazette. “Coach Goldsmith decided to use the triple-option to give Lenoir-Rhyne an advantage and find a niche for recruiting.”

It’s similar to Niumatololo’s approach at Navy. When Houston was tapped to succeed the retiring Goldsmith, he continued using the triple-option at Lenoir-Rhyne, and later used it effectively as head coach at The Citadel.

“We’re facing a machine next week,” Houston said. “Navy football, I’ve watched them for years. We spent a lot of time watching their stuff. They do it as good as anybody in the country.”

ECU (1-2, 1-1) is coming off an offensive eruption, defeating South Florida 44-24 a week ago. Holton Ahlers was 17-for-26 passing for 222 yards and three touchdowns, while Rahjai Harris rushed 19 times for 175 yards and two scores.

“Our offensive line is the biggest reason for the improvement in both our passing game and our running game,” Houston said. “I thought they played very, very well. The second week for that group together, which I think that was a big factor. They really cut down on the missed assignments. Played much more cohesive and grouped together.”

With new defensive coordinator Blake Harrell in place at ECU, Niumatololo expects an enhanced approach from the Pirates’ defense.

“There’s no doubt in my mind those guys are going to be ready,” he said. “I’m sure they’ve had our game circled. This is going to be a tough game, because their DC has seen it. Coach Houston, for many years, he was the head coach of teams that ran option. They know option football.”

Attendance at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium will be limited to seven percent of capacity.

“It’s still only going to be 3,500 fans or so, but at least it’s going to be 3,500 fans,” Houston said. “It’s going to be people that are passionate about the Pirates. I look forward to having them in the stands on Saturday.”

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

Upcoming Games

Aug 28th, 1:00 PM

Nebraska -9.5 -107

Illinois +9.5 -107

@

Aug 28th, 2:00 PM

UCONN +25.5 -110

Fresno State -25.5 -110

@

Aug 28th, 3:30 PM

Hawaii +9.5 -110

UCLA -9.5 -110

@

Aug 28th, 9:30 PM

UTEP -9 -107

New Mexico State +9 -107

@

Aug 28th, 10:00 PM

Southern Utah

San Jose State (24)

@

Sep 1st, 7:30 PM

UAB

Jacksonville State

@

Sep 2nd, 6:30 PM

Temple +13 -110

Rutgers -13 -110

@

Sep 2nd, 7:00 PM

LIU

Florida International (FIU)

@

Sep 2nd, 7:00 PM

Western Illinois

Ball State (23)

@

Sep 2nd, 7:00 PM

The Citadel

Coastal Carolina (14)

@

Sep 2nd, 7:00 PM

Wagner

Buffalo (25)

@

Sep 2nd, 7:00 PM

Boise State +3.5 -110

UCF -3.5 -110

@

Sep 2nd, 7:30 PM

Weber State

Utah

@

Sep 2nd, 7:30 PM

USF +16.5 -110

NC State -16.5 -110

@

Sep 2nd, 7:30 PM

UC Davis

Tulsa

@

Sep 2nd, 7:30 PM

East Carolina +13.5 -110

Appalachian State -13.5 -110

@

Sep 2nd, 8:00 PM

Ohio State (2) -14 -110

Minnesota +14 -110

@

Sep 2nd, 8:00 PM

Houston Baptist

New Mexico

@

Sep 2nd, 8:00 PM

Bowling Green +27 -110

Tennessee -27 -110

@

Sep 2nd, 8:00 PM

Tennessee-Martin

WKU

@

Sep 2nd, 10:00 PM

Eastern Washington

UNLV

@

Sep 2nd, 10:30 PM

Southern Utah

Arizona State

@

Sep 3rd, 6:00 PM

North Carolina (18) -6 -107

Virginia Tech +6 -107

@

Sep 3rd, 7:00 PM

St. Francis-PA

Eastern Michigan

@

Sep 3rd, 7:00 PM

Old Dominion +35 -110

Wake Forest -35 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 7:00 PM

Duke -7.5 -110

Charlotte +7.5 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 8:00 PM

South Dakota

Kansas

@

Sep 3rd, 9:00 PM

Northern Colorado

Colorado

@

Sep 3rd, 9:00 PM

Michigan State +7.5 -107

Northwestern (10) -7.5 -107

@

Sep 3rd, 9:00 PM

South Dakota State

Colorado State

@

Sep 4th, 12:00 PM

Colgate

Boston College

@

Sep 4th, 12:00 PM

Louisiana-Monroe +27.5 -110

Kentucky -27.5 -110

@

Sep 4th, 12:00 PM

Army +4 -110

Georgia State -4 -110

@

Sep 4th, 12:00 PM

Stanford +2 -105

Kansas State -2 -105

@

Sep 4th, 12:00 PM

Holy Cross

UCONN

@

Sep 4th, 12:00 PM

Oklahoma (6) -21 -110

Tulane +21 -110

@

Sep 4th, 12:00 PM

Western Michigan +17 -110

Michigan -17 -110

@

Sep 4th, 12:00 PM

Penn State +4.5 -110

Wisconsin -4.5 -110

@

Sep 4th, 12:00 PM

Fordham

Nebraska

@

Sep 4th, 2:00 PM

Fresno State +20.5 -110

Oregon -20.5 -110

@

Sep 4th, 2:00 PM

Rice +24.5 -110

Arkansas -24.5 -110

@

Sep 4th, 2:00 PM

Lafayette

Air Force

@

Sep 4th, 3:30 PM

Alabama (1) -19 -107

Miami-FL (22) +19 -107

@

Sep 4th, 3:30 PM

Miami-OH +19 -110

Cincinnati (8) -19 -110

@

Sep 4th, 3:30 PM

Marshall -3.5 -110

Navy +3.5 -110

@

Sep 4th, 3:30 PM

Indiana (12) +6.5 -110

Iowa (16) -6.5 -110

@

Sep 4th, 3:30 PM

West Virginia -4.5 -110

Maryland +4.5 -110

@

Sep 4th, 4:00 PM

Central Michigan +11 -110

Missouri -11 -110

@

Sep 4th, 4:00 PM

LA Tech +30.5 -110

Mississippi State -30.5 -110

@

Sep 4th, 4:00 PM

Massachusetts +36 -110

Pittsburgh -36 -110

@

Sep 4th, 4:00 PM

Montana State

Wyoming

@

Sep 4th, 4:30 PM

Northern Iowa

Iowa State (9)

@

Sep 4th, 4:30 PM

Louisiana-Lafayette (15) +14.5 -115

Texas (19) -14.5 -115

@

Sep 4th, 5:00 PM

San Jose State (24) +17 -110

USC (21) -17 -110

@

Sep 4th, 6:00 PM

Campbell

Liberty (17)

@

Sep 4th, 6:00 PM

Gardner-Webb

Georgia Southern

@

Sep 4th, 7:00 PM

Eastern Illinois

South Carolina

@

Sep 4th, 7:00 PM

Akron +34.5 -110

Auburn -34.5 -110

@

Sep 4th, 7:00 PM

Southern University

Troy

@

Sep 4th, 7:00 PM

Missouri State

Oklahoma State (20)

@

Sep 4th, 7:00 PM

Monmouth-New Jersey

Middle Tennessee

@

Sep 4th, 7:00 PM

Baylor -10 -110

Texas State +10 -110

@

Sep 4th, 7:00 PM

Syracuse -1 -110

Ohio +1 -110

@

Sep 4th, 7:00 PM

Central Arkansas

Arkansas State

@

Sep 4th, 7:00 PM

Norfolk State

Toledo

@

Sep 4th, 7:00 PM

Texas Tech -7.5 -110

Houston +7.5 -110

@

Sep 4th, 7:00 PM

Nicholls State

Memphis

@

Sep 4th, 7:00 PM

Abilene Christian

SMU

@

Sep 4th, 7:00 PM

Oregon State +6 -107

Purdue -6 -107

@

Sep 4th, 7:30 PM

Georgia (7) +3.5 -107

Clemson (3) -3.5 -107

@

Sep 4th, 7:30 PM

Florida Atlantic +24 -110

Florida (13) -24 -110

@

Sep 4th, 7:30 PM

NIU +13.5 -110

Georgia Tech -13.5 -110

@

Sep 4th, 7:30 PM

Northwestern State

North Texas

@

Sep 4th, 7:30 PM

William & Mary

Virginia

@

Sep 4th, 7:30 PM

UTSA +7.5 -107

Illinois -7.5 -107

@

Sep 4th, 8:00 PM

Montana

Washington

@

Sep 4th, 8:00 PM

East Tennessee State

Vanderbilt

@

Sep 4th, 8:00 PM

Kent State +29 -110

Texas A&M (4) -29 -110

@

Sep 4th, 8:00 PM

Southern Miss -1.5 -105

South Alabama +1.5 -105

@

Sep 4th, 8:00 PM

Duquesne

TCU

@

Sep 4th, 8:30 PM

LSU -3.5 -115

UCLA +3.5 -115

@

Sep 4th, 9:00 PM

Bethune-Cookman

UTEP

@

Sep 4th, 10:30 PM

Nevada +2 -110

California -2 -110

@

Sep 4th, 10:30 PM

BYU (11) -10 -105

Arizona +10 -105

@

Sep 4th, 10:30 PM

New Mexico State +28.5 -110

San Diego State -28.5 -110

@

Sep 4th, 11:00 PM

Utah State +11.5 -110

Washington State -11.5 -110

@