AAC notes: Navy coach appreciates Houston's style
BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector
Tuesday, September 10, 2019
Navy 12th-year football coach Ken Niumatalolo did not give away too many details about his team's bye week during the American Athletic Conference coaches teleconference Monday, but he did have plenty of praise for East Carolina first-year coach Mike Houston.
ECU and Navy will meet Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Annapolis, Md., to begin AAC play for both squads.
The Pirates lost 34-6 at N.C. State in Week 1 and easily gave Houston his first win at ECU last Saturday with a 48-9 rout of Gardner-Webb, a Football Championship Subdivision team. Navy hasn't played since a 45-7 home win over Holy Cross, also an FCS opponent, on Aug. 31.
"We got a lot of work in and even rested a little bit, but we started our preparation for ECU, and I have a lot of respect for coach Houston and he's a really good football coach who has won everywhere he has been," Niumatalolo said.
The Pirates' victory over Gardner-Webb gave Houston an 81-26 career record.
Niumatalolo said he is plenty familiar with Houston's style and lauded ECU's entire coaching staff as the Midshipmen are preparing to host the Pirates.
"His teams have always been tough, hard-nosed teams, and you watch them during their first two games and they are very athletic," Niumatalolo said. "We're not really sure how much of their plans they put out in that game (against Gardner-Webb) or if they kept things close to the vest, but I've been impressed. ... It's going to be a tough game for us, athletically, because they have always been really athletic and coach Houston is known for being a tough coach.
"I know he is changing that culture to get his guys physically ready to go. You could see that in both of their games, because they were a physical team and running to the ball on defense."
ECU notes, Holgorsen
It was announced Monday that the Pirates' next home game, Sept. 21 against William & Mary, will kick off at 6 p.m. and be available to stream on ESPN3. ECU's win over Gardner-Webb was the same.
The time determination means that four of the Pirates' first six games this year will kick off at 6 p.m. or later. The Oct. 3 matchup against Temple, on a Thursday in Greenville, is at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on the main ESPN network.
Pirate starting running back Darius Pinnix earned a spot on the AAC honor roll after rushing 21 times for 134 yards and two touchdowns versus Gardner-Webb. His previous career-high for rushing yards was 93 at UCF in 2017.
In addition to Houston getting his first win with the Pirates, another American coach got his initial victory at his new school in Dana Holgorsen, whose Houston Cougars beat Prairie View 37-17 on Saturday.
"It was good to get that first win and move on," Holgorsen said. "We made some improvements from Week 1 to Week 2, but not nearly as many as we need to beat Washington State here this Friday night. ... They have been doing the same thing there for about eight years now."
SMU is 2-0 thanks to big gains by running back Xavier Jones and steady play by quarterback Shane Buechele, who was an offseason transfer from the Texas Longhorns.
The Mustangs beat North Texas 49-27 to begin a three-week stretch of all-Texas games. SMU hosts Texas State this week and then travels to Big 12 member TCU.
"When we play TCU one week from Saturday, it will be two games already (North Texas, TCU) against teams in the Dallas-Fort Worth area," SMU coach Sonny Dykes said. "No. 1, it just makes sense from a scheduling standpoint because it's easy to travel and they are good matchups. ... There is a little bit of bragging rights and things for recruiting."
SMU closed as a 3.5-point favorite against North Texas, but the Mustangs led 21-0 at the end of the first quarter and Jones finished with 127 yards and three touchdowns to earn AAC offensive player of the week. The league's top defensive honor also went to SMU senior safety Patrick Nelson, who had seven tackles, two sacks an an interception.
"I felt like going in, we needed to run the football, and I think our offensive line is improving and played better last week," Dykes said. "Xavier had a couple big runs for us that were a big difference in the game. He has six touchdowns on the year, so he is off to a fast start so far."
Contact Ronnie Woodward at email@example.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.