June 26, 2019 | 87° F

Rutgers collects first win of season with 65-0 onslaught on Morgan State

It was a game of excess for the Rutgers football team.

It was also a game of firsts, as scores of Scarlet Knights collected their first career or season touchdowns Saturday afternoon. Rutgers (1-2) picked up its first win of the season against Morgan State (0-3) Saturday in a 65-0 affair at High Point Solutions Stadium. 

The reason for the host of milestones is simple enough — the Knights failed to capitalize on so many opportunities throughout its first two games (losses to Washington and Eastern Michigan).

But Rutgers, the team to start slow even against Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams (see: Howard), used every ounce of its will to add points to the board Saturday. 

"Really proud of our players, really happy for them," said head coach Chris Ash. "They’ve worked extremely hard, and I don’t care who we play, what the score was. Our players deserved and earned the right to feel good after a game on a Saturday."

And unlike most games, the Knights did not need a quarter and a half to settle in to do so.

Instead, they needed about two-thirds of a quarter.

The first score came through the hands of senior running back Robert Martin, who sharply changed direction to break through the defense and go 13 yards for his first touchdown of the young season. It was his 16th total in a Rutgers uniform.

Martin's touchdown came at the fruition of a drive buoyed by good running play by Martin, in which he rushed for 32 yards on the possession.

But as with the Eastern Michigan game last time out, Martin shared the ball with graduate transfer Gus Edwards and senior Josh Hicks, who ran the ball for 66 and 45 yards respectively. The entire team rushed for 327 yards, its first time even getting over that 200-yard hump this season.

The foursome in the back — including freshmen Raheem Blackshear, who burst past the defense consistently with 2 touchdowns — had an unlikely neighbor in freshman quarterback Johnathan Lewis, who ran for 58 yards to nab his first, second, third and fourth rushing touchdowns of his career. It was an outcome he could not have expected out of his first game of meaningful playing time.

"Not really," Lewis said, on whether or not he envisioned having so much success so early on. "Not 5 touchdowns, at least like 1 or 2, probably."

Not one to lose his cool or confidence on an uncharted stage, Lewis had a tremendous impact, contributing to 5 touchdowns on the day, even connecting with sophomore tight end Nakia Griffin-Stewart for his first career reception and touchdown. It was also Griffin-Stewart's first ever touchdown.

Despite graduate transfer Kyle Bolin relying on the run game for much of the first and second quarters, Griffin-Stewart and his tight end compatriots saw meaningful plays, with junior transfer Jerome Washington catching a 9-yard pass from Bolin for his first Rutgers touchdown.

Bolin and Lewis shared quarterbacking duties throughout the game, with Lewis taking precedent in the redzone where he could rack up the rushing yards en route to his 4 touchdowns.

As for Bolin, his 140 yards and 11-17 line, though much sharper than those of last week's embarrassing effort against Eastern Michigan, was not substantial enough to warrant any reprieve from his week two woes.

The Louisville transfer ignored a few clear opportunities downfield and missed some passes, though there was definite improvement on his end.

But with Lewis providing a spark from under center on the rushing game, Ash turned to him for the majority of the second half.

Aside from the Knights' offensive exploits, the defense joined together to stop the Bears from having their own first on Saturday — their first points. With standouts like fifth-year senior defensive end and captain Darnell Davis recording a sack, forcing a fumble and leading both sides with 10 tackles, Rutgers served Morgan State its third consecutive shutout this season. The Bears have been outscored, 101-0, through three games this year.

"We cleaned up the mistakes," Davis said. "I mean we had a few today, but we were where we need to be at all times, and guys were rotating. A lot of people were playing, it's not just a set of guys playing, so we'll get rest. I think that's the best thing, cleaning up our mistakes."

Davis and the rest of the captains led the team through a trying week following a humiliating loss against Eastern Michigan and a medical setback on the coaching staff. Of all things, Ash praised the resilience among his players to push through and come out with their first win in 11 matches.

"Our brotherhood was tested this week after the loss last week, the medical issues we had on Sunday," Ash said. "I think that speaks volumes to our locker room, our kids. They’ve got a no-quit mentality, and just want to keep working to get better and be the best that they can be."

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

Jon Spilletti

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