There is certainly some cause for concern after Rutgers had another slow start against Howard yesterday. However, there were plenty of top performers in their 52-14 victory, the first of the Ash era. Let’s focus on the positives in this article and see who stood out on both offense and defense for Rutgers yesterday.
It was the first three touchdown game of his career, rushing for two and returning his fifth career kickoff return for a touchdown. He finished with 249 all-purpose yards in the game and now leads the team in both rushing and receiving yards. I raved in detail about “Janarion The Great” here and you can watch all of his highlights from yesterday here. He is simply the best player on this team and it’s not even close.
In his first action of the season, after nursing a hamstring injury and sitting out the opener, Martin got better as the game went own. He finished with 15 carries for 82 yards for 5.5 yards per rush, including a long of 16 yards. Seeing Martin healthy and running hard was a welcomed sight, as the tough back led all Big Ten rushers in yards after contact last season. Along with Josh Hicks, who followed his 14 carry, 70 yard game at Washington with 7 carries and 47 yards yesterday, Rutgers has a legitimate one-two punch in the backfield. It was good to see Martin get valuable reps before next week’s crucial game against New Mexico.
The speedy, two sport star led the team with 46 receiving yards, including a 29 yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. He had two receptions in the game, which were also the first two catches of his career. Harris has Grant like potential and with Rutgers searching for a second receiver to emerge along side him, he could see more playing time as quickly as next week. The potential of Harris in this offense is exciting and it was great to see him have success in his first extended action yesterday.
Gio Rescigno & Tylin Oden
Together, the two backup quarterbacks rushed for 101 yards and 1 touchdown on 10 carries. Granted, it came against an FCS opponent in the fourth quarter of a game that was already decided. However, the two showed how important it is for the quarterback to be an effective rusher in the power spread offense. That’s why their performance, and not starter Chris Laviano’s three touchdown passes, which was the fifth game he has done that in his career, is the story. Read more about the quarterback situation here.
JPO had the best game of anyone on the Rutgers defense against Howard. He registered a team high six tackles, had two sacks, one pass break up and one quarterback hurry. He played with an urgency that this defense desperately needs and hopefully JPO can build off this performance. With defensive coordinator Jay Niemann preferring to use a four man rush instead of using multiple blitz packages, the defensive line must get consistent pressure and wreak havoc for the opposing quarterback. JPO did that and then some yesterday, which resulted in the first multiple sack game of his career. Now he needs to do it against Big Ten competition.
The true freshman made his collegiate debut and played very well. Hayes registered three tackles, including the first sack of his career. He also had a quarterback hurry and one of his tackles came on a big third down play. The talented newcomer got his feet wet against Howard and positioned himself to receive more playing time as the season progresses.
Although Wharton got trucked on one running play in the first half, the sophomore corner played well. He finished with 5 tackles, including a tackle for loss, and his second interception of his Rutgers career. This game should help boost his confidence as Big Ten play is just two weeks away.
The senior safety also got trucked on a running play in yesterday’s game, but Cioffi was his reliable, ball hawking self throughout the game. He tied JPO for a team leading six tackles and had two pass breakups. He now has 12 pass break ups for his career, more than any player on the team, as well as 7 career interceptions. He needs to continue to lead the secondary as the competition ramps up quickly.