Ricky Dobbs and his Navy teammates just kept running right at East Carolina's struggling defense.
Once the Midshipmen forced a flurry of third-quarter turnovers, Navy was headed for a record-setting road romp against the two-time defending Conference USA champions.
Dobbs ran for a touchdown and threw for two more scores as Navy beat East Carolina 76-35 on Saturday, setting a school single-game scoring record while handing the Pirates their ugliest loss under first-year coach Ruffin McNeill.
Alexander Teich ran for 157 yards and a score for the Midshipmen (6-3), while Dobbs also ran for 100 yards to give the Midshipmen a pair of 100-yard rushers in the same game for the first time this season.
With the win, Navy qualified for a bowl game for the eighth straight season and will play in the Poinsettia Bowl against an opponent from the Mountain West Conference on Dec. 23.
It was quite a way for the Midshipmen to bounce back from last weekend's loss to Duke, which jumped out to a 24-0 lead before holding on for a 34-31 win. This time, facing another prolific passing attack, the Midshipmen forced the Pirates (5-4) into the mistakes the Blue Devils didn't make and turned a close game at halftime into a rout.
Navy's 76 points set a single-game program scoring record for the modern era, surpassing 74 points against North Texas in 2007. It was the most points for the Midshipmen in a game since 1919.
"I turned to one of the coaches and said, 'I've never scored 76 points in my life,'" said Teich, who had a 64-yard touchdown run up the middle in the first quarter. "That was an awesome experience and I think it was good for everybody coming off that loss last week."
The game will remain etched in East Carolina's program history as well. It was the most points scored by either East Carolina or an opponent in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, while Navy's 521 yards rushing were the most by an opponent here and the second-most allowed by the Pirates ever. It was also the second-most points ever allowed by East Carolina, trailing Guilford's 79 points in November 1932.
"It hurts my pride," East Carolina defensive tackle Josh Smith said. "I've never been this embarrassed — not necessarily for myself, but just for other guys because I know how much it meant to a bunch of guys."
Navy led just 28-21 at halftime with both offenses — Navy's triple-option and East Carolina's pass-heavy spread — moving the ball effectively. But while the Midshipmen kept plugging away, East Carolina came undone by losing three fumbles in four offensive snaps.
The Midshipmen converted the first from Jon Williams into a field goal, then Dobbs found Aaron Santiago for an easy 29-yard touchdown pass after another fumble from Williams on a botched handoff from Davis. Then, after Davis lost the ball, Gee Gee Greene scampered untouched around the left side for 12 yards to make it 45-21 with 8:52 left in the quarter.
"I remember after the second (turnover), the coaches were going over a scheme we were going to do on a play and as he was writing it down, the defense got another fumble," Dobbs said. "That's when it just becomes fun because everything is so fast-paced and you've just got to go out there and execute."
With that comfortable lead, Navy could relentlessly run the ball the rest of the day and focus on melting the clock. The mistake-prone Pirates, meanwhile, could only watch the game slip further out of reach.
By the time the fourth quarter arrived, Navy had run for 387 yards and scored 55 points while the normally rowdy Dowdy-Ficklen was three-quarters empty as a chilly rain began to fall. Reserve Kriss Proctor scored on a 23-yard keeper for a 69-35 lead midway through the fourth to set the stadium scoring record by an opponent, surpassing Louisville's 63 points in 1998.
East Carolina's best scoring day here was 66 points against East Tennessee State in November 1981.
Davis threw five TD passes for the Pirates, and even set program records with 43 completions and 65 attempts. He also finished 1 yard shy of tying David Garrard's single-game passing mark with 413 yards.
Most of that, however, came after the outcome was long decided.
"It's a hard pill to swallow when you have big stats like that," Davis said. "It's just a bad feeling right now."