GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Navy’s ground attack was relentless, and its defense definitely got the job done when it mattered.
And now Navy has something it has never had before — a division championship.
Will Worth rushed for 159 yards and four touchdowns and Shawn White added 150 yards and three scores as Navy walloped East Carolina 66-31 on Saturday.
The win gave the Midshipmen (8-2, 6-1 AAC) the American Athletic Conference’s West Division title and propelled them into the conference championship game, while the Pirates (3-8, 1-6) lost for the eighth time in their last nine games. Navy, which will be playing in its first conference title game, leads the all-time series 5-1.
“This feels great,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “Nobody gave us much respect this year, and our kids took that to heart all season. Our kids have kept their mouths quiet, and I’m proud of the way they’ve played. We’re excited about this win.”
The result spoiled ECU’s senior day celebration for Zay Jones, who passed former teammate and current Atlanta Falcon Justin Hardy for the FBS career receptions record.
Jones caught 12 passes for 212 and two touchdowns, giving him 392 career catches. Jones broke Hardy’s old record of 387 catches – for 4,541 yards and 35 touchdowns – set two seasons ago.
“We fought hard, but this is one of those games, especially when you play against a team like Navy,” ECU’s first-year head coach Scottie Montgomery said. “The two three-and-out possessions, scored touchdowns and the muffed kickoff return make it hard to get into the game when you’re trying to steal possessions. I’m just so happy for Zay. He has just been wonderful — he had a seamless transition into this new staff and new situation and new mindset.”
Worth became the fifth player in Navy history to rush for over 1,000 yards and pass for over 1,000 in the same season. He rushed for over 100 yards in his sixth straight game.
“This is something we’re definitely excited about,” Worth said. “We’ve just got to keep this thing rolling and finish it out strong. We just kind of got in a groove and everything was working for us. Just to be able to spread the ball around like that, it was all working.”
The 100-plus rushing totals from Worth and White marked the third straight game in which a duo of opposing runners broke the century mark against ECU.
“The O-line played their butts off and made a lot of big holes for me,” White said. “A-backs and wide receivers were on the outside making great blocks and I was just able to see it and read it. Those holes got really, really wide. Especially for a big guy like me.”
James Summers rushed for 134 yards, including an 81-yard touchdown, for the Pirates.
Navy’s seniors became the Academy’s all-time winningest class at 37-13 over its four seasons so far. The 1909 (36-7-5) and 2015 classes (36-16) had jointly held the record.
Navy was playing one day after U.S. Marshall Patrick Carothers, a father of five including freshman reserve linebacker Paul Carothers, was shot and killed while serving a warrant in rural southeast Georgia.
Navy: The Mids’ triple-option offense is a death by a thousand cuts for all but the best opponents, and that’s the way they like it. With a double-threat quarterback in Worth and a dominant fullback in White, Navy has scored 42 or more points six times this season.
East Carolina: The Pirates put together plenty of offensive fireworks, but were being outrushed for over 100 yards per contest before getting crushed in that part of the game (483-181) on Saturday. They’ll get one more chance to play spoiler, and then run defense must be an off-season project.
Navy’s nine rushing touchdowns were the most ever against ECU, surpassing the record of eight set by the Mids in 2010. The Mids finished with 480 rushing yards on 68 carries, while their 113 passing yards were the most they have ever produced against the Pirates.
Navy: The Midshipmen will visit SMU on Saturday, and then play in the AAC title game at the home of the higher seed on Dec. 3. The Army-Navy game is Dec. 10 in Baltimore, Maryland.
East Carolina: The Pirates will close their season on Saturday at Temple.
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