Junior's production paces Rutgers on offense
He was not named an All-American last year, nor did he garner any all-conference honors. If you thumb through his career statistics for the Rutgers football team, few numbers will jump off the page.
He didn't make an appearance on any of the 2015 preseason watchlists that reporters love to reference either, but junior wide receiver Andre Patton might be the most important player on the Scarlet Knights' offense.
"We've got multiple receivers that I think that can really affect a football game," said Knights head coach Kyle Flood. "Andre (Patton) did a phenomenal job. Andre was our Player of the Week on offense."
Patton finished the opener with three catches for 47 yards, but the most important of his receptions came at a crucial point early in the game.
After Norfolk State had marched down the field on the game's opening series, Rutgers trailed, 7-0. A scramble by sophomore quarterback Hayden Rettig kept the drive alive when the Los Angeles, California, native rushed upfield for a 12-yard gain to pick up a first down.
On the very next play Rettig fired a jump ball that Patton scaled the skies to stab, collecting the ball to his body while ensuring Spartans junior cornerback Sandy Chapman couldn't wrestle it away for a 24-yard gain. Fittingly, it was the first completion for Rutgers in 2015.
Moments later, Rettig found sophomore tight end Matt Flanagan for a 13-yard touchdown and the Knights never trailed again.
Patton gave a glimpse into his mindset when breaking the huddle before making the circus catch that turned the tide of the game.
“My main focus coming out of the huddle was just to execute,” Patton said. “Hayden (Rettig) gave me an opportunity and I just had to go out there and make a play.”
With the attention that defenses will pay to preseason All-Big Ten selection and school record holder in receiving touchdowns (22) Leonte Carroo, the outcome of many games this season could hinge on the performance of Rutgers' No. 2 target.
"He was Player of the Week, partially because of some of the catches he made, partially because of his impact in the run game with how physical he was blocking corners, blocking safeties and ultimately we had some other people maybe could have gotten that award," Flood said of Patton. “I love the way he started the game. From the very first play, he was trying to impose his will on the opponent, and with Leonte (Carroo) not being available, obviously other people have to step up and he took it upon himself to do that."
Junior wide receiver Janarion Grant has spent three years on campus with Patton. After Grant ran Norfolk State’s second half kickoff back for an 80-yard touchdown, the route was on.
But the Trilby, Florida, native called the win a team effort, saying the contribution of all the receivers was necessary, regardless of Carroo’s three touchdown performance.
“Everybody contributes and it’s important for each and every receiver to catch the ball and make good plays because that’s what we do,” Grant said. “We’re receivers and we’re built for that.”
Patton is not one for superlatives, but that won’t stop Flood from heaping them upon the kid from the first state.
“Andre has really done a nice job of moving to the next level,” Flood said, while cautioning he needs to see Patton continue to perform at a high-level. “Now he's got to be consistent doing it week-to-week. We saw flashes of it last year and we had some games that he really affected and now I think he's getting to that point where if he can continue to do it, he can show that he can be a guy who affects every game.”
He’s more steak than sizzle. If Carroo and Grant are home run hitters, Patton is the singles hitter who moves the runner over when the team needs it.
And don’t expect his mindset to change. All he wants to do is his job.
“I feel like our team, defense and offense, if we go out there and do our job and execute and do what we’re supposed to — if we play as a family — then I feel like we’ll go out there and we’ll go toe-to-toe with them and we’ll come out with the win,” Patton said. “My role is pretty much the same as it was in camp. As the second receiver or whatever you wanna call it, you know, whether they double-team Leonte or not, I still have a role to play and I still have to go out there and do my job whether it’s blocking or running routes and receiving the ball.”
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