Huggins enjoys career game with Jamison’s reduced work
CINCINNATI — Moments after he rushed for a career-high 179 yards, Savon Huggins found himself on the receiving end of a hug from Rutgers head football coach Kyle Flood.
“We did it,” Flood told Huggins, a sophomore. “We did it.”
It was a moment 22 games in the making.
Huggins, a former four-star recruit, according to Rivals.com, earned 41 carries Saturday at Cincinnati, tying classmate Jawan Jamison’s school record set Sept. 13 at South Florida.
Huggins entered the game with only 52 rushes.
“Everything I do, I believe my time will eventually come,” the sophomore said. “It came, and I just seized my opportunity.”
Huggins’ 179 yards was the most for any Scarlet Knights running back this season. Jamison, the Knights’ usual starter, spent most of his time spelling Huggins after suffering a right ankle injury Nov. 10 against Army.
Flood said Friday that Jamison was 75 percent likely to play against the Bearcats, and he did so mostly in a reserve role. Jamison finished with four carries for 37 yards.
“I’m proud of both those backs, but for different reasons,” Flood said.
Flood viewed both Jamison and Huggins as potential starters entering the season. But Rutgers’ backfield rotation became clearer after Huggins suffered a leg injury Sept. 8 against Howard, sidelining him for three weeks. He missed the last four games of 2011 with a knee injury.
“The more carries I get, the better I get,” Huggins said. “As the game goes on, the defense starts to slow down. I can start making my cuts more decisively.”
Huggins ran for 91 yards in the second half, including a 25-yarder late in the game. His 20 second-half carries equaled his total from the previous three weeks combined.
“It’s just an amazing feeling,” Huggins said. “Words can’t describe how I feel.”
Following Rutgers’ win against Army, Jamison said he felt OK that team trainers told him his right ankle was sprained and swollen in only one place. But his four carries were the least of his career, discounting a Sept. 10, 2011 game at North Carolina in which Jamison did not play.
“When one gets a little bit dinged up like Savon did earlier in the year and then one guy gets hot like Jawan did, you don’t want to not let him touch the ball,” Flood said. “Now the roles have reversed a little bit.”
Sophomore quarterback Gary Nova’s two interceptions Saturday gave him 11 giveaways in the Knights’ last four games. His first, a pick on Rutgers’ opening drive, came when he tried to throw the ball away while facing pressure.
Both were in the red zone.
“That’s one of those situations where Gary’s going to see that, he’s going to learn from it and that’ll be a mistake he doesn’t make again,” Flood said. “That’s what he’s been able to do as this season has progressed.”
Nova has thrown 12 interceptions through 10 games this season and lost a fumble Oct. 20 at Temple. He totaled nine in 10 appearances — five starts — last season as a true freshman.
“I don’t even care,” Nova said of giveaway concerns. “I’m just out here having fun and just keep doing what I’m doing.”
Nova’s 71-yard touchdown pass to senior wideout Mark Harrison gave him 19 for the season, the most since Mike Teel’s 25 in 2008.
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