The impending crest of the Tar River in Greenville, N.C., is expected to impact the city and surrounding counties with deteriorating conditions making travel treacherous likely through late Saturday. The Pirates had their flight home from their game on Saturday at South Florida diverted to Richmond because of unsafe conditions at airports in Raleigh-Durham and Pitt-Greenville.
“My first reaction is that it puts everything in perspective,” Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo said of the postponement. “There’s things way more important than a football game. First and foremost, your thoughts and prayers go out to those most affected by the hurricane. From a football standpoint, we’ll just use it as time to kind of recover a little bit.”
Navy had been preparing to travel to Greenville on Wednesday. The team instead will have off on Tuesday and Wednesday, then practice for one hour on Thursday and Friday. There will not be practice over the weekend.
The Midshipmen are coming off a 46-40 victory over then-No. 6 Houston on Saturday for the program’s biggest upset since beating then-No. 2 South Carolina in 1984. They subsequently entered the rankings on Monday for the first time this season after finishing last year at No. 18.
In recognition of the Houston triumph, Vice Admiral Ted Carter, the superintendent of the Naval Academy, called off classes on Tuesday, thus allowing the team to focus on preparing for the Pirates on a short turnaround. Navy was to have played its third game in 15 days, including its second on the road during that time.
“Based on the latest information and projections we have received regarding the rising water level and subsequent adverse travel conditions in eastern North Carolina the remainder of the week, we felt [postponing the game] is necessary to ensure the safety of everyone involved,” ECU Athletic Director Jeff Compher said in a statement.
With the postponement, the Midshipmen don’t play again until Oct. 22 against Memphis at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Navy (4-1, 3-0) is in first place in the American Athletic Conference West Division following the win against the Cougars, who claimed last year’s game at TDECU Stadium, 52-31.
The extra week off also comes at an opportune time given starting fullback Chris High and reserve slot back Calvin Cass Jr. left Saturday’s game on consecutive plays in the first quarter; neither returned. High continues to nurse a sore hip, and Cass is recovering from a blow to the helmet. Both players were probable had Thursday’s game gone on as scheduled, according to Niumatalolo.
The Midshipmen already were playing without senior quarterback Tago Smith, who began the year as the starter until a season-ending tear in his anterior cruciate ligament in the opener, and linebacker Daniel Gonzales. The senior co-captain had been Navy’s leading tackler but is out for the year with a Lisfranc injury suffered during a 28-14 loss to Air Force on Oct. 1.