Huggins’ carry load increases despite demotion
All eyes were on P.J. James during the Rutgers football team’s 38-0 victory Saturday against Norfolk State, as the sophomore running back carried the ball 18 times for 119 yards and three scores.
But Savon Huggins actually had the most carries for the Scarlet Knights (1-1).
“It was pretty good just to get back on my feet and get a couple of carries under my belt and to get out there and put on for my team,” Huggins said.
The junior running back had 21 carries for the Knights, who ran the ball 56 times. Huggins was four yards shy of his second-career 100-yard game with 96 yards and scored a 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
James and Huggins combined for 217 yards against the Spartans (0-2), production head coach Kyle Flood wants replicated for obvious reasons.
“It’s very rare that you have just one,” Flood said. “I said this many times. … We’ve always had two backs and we want to give it to two backs.”
But it remains unknown if Flood will stick to evenly distributing the workload.
Huggins was the starting back against Fresno State in the opener, but his lack of production — six carries for 15 yards — opened an opportunity for James. James finished that game with 22 carries for 182 yards and ended up the starter.
For Huggins — who after two years of dealing with injuries, lack of production and the emergence of others ahead of him was expected to be Rutgers’ workhorse back — it is just another obstacle to deal with.
“I have a good supporting cast,” Huggins said. “I’ve been through so much these past couple years, so there’s nothing that can break me now mentally. I’ve become mentally stronger over these years, so now I let it just bounce off my shoulders and keep it moving. … I just need to keep doing what I’m doing and everything will work out.”
James will lead when the Knights take the field Saturday at High Points Solution Stadium against Eastern Michigan, but Huggins will again get carries.
How many carries he gets and his playing time are uncertain, but Huggins is not worried about anything other than securing wins.
“That’s the main thing,” he said. “Everyone keeps asking me about the different things on offense and stuff like that, but at the end of the day, you want to get that W, and we did.”
Though Marcus Thompson collected only half of his two sacks per game preseason goal Saturday, the senior defensive end was part of a unit who dominated against the Spartans.
“I’m happy for everybody,” Thompson said. “I like the pressure we were getting. We held down the run game and their offense didn’t do much.”
The Knights registered two sacks, seven tackles for losses and allowed little time for the Spartans to get anything going in the passing game.
Rutgers dominated pass pressure despite the absence of senior defensive end Jamil Merrell and junior defensive tackle Kenneth Kirskey, and the depth will still be a question as the Knights play better competition.
After struggling with consistency against Fresno State, senior punter Nick Marsh was impressive against the Spartans.
The Utah transfer pinned Norfolk State inside the 15-yard line three times, including inside both the 1- and 2-yard lines.
It was not the only thing that impressed Flood.
“No. 99 had a great day, and not just punting, but kicking off for us,” Flood said. “That was exciting to see him come back after last week where he was a little less consistent.”
Marsh punted six times against Fresno, with just two downed inside the 20-yard line.
The performance against the Spartans was a work in progress for Marsh.
“It felt really good, especially the first two inside the 5-[yard line] because it’s been something I’ve been working on a lot throughout the offseason,” he said. “So to see it work that well in the game really made me feel awesome.”
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Bradly Derechailo on Twitter @Bradly_D. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.