ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Most coaches are unnerved by the prospect of facing Navy and its triple option offense for the first time.
First-year East Carolina coach Mike Houston did not need to spend considerable time during the offseason studying film in preparation for Saturday’s game against the Midshipmen (1-0).
Houston employed the triple option while serving as coach at Lenoir-Rhyne and The Citadel. East Carolina defensive coordinator Bob Trott is also familiar with the unique attack, having coached at Air Force in the late 1970s when Ken Hatfield installed the scheme there.
“Coach Houston is very well-versed in the triple option. The things we do are not going to be anything new for him,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “They’ve got a lot of guys on their staff who have seen what we have done. It’s not like we’re going to sneak up on them or anything.”
Understanding how the option works and teaching players how to defend it are two different things.
“Coach Trott and I won’t play a single snap on Saturday,” Houston said. “It’s impossible to simulate the speed and precision of that offense in practice using scout team players.”
Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry did a good job of reading the defense and distributing the football in the opener, helping the Midshipmen amass 428 rushing yards in a 45-7 rout of Holy Cross two weeks ago.
Some other things to know about the matchup between East Carolina (1-1) and Navy:
Houston led East Carolina to a 48-9 rout of Gardner-Webb last Saturday to close out an emotional week in which he earned first win at the school four days after his father died.
“I knew when I took the job in December … my dad, that’s when his health started to decline a little bit more rapidly, so I knew this day would come,” Houston said. “I didn’t know when, and it came really, really quick. It kind of punches you in the gut a little bit.”
Navy will begin its fifth season as a member of the American Athletic Conference on Saturday. Houston is East Carolina’s third different head coach during that span.
In 2015, the Midshipmen made their AAC debut with a 45-21 blowout of an ECU squad led by Ruffin McNeill. One year later, Navy stomped the Pirates 66-31 after Scottie Montgomery had replaced McNeill as head coach.
Montgomery was fired with one game remaining last season and is now the offensive coordinator at Maryland.
Navy holds a 6-1 lead in the series, which began in 2006.
This is the fifth straight season Navy has opened AAC play at home. The Midshipmen are 4-0 in conference openers, including a win over the Pirates in 2015.
East Carolina has started league play on the road three years in a row and in four of the last five seasons.
Navy was picked to finish fifth out of six teams in the West Division of the AAC. East Carolina was predicted to place fifth in the East Division.
The Pirates will be seeking to snap a nine-game losing streak on the road against AAC opponents. Since 2016, ECU is 1-16 in conference contests away from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.