Add three more to the ledger. Paul James is creating a reputation as a big play scoring machine for himself, as the redshirt sophomore ran for scores of 55 and 52 yards (James also had a 13 yard TD run early in the first quarter). His magnificent day was overshadowed, however, by the injuries sustained at the quarterback position. Check out the highlights below:
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This was a game that tested the depth of the Rutgers football team. Most notably, Gary Nova left the game after just one touchdown drive in the first quarter. The junior signal-caller took a hit to the helmet by EMU defensive back David Pullman. Flood stated that Nova's status for the upcoming week is uncertain,
but and that he was not cleared to return for the second half. With the coaches being so mum on the injury, it seems as if it was mainly a precaution to keep him out for the game and just let backup Chas Dodd get some live reps. A good decision, considering how rusty Dodd looked for the remainder of the game.
Dodd finished with 45 yards passing on 4 of 9 completions. This was after Nova went 4-for-4 on his scoring drive and was getting into a real rhythm with his receivers. For Dodd, the rhythm was never established, as he was simply a caretaker of the offense until James could score. James was a real blessing for the senior QB, because not only did he overpower the entire EMU defense with his big runs, but he also accounted for over 66% of Dodd's yardage on one screen play. It's possible Dodd can be a competent solution at QB, but you can tell that giving the majority of reps to Nova in practice has taken a toll on Chas' ability to manage the position.
There were other injury concerns as well. Starting center Betim Bujari did not play (undisclosed injury), but former JUCO transfer Dallas Hendrikson filled in very well. Aside from the size-difference and the mane of hair, you might not have noticed that Bujari wasn't starting. There were a couple of snaps where Dodd seemed surprised to get the ball so quickly, and also one false start penalty resulting in a miscommunication, but overall Hendrikson proved he can be a capable backup when needed.
Jeremy Deering was also held out for the game, leaving Quron Pratt to fill in at kick returner and Tejay Johnson to play safety. Pratt did extraordinarily well, flashing his speed on a 99-yard kickoff return after EMU's first score of the game. The senior wideout also had another nice return in the second half, proving that special teams has depth and talent.
As for Tejay Johnson, the converted safety did not make a big impact on defense. The defense as a whole did not impress much, as a matter of fact. EMU QB Tyler Benz picked apart the RU defense with the same play over and over, throwing to TE Tyreese Russell. With the amount of slant patterns they had him run, you wonder if there was anything else in the EMU playbook. Ah, but there was! Late in the first half, in Rutgers territory, EMU had a running back take a direct snap under center, pitched the lateral back to Benz, who threw across field on a trick play to Ryan Brumfield. It was a good call on a drive that moved really well against the Rutgers D.
At some point, you have to wonder if Dave Cohen is the real problem. Losing personnel is one thing, but RU did not adjust to the playcalling, and hasn't done so for three games running now. I put that all on the coaching. This was against a mediocre MAC quarterback. Meaning, a quarterback mediocre to play in the MAC. Teddy Bridgewater is crushing the competition. Blake Bortles just beat Penn State in Happy Valley. Rutgers won't be able to overpower these teams with just talent. Coaching them up is a big factor.
Let's end on a good note, however. Paul James is emerging as a serious Doak Walker candidate and the best RB Rutgers has seen since a little guy (with tree trunks for legs) named Ray Rice was on the banks of the Old Raritan. Ron Prince is really utilizing his skills, and even had some different looks to keep the defense guessing. Chas Dodd under-center in a diamond formation was a great setup that led to James' TD in the third. James even proved he can finish those big runs. With two 50-plus yard runs added to his career numbers, James now has as many 50-plus runs in one season as Ray Rice had in three years at Rutgers. Every game and every play is just a big play waiting to happen, and RU fans are loving every minute of it.
What do you think about the game? Are you worried about Nova, or confident he'll be fine? Did you like Dodd in at quarterback? Leave your comments below. Starting Monday, it's Arkansas week.