Navy Grinds Out a Victory Over East Carolina

quarterback brian hampton - naval academy
Quarterback Brian Hampton and the Mids rush for 403 yards - and pass for 6 - in a season-opening win in front of 33,809 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday. (AP)
By Christian Swezey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 3, 2006

Navy began the key drive in last night's 28-23 victory over East Carolina with the ball at its 7-yard line and less than a minute left in the third quarter. On the first play, starting guard Antron Harper left the game with a minor injury.

Three plays later, starting center James Rossi also left with what appeared to be a minor injury. It didn't matter. Two reserve linemen entered the game, and the Midshipmen continued to run the ball. They went 93 yards on 16 plays to score the clinching touchdown, on a three-yard run by junior Reggie Campbell for a 28-17 lead with eight minutes to play in both teams' season opener before 33,809 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

All 93 yards were gained on the ground.

"It wasn't pretty," Navy Coach Paul Johnson said. "But like I told the guys in the locker room [after the game], 28 is more than 23."

East Carolina, however, mounted a late threat. Senior quarterback James Pinkney led an 83-yard drive that finished with his 10-yard touchdown pass to junior Phillip Henry that cut its deficit to 28-23 with 4 minutes 57 seconds to play.

The Pirates appeared to make the score 28-25 after Pinkney completed a two-point conversion pass to junior Steven Rogers. The referees initially ruled the pass complete and called a personal foul on linebacker Tyler Tidwell. Navy's defense, however, did not leave the field -- for good reason.

As the referees called the penalty on Tidwell, they added that the conversion did not count because Rogers had committed a violation -- he stepped out of bounds before coming back inbounds to make the catch.

The offsetting penalties meant the Pirates had to try the conversion again. This time, a pass to Aundrae Allison was defended well by Keenan Little and fell incomplete.

The controversy, however, was not over. Senior Byron McCoy recovered East Carolina's onside kickoff for the Midshipmen around their 35. But the referees ruled that an inadvertent whistle nullified the play, and the Pirates were allowed to try another onside kick.

McCoy recovered the second kick as well -- amid a huge pileup that initially had the East Carolina players and coaches jumping on the sideline, believing they had recovered. Senior quarterback Brian Hampton then carried the ball nine consecutive times to run out the clock.

The Midshipmen finished with 406 yards rushing. It was a good thing, because they had six yards passing; it was the fewest passing yards East Carolina had given up since 1968.

Hampton was making his first start, and he took much of the blame for the passing woes. Navy called a long pass off a play-action fake early in the third quarter. Hampton saw senior Jason Tomlinson wide open down the field. He overthrew the pass by about two yards.

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