Rutgers' Turay blocks kick, saves game on big stage


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Photo by Tian Li |

Redshirt freshman Kemoko Turay blocks Michigan kicker Matt Wile’s potential game-winning 56-yard field goal at the end of the fourth quarter. Turay now leads the nation with three blocks this season. The defensive end’s heroics helped the Knights preserve a two-point lead in the final minutes on Saturday night.


The night was already special for redshirt freshman Kemoko Turay before Saturday’s game against Michigan even started.

The sold-out crowd of 53,327 fans was only a small collection of people that mattered most to Turay. The family of “The Dragon” came up from Georgia, so Turay already felt the need to show up and perform. 

Throughout the game, Turay kept looking for opportunities. He only collected half a sack throughout the game defensively, something he wasn’t entirely happy about.

But when Michigan placekicker Matt Wile lined up for a potential career-long 56-yard field goal with three minutes left in the fourth, fans of Rutgers football knew they had seen this show before and that it didn’t end well. 

Photo: Tian Li

Sophomore wide receiver Janarion Grant jukes while running after a reception. Grant said his dance moves help him evade defenders.

At least until Turay decided to make the impact he was waiting to make all game.

With a low trajectory on the kick due to the longer length, Turay showed his athletic ability and used his left hand to send the football back. It was something that Turay didn’t entirely expect after his week of practice.

“I had it under control, but in practice, I was messing up a lot. I was timing the kicker wrong,” Turay said. “We practice this every day in practice, and sometimes you have good days and bad days. I just told myself I had to keep keying on the kicker and his steps.”

The result was something great, Turay said. He now has an NCAA-leading three blocked kicks this season. 

But the block culminated with his family in attendance for the sold-out crowd and a Rutgers win.

“Today was a beautiful day — my family came from Georgia,” Turay said. “I told myself I had to make sure I did everything right and [not] make mistakes, and I stayed focused and helped the team out.”

***

Sophomore wide receiver Janarion Grant had one of the most complete offensive games of his Rutgers career so far.

Grant was targeted more than any other receiver on the Knights and got touches in creative ways that illuminated offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen’s creativity. 

Along with returning kicks and punts, as he has done all season and last, Grant also carried the ball twice and caught three passes. 

Grant also had the most all-purpose yards on the team with 122 total yards. He had three catches for 87 yards, two rushes for 23 yards — leading the team with 11.5 yards per carry — and had 12 yards on a kick return.

What stood out most was Grant’s ability to evade tackles and use his speed to make plays. 

“It’s my athleticism and my speed. I put those two together and made things work,” Grant said. “I see those plays before they unfold, then I just make my move and go.”

But aside from his speed and athleticism, something else makes Grant special. According to teammates, Grant is one of the best dancers on the team and that has made an impact on his game.

“I think it does,” Grant said when asked if being a good dancer helps on the field. “Just a little bit in my hips, it helps me move around, shake opponents and make people miss.”

***

In the first half, sophomore running backs Justin Goodwin and Desmon Peoples had seven combined carries for only one rushing yard.

Michigan’s defense came into the game allowing 3.0 yards per carry, and on Saturday, Rutgers only averaged 2.5 yards per carry in the game. 

In the second half, Goodwin and Peoples opened up the running game slightly, combining to end the game with 49 yards. Peoples felt they stepped it up.

“We knew it was going to be like that, actually,” Peoples said. “Our coaches were telling us at the beginning of the week that we had just got to keep pounding it, keep pounding it, and it will definitely open up for us in the end — and that’s what it did. It’s definitely gratifying because we play tough and never quit on the run game. We never gave up.”

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TylerKaralewich and @TargumSports on Twitter.


Tyler Karalewich

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