Story By : Deborah Leung
Photos By: Benjamin Rogers Jr.
Navy’s first priority on offense under coach Ken Niumatalolo will always be to run the football, yet there are times when the forward pass can also be a weapon.
Such was the case Saturday, when quarterback Malcolm Perry drilled East Carolina on the ground and in the air during a 42-10 blowout.
Perry ran for four touchdowns and threw for two scores. Operating as the focal point of the triple option, he carried 24 times for 156 yards. Just as impressive: Perry completed 5 of 7 passes for 151 yards to become the first Navy quarterback to amass at least 150 yards both running and passing since Ricky Dobbs against Arkansas State in November 2010.
The 5-foot-9 senior has rushed for at least 100 yards in seven of his 10 career starts at quarterback. His passing numbers, however, are what he will remember most about this game.
“We recognized what they were doing and we found a way to make it hurt,” Perry said. “Passing for 151 yards, it feels good. That’s what I worked on all summer. That was a weakness in my game. It feels good for all that practice to show on the field.”
Navy scored TDs on each of its first four possessions and coasted to the finish. The Midshipmen (2-0, 1-0 American Athletic Conference) have won four straight against the Pirates, averaging 52 points per game.
East Carolina (1-2, 0-1) has lost 10 straight on the road and is 1-17 in away games since 2016.
Perry ran for touchdowns of 18 and 11 yards before capping an 85-yard drive with a 29-yard pass to CJ Williams for a 21-0 lead. After the Pirates temporarily interrupted the one-sided show with a field goal, Perry scored from the 6 to cap an 11-play march during which the Midshipmen converted a fourth-and-4.
Slithering through the East Carolina defense with remarkable ease, Perry topped the 100-yard mark rushing before the middle of the second quarter and had 128 yards on 18 attempts by halftime.
“The thing that is hard about preparing for a team like this is simulating how fast they operate,” ECU coach Mike Houston said. “Hopefully, we will be more prepared the next time we see them.”
Navy opened the second half with a 75-yard drive that lasted more than seven minutes and ended with Perry scoring from the 1. After an ECU punt, Perry immediately hit a wide-open Williams for an 80-yard TD, Navy’s longest pass play since an 85-yarder by Dobbs that 2010 game against Arkansas State.
After that throw, with the score 42-3, Perry’s work was done.
“Just his command of the offense, I’m just really pleased with the way he is playing,” Niumatalolo said. “We have to be able to throw the ball like that.”
Defense was not the Pirates’ lone shortcoming in their third game under Houston. Unable to reach the end zone until the fourth quarter, East Carolina displayed none of the firepower it showed one week earlier in a 48-9 win over Gardner-Webb.
Holton Ahlers went 11 for 23 for 138 yards and an interception.
Pirates DB Davondre Robinson ran into a teammate late in the game and sustained an injury that required him to be strapped to a board and taken from the field on a cart. He flashed a thumbs up as the cart went in motion.
Houston said Robinson had feeling in all his extremities.
Navy improved to 58-12 under Niumatalolo when scoring first and 56-18 when scoring on its first possession. The Midshipmen are 33-40 when they don’t get points on their opening series.
Navy: After stomping Holy Cross and ECU, the Midshipmen appear far better than the team that went 3-10 in 2018. The schedule gets tougher, but Perry and the offense appear up to the task.
Navy opens the road portion of its schedule on Sept. 26 against Memphis.