Three late scores widen margin as Knights eke past Army despite Jamison’s brief absence with right ankle injury
Jawan Jamison sprinted up and down the sideline Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium, trying to find stability in an ankle he sprained earlier in the third quarter.
He watched as the Rutgers football team and Army failed to gain traction, not since Jamison’s second-quarter touchdown pass prematurely closed the game’s scoring.
“I have to get back in,” Jamison said of his mindset as he looked on. “I have to get back in and help my team in any way I can. I have to play through the pain right now.”
The sophomore running back did so, returning a sense of normalcy to an offense that rattled off 14 fourth-quarter points in a 28-7 win. Jamison finished with 90 yards on 22 carries against Army, which held the ball for nearly 34 minutes and appeared to cripple any early rhythm the Scarlet Knights (8-1) enjoyed.
“You go to halftime and you have had only had three possessions in the game, and you say, ‘Goodness, how many will we have in the second half — is it going to be three again?’” said head coach Kyle Flood. “And thankfully that wasn’t the case.”
Jamison likely would have carried more if not for a swollen ankle, which sidelined him until 10:38 remained in the fourth quarter as the game was still tied, 7-7. But three straight runs set up a 31-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Brandon Coleman for the contest’s decisive score.
The route combination — an inside pattern-turned-back-shoulder-fade — has become Coleman’s calling card.
He scored on identical plays Sept. 22 at Arkansas and Oct. 27 against Kent State, and it nearly worked in wins at Tulane and South Florida.
“In this game, we were going to have limited possessions,” Coleman said. “The way the game was going — body blows to body blows — it was 7-7 most of the game. I just was waiting for another opportunity.”
He found it from sophomore Gary Nova, whom Coleman spent hours with during the summer perfecting the route. Certain factors — down and distance, zone or man defense — dictate when the play is called.
The Knights knew the look they faced on that second-and-10, and Nova recreated the play he and Coleman ran all summer.
Rutgers ran a play it knew all too well. Because of Army’s (2-8) own offensive slumber, the Knights did not need to deviate.
“I don’t think you have to get outside of your comfort zone unless you have to,” Flood said. “I had confidence even if we punted it to them we were going to have a chance to stop them and keep it a 7-7 game until we could make enough plays.”
One, Jamison’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Coleman on Rutgers’ second drive, came early.
Jamison took a toss, saw a pair of defenders draped around Coleman and let the 6-foot-6 wideout create his own position.
With the score, Jamison became the first Knight since Mohamed Sanu in 2010 to throw, rush and receive a touchdown in the same season.
“That guy is very talented,” Coleman said of Jamison. “He is very versatile, and he’s been itching at that opportunity.”
It all mattered little when 5:51 showed on the game clock in the third quarter. Jamison sat atop the bed of a trainer’s cart while medical personnel tended to his right foot. Without him, one drive ended with a punt. An interception cut the next one short.
“It felt a little bit like last year,” Flood said of 2011, when Rutgers nursed a one-point lead late against Army.
But the Knights regained control, thanks mostly to 21 unanswered points in the final nine minutes. They also did so in the Big East, where now-No. 20 Louisville lost, 45-26, at Syracuse, making Rutgers the league’s last unbeaten team in conference play.
“I don’t see it as a driver’s seat,” said Flood, who had not heard the outcome before his postgame press conference. “It’s an extremely competitive league, and for us to be thinking about any three games would be a big mistake.”
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Tyler Barto on Twitter @TBartoTargum.