James carries heavy workload
With P.J. James was listed as questionable leading up to Saturday night’s game against South Florida, the sophomore running back’s role became unclear once cleared to play.
But as the game wore on, head coach Kyle Flood knew the answer.
James received 26 carries in the Scarlet Knights’ 31-6 victory against USF, rushing for 113 yards and two touchdowns. James could have had three, but he fumbled on the 1-yard line in the first quarter.
Several factors went in to the decision to give James such a heavy workload, Flood said.
“Just watching him run. I thought as the week went on, he got stronger,” he said. “And as good as a player looks in practice, it’s been my experience they always look better on game day because of the adrenaline factor. And I thought that that would be a factor tonight and I was excited that [James] was able to come through the game. I think he came through the game pretty healthy.”
The amount of carries was not necessarily the game plan entering the contest at High Point Solutions Stadium, as James was still recovering from a lower body injury sustained last weekend against Connecticut.
Flood said junior Savon Huggins and freshman Justin Goodwin would split carries if James was limited.
Goodwin posted seven carries for 46 yards, while Huggins had three carries for 16 yards.
The emphasis to give James the ball was evident during the longest drive of the game for Rutgers’ offense.
In the fourth quarter, the Knights ran 14 plays. The drive took 8:24 off the clock and spanned 69 yards, capped with a 1-yard touchdown by James.
The Glassboro, N.J., native carried the ball 11 times on that drive for 51 yards and also hauled in a 7-yard reception.
The drive made it a 28-6 Rutgers lead.
James thought the drive was important to solidify the win.
“We got into the situation where we had to run the ball,” James said. “You have to run to win, so I knew that was going to be on me to keep running the ball and keep getting yards. We got in that situation, and they kept giving it to me and I kept running it.”
Junior Gareef Glashen registered his first-career interception in the first half against South Florida, the first for a Rutgers cornerback since Nov. 16 against Cincinnati.
“I was just doing what my coaches told me to do,” Glashen said. “I made plays in practice this week and came out here and made the play in the game.”
Glashen finished with five tackles and one pass breakup in the win.
But the secondary as a whole also stood out, producing its best performance of the season against an FBS opponent.
The Knights allowed just 141 yards through the air, nearly 200 less yards than their season average of 311 yards allowed per game.
South Florida finished with 11 penalties against Rutgers.
While Rutgers finished with eight penalties of their own, the Bulls’ mistakes stood out more, accumulating in 99 penalty yards.
South Florida entered the game 122nd nationally in penalties per game, averaging 8.5 per contest.
It was a glaring stat junior guard Kaleb Johnson said the whole team was aware of.
“Going into the game, we knew South Florida was a very undisciplined team,” Johnson said. “It was something we tried to focus on more.”
Senior defensive end Marcus Thompson registered a sack on South Florida quarterback Mike White in the third quarter, one of the Knights’ three sacks of the night.
The 8-yard takedown gave Thompson 5.5 for the season with one game to go.
The production was a little off Thompson’s preseason goal of 20 sacks, though he said he thought he was productive regardless of his sack total.
“I fell a little short this year, but I did what I had to do for the team,” Thompson said. “I never had 5.5 since I’ve been here, so it’s a great accomplishment for me.”
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