James tears ACL versus Navy, out for season
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — When junior running back Paul James fumbled the ball twice — losing one — in his first five carries Saturday at Navy, it left some cause for concern.
The rest of his offensive production in the first half was seven carries for 96 yards and a touchdown, proving why he is among the Rutgers football team’s top offensive weapons.
But what happened on his seventh carry was a possible cause for panic and fear for the Scarlet Knights. James broke free for 13 yards before being tackled in the lower body and was not able to walk off the field on his own power.
The panic can best be summarized by senior quarterback Gary Nova running over to James, saying some words to the injured back and then throwing his hands up in disappointment.
Head coach Kyle Flood said yesterday on a conference call that James sustained a torn Anterior Collateral Ligament, commonly called the ACL, on that play.
But a torn ACL rings another meaning for the Knights.
“Paul has a torn ACL,” Flood said. “He will be out for the year.”
Optimism lies in the performances of sophomores Desmon Peoples and Justin Goodwin after James went down with the lower body injury early in the second quarter.
Goodwin rushed for 26 carries for 104 yards with a touchdown, while Peoples complemented him with 19 carries for 84 yards. Nova also added two rushing touchdowns on goal-line quarterback sneaks.
Goodwin was quick to credit his offensive line for the success of a Rutgers offense that outrushed Navy 284 to 171.
“I’ve got to give all the credit to the offensive line. They did a great job today,” Goodwin said. “They did great for everybody — me, PJ and Desmon. They opened up great holes and got out to the second level.”
Peoples, who only had only one carry before James went down in the game, knew he had to perform after the injury.
“I knew I had to step up, whether I wanted to or not,” Peoples said. “I just wanted to go in there and give it everything I had.”
Although there are positives to take away from the game against Navy, including the performances from Goodwin and Peoples, Flood still acknowledged the loss of James being big.
“We now have one less guy in the rotation — somebody who has created a lot of big plays in the running game and did it again yesterday,” Flood said. “Paul is not going to be an easy guy to replace — he’s a very good football player — but we have good players in that room. It’s one of the deeper rooms on our team.”
Rutgers only committed two penalties in the game against the Midshipmen, which resulted in a total of 24 yards.
Throughout the practice week leading up to Navy, the Knights continuously preached how discipline would play a huge factor against the nation’s top-rushing team.
“It was very important to play disciplined today,” said sophomore linebacker Steve Longa. “As you can see, we knew it was going to be a tough game going in, and it was a tough game to the last second. We had to minimize all our mistakes and stay disciplined, and we did that. We knew we were going to come out on top.”
Flood recognized the lack of penalty yards, crediting the offensive line and the Knights for their focus and effort.
“When you play against a team like Navy, a team that plays with exceptional effort, if you don’t match their effort level and their motor, what ends up happening is you are going to get a bunch of holding calls,” Flood said. “That wasn’t the case. We only had two penalties on the entire day. That’s a good sign for us.”
Junior punter Tim Gleeson averaged 45.3 yards per punt against Navy, landing one inside the 20-yard line and booting another 51 yards.
Flood named Gleeson as the starting punter during the week after splitting time with junior Joey Roth in the first three games of the season.
The Knights handed Navy its first loss at home since 2012, snapping its eight-game winning streak.
The Midshipmen’s unbeaten streak at home was the 10th-longest in the nation entering the weekend.
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