Navy holds off late surge from East Carolina

Nelson Smith ran for a career-high 157 yards and two touchdowns and Jamale Crothers rushed for 82 yards and a score to help visiting Navy remain unbeaten in the American Athletic Conference with a 27-23 victory against East Carolina on Saturday afternoon at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, N.C.

Navy (3-2, 3-0 AAC) ran for 288 yards behind an inconsistent yet opportunistic triple-option attack, holding on after ECU scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.

The Pirates (1-3, 1-2) rushed for 268 yards, with Rahjai Harris gashing Navy for a career-best 172 yards and a touchdown and quarterback Mason Garcia, a fellow freshman, running for 63 yards and a score.

After the Pirates drew to within 27-20 on an 80-yard touchdown run from Harris with 14:15 to go, the Midshipmen went three-and-out, leading to a 39-yard Jake Verity field goal. Navy got the ball back with 6:33 to play and possessed the ball until punting it away with 27 seconds to go.

The game ended when Navy intercepted an ECU lateral attempt near midfield on the final play.

Navy struggled to find an offensive rhythm for much of the first half, mixing a pair of turnove