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AAC: Navy coach sides with Johnson

Military Bowl Virginia Navy Football

Navy's running back John Brown III is upended by Virginia's Brenton Nelson in the first half of the Military Bowl NCAA college football game, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Annapolis, Md. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)


The Daily Reflector

Friday, April 20, 2018

Ken Niumatalolo is on Paul Johnson’s side when it comes to the new NCAA rule in football that bans blocking below the waist that occurs five yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

Niumatalolo is the veteran coach at Navy, which runs the triple-option rushing scheme maybe better than any other team in the country. That attack can involve running backs being lead blockers in space and down the field.

The Navy head man’s comments Wednesday during the American Athletic Conference spring teleconference were similar to Georgia Tech’s Johnson, who was at Navy before going to Georgia Tech in 2008 and continuing to run the triple option. Both coaches think their is inconsistency in the rules for when blocking is dangerous and that tackling below the waist is similar to blocking below the waist.

“Either cutting below the waist is dangerous or it’s not,” Niumatalolo said. “And I can only image that there has been a ton of people over the years who have blown their knees out and breaking ankles and stuff by getting tackled below the waist.”

The Midshipmen have been one of the most consistent teams in the American since joining the league in 2015. They were second in the nation last year at 351.4 rushing yards per game.

“I get these types of questions asked all the time and how it is going to affect us and we just adjust, because this isn’t the first cut-blocking rule that has changed over the last 10 years,” Niumatalolo said. “There’s one every year and we just adjust.”

Looking up

East Carolina, Connecticut and Cincinnati have all been through coaching transitions the last few years and they tied for last place in the AAC East division in 2016 and ‘17.

It was ECU that allowed the most points among league teams a season ago and Cincinnati that scored the least. Both squads are looking to improve on those statistics in order to move up in the AAC East ranks.

“With how we practiced and during scrimmages (this spring), we challenged the guys to treat it like a game and when there’s breaks you come to your coach like you do on the sideline and be able to articulate certain types of things,” said Cincy coach Luke Fickell, a former Ohio State defensive coordinator. “With the communication and understanding of what and why and the development of those things, I think we have come a long way. It showed in flashes during the spring, but I think it’s going to really carry over into the summer and our work in the fall.”

Pirate third-year head coach Scottie Montgomery has expressed optimism in a defensive turnaround under new coordinator David Blackwell. He was confident in that again Wednesday.

“Now knowing a lot of the people we have in the building, his scheme fits our kids really well,” Montgomery said. “This was probably the most difficult spring, from an offensive standpoint, that they have had to go through against our defense because we play great base defense now. We’ve learned how to generate pressure without always having to do it with people from the second and third levels.”

Down in Dallas

The AAC has two new coaches in Josh Heupel at Central Florida and veteran Sonny Dykes taking over at SMU.

Heupel and the Knights are coming off an undefeated season and will likely have great expectations again for this season. Dykes, a former head coach at Louisiana Tech and California who was an offensive analyst at TCU a year ago, said part of the satisfaction he has had so far with the Mustangs comes from a new lifestyle in Dallas.

“My family and myself have settled about two-tenths of a mile from our practice field, so from a personal standpoint, I can walk my kids to school and they can walk over and watch practice and be around our players and other coaches’ kids,” Dykes said. “It’s a great situation and I can’t imagine anything any better.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


September 19, 2018 - 7 minutes ago

Temple made a big jump in the American Athletic Conference football beat writer rankings, and East Carolina also moved up a spot to eighth this week.

The Sunshine State occupies the top two spots, led again by steady Central Florida. South Florida takes over second place, has a 3-0 record and hosts…


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East Carolina’s football team had a rare opportunity to be unified and fully concentrated on watching South Florida play at Illinois last Saturday, a game that ended with the Bulls rallying for 18 points in the fourth quarter for a 25-19 win and 3-0 start to their season.

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East Carolina was in last place for the first two installments of the American Athletic Conference writers’ power rankings, but after the Pirates’ 41-19 rout of North Carolina they moved up to ninth.

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September 14, 2018

There was a play last Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium when a North Carolina safety was staring at an East Carolina backfield with two guys totaling 463 pounds on a third-and-3 play near midfield.

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September 12, 2018

East Carolina’s football team bused from Greenville to Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday and will remain there until its next game.

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September 11, 2018

East Carolina’s football game scheduled for Saturday at Virginia Tech will not be played because of Hurricane Florence.

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September 10, 2018

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