PISCATAWAY, N.J. (September 7, 2013) - Sophomore running back Paul James (Glassboro, N.J.) rushed for three touchdowns and 119 yards, the defense played lights out and the Rutgers football team (1-1) won its 99th home opener, 38-0, over Norfolk State on Saturday afternoon at High Point Solutions Stadium.
The Scarlet Knights scored 21 first-quarter points, led by two rushing TDs from James, and never looked back, as they improved to 3-0 all-time against the Spartans. RU has outscored Norfolk State, 128-0, in the three meetings between the two schools.
“A great day to be 1-0, but we certainly could not have done it without our fans and student section,” said head coach Kyle Flood. “I have not heard the final numbers but I thought they were just outstanding. They were into it from the moment I arrived at the stadium today, they forced a delay of game penalty against out opponents today and along with a couple other things they allowed us to give [Director of Intercollegiate Athletics] Julie Hermann her first game ball. I know the team was excited to do that.”
Junior quarterback Gary Nova (Elmwood Park, N.J.) was an efficient 12-for-21 with 150 yards and a touchdown, as he spread the ball around the field all game. Seven different RU players caught balls from Nova, as freshman Ruhann Peele (Linden, N.J.) caught his first career touchdown on a quick slant in the first quarter.
Junior linebacker Kevin Snyder (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) led the Scarlet Knights’ defense with seven tackles and 0.5 tackles for a loss on the afternoon. Senior defensive end Marcus Thompson (Oakland Park, Fla.) added a sack, the third of his career, while senior linebacker Jamal Merrell (Bear, Del.) recorded his second career interception and first of 2013.
“I think the game was significantly different [than last week against Fresno State],” Flood said. “I don’t know that once we made the corrections from last week that this game would be impacted by it, but I think it was important for us to play good defense. We have a tradition here of playing good defense and today I think the final stat was something like 26 or 27 carries for 59 yards, and that’s the way we want to play games.”
RU notched its final points of the day with 13:55 remaining in the fourth quarter, as sophomore Kyle Federico (Ponte Vedra, Fla.) kicked a 24-yard field goal to extend the Rutgers lead to 38-0.
Paul James rushed for his third TD of the game on an eight-play, 49-yard drive midway through the third quarter. James capped the scoring drive with a 25-yard rush up the left sideline, putting him over the century mark (119 yards) for the second consecutive game. With that score, RU took a 35-0 lead with 5:47 left in the third quarter.
He became the first RU running back to rush for three touchdowns since Jordoun Brooks did it in a 45-7 win over Howard on Sept. 12, 2009. RU also scored four rushing touchdowns for the first time since defeating Texas Southern, 42-0, on Oct. 10, 2009.
“We came into the game today wanting to run the football, and we were able to do that a little bit more consistently than we were able to do it last week,” Flood said. “I don’t think we got as many big explosive plays as we did last week, but I think we ended up churning up 273 yards rushing at the end of the day. That’s a good day’s work up front and that was one of our primary goals as a coaching staff – to hopefully come into the game and run the ball effectively throughout the game, not just in the first half or the second half.”
Less than five minutes into the second half, Merrell picked off Malik Stokes – the second of his career – to give RU the ball on Norfolk State’s own 30-yard line.
Rutgers started its drive with 12:10 on the clock, as junior running back Savon Huggins (Jackson, N.J.) carried the ball three times before eventually crossing the goal line for a 1-yard score. The touchdown was the eighth of Huggins’ career and gave the Scarlet Knights a 28-0 lead with 9:41 remaining in the third quarter.
The Scarlet Knights took a 21-0 lead into the locker rooms at halftime, as James led the way on the ground in the first half with two touchdowns and 69 yards on 12 attempts.
James scored his second touchdown of the afternoon just before the first quarter expired, taking it 10 yards off the right side to give Rutgers a 21-0 lead. He finished the first period with two touchdowns and 45 yards on nine carries.
Sophomore Steve Longa (Saddlebrook, N.J.), who tied for second with five tackles on the day, set RU up for its second strike of the first quarter after the linebacker punched the ball out on a Rolandan Finch carry. Longa fell on the fumble – the first forced fumble and recovery of his career – giving the Scarlet Knights possession on the Norfolk State 19-yard line.
Three plays later, Nova found Peele on a quick slant for an 8-yard touchdown grab – the first of his career. That score made it 14-0 RU with 5:14 to go in the opening stanza.
Rutgers' 21 first quarter points are the most scored offensively since it recorded 32 in the second quarter of a 45-7 win over Howard on Sept. 12, 2009.
RU’s special teams unit helped the squad to its first points of the afternoon, as senior wideout Quron Pratt (Palmyra, N.J.) leaked through the middle on a Norfolk State punt to block RU’s first kick of the season and first since Sept. 8, 2012 against Howard. Freshman Anthony Cioffi (Springfield, N.J.) was there to scoop up the ball, giving Nova and the offense possession on the Rutgers 15-yard line.
After a drive-starting penalty, James broke an eight-yard carry and Nova threaded the needle to Pratt on a deep out to make it third-and-1 from the 5-yard line. Nova missed Coleman in the end zone on the third down play, but James carried it the rest of the way, converting the fourth-down attempt and crossing the goal line on his very next carry.
The touchdown run made it 7-0 Rutgers with 6:48 remaining in the first quarter and was the first of James’ career.
Rutgers football is back in action next Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium against Eastern Michigan. The Scarlet Knights will retire former Rutgers player Eric LeGrand’s No. 52 as part of a special ceremony at halftime. LeGrand is the first player to have his number retired in the 144-year history of the Rutgers football program.
- Rutgers is now 3-0 against Norfolk State all-time and has outscored the Spartans 128-0. The Scarlet Knights are 10-0 all-time versus MEAC schools with a combined score of 405-36.
- WR Quron Pratt blocked a Norfolk State punt in the first quarter, the 32nd blocked for RU since 2009 (most in the nation). First blocked punt for the Scarlet Knights since Leonte Carroo at Temple Oct. 20, 2012.
- Rutgers held the Spartans to zero passing yards on seven attempts in the first quarter.
- The Scarlet Knights scored three touchdowns in the first quarter, the first time the team did that since the third quarter against North Carolina Central onSept. 1, 2011. RU last scored three offensive touchdowns in a quarter in the second versus Howard back on Sept. 12, 2009.
- RU scored four rushing touchdowns in a game for the first time since a 42-0 win over Texas Southern.
- Rutgers is the only school in the nation to post a shutout in each of the last eight seasons.
- Rutgers is 45-5 since 2000 when holding opponents to less than 300 yards of total offense. Norfolk State finished with 133 yards of total offense (59 rushing, 74 passing).
- The Scarlet Knights are 33-8 since 2006 when rushing for 150 yards or more in agame. Since 2000, the Scarlet Knights are 45-17 when going over the 150-yard mark on the ground.
- Rutgers has scored over 35 points in each of its first two games to start the season. It marks the first time since 2007 (38 vs. Buffalo, 41 vs. Navy) RU opened the season with consecutive games of 35 or more points. Rutgers has only scoredmore than 35 points in two straight games to begin the season four times inschool history (2012, 2007, 2000, 1993).
- Rutgers finished with 273 yards rushing. It was the most yards rushing in a game by the Scarlet Knights since 292 against Ball State in the 2008 International Bowl.
- Rutgers has 966 yards of total offense in the first two games of the season. It is the most after two games to start a year since 2007 when the Scarlet Knights had 1,039 yards of total offense through two games.
- CB Lew Toler made his first start for Rutgers and 37th at the collegiate (started 36 games at Western Michigan)..
- RB Paul James scored his first career touchdown in the first quarter, also picking up a fourth-down conversion on the drive. He ran into the end zone twice more to become the first RU running back to score three rushing touchdowns since Jourdan Brooks against Howard Sept. 12, 2009. James finished with his second career 100-yard game with 18 carries for 119 yards and three touchdowns. Heaveraged 6.6 yards per carry. In two games this season, James has 301 yards in two games. James is the first Rutgers running back since Ray Rice in 2007 to rush for more than 300 yards in the first two games of the year. Rice had 359 yards of rushing after the first two games of the 2007 campaign.
- WR Ruhann Peele collected an 8-yard touchdown pass for his first career score in the first quarter.
- DE Marcus Thompson recorded his second sack in as many games in the second quarter against the Spartans.
- P Nick Marsh had a tremendous day as he pinned five punts inside the 20-yard line, including two inside the two-yard line. He averaged 42.8 yards per punt with a long of 55 yards.
- Five defensive players recorded career-highs in tackles – LB Kevin Snyder (seven), LB L.J. Liston (five), LB Davon Jacobs (five), LB Quentin Gause (four), DT Al Page (three). Page also finished with a career-best 1.5 sacks.
Junior running back Paul James
“I feel like my role is bigger but I’ve definitely always felt like I was a part of the team because the things I do in practice helps the team win no matter what I’m doing. I feel like my role has just increased.”
“It definitely feels different to get into the end zone. It felt really good, and today was my mom’s [Kristina James] birthday so that first one was for her. It felt good to get in there and get that one for her. She said she was proud of me and that she was just excited.”
“It was a great feeling [to score three times]. After the first one I just kept rolling. The line kept opening up holes and I was going to keep taking them and keep running the ball and keeping getting in the end zone as much as possible.”
“[Michael Burton] helps me a tremendous amount. His work ethic is just outstanding – he never gives up on the play and he’s always giving 110 percent every play. He opens up great holes for me.”
Senior linebacker Jamal Merrell
“It was my first interception of the year and it was just phenomenal. You always set expectations for yourself so I was happy that I got one.”
“The fans were tremendous. We have some of the best fans out there and I love the atmosphere – there was a lot of energy.”
Junior linebacker Kevin Snyder
“It’s big and it’s great to play great defense in front of our fans because that’s what they expect from us.”
“We want to do the same thing [next week] – continue to improve, continue to make plays and limit the big plays and limit the points.”
“I played well. I think obviously I made mistakes and I was a little slow on a couple different things but that’s good because that’s something I can continue to build on. I played OK, obviously on the stat sheet it looks good but there is obviously room to improve.”
“I thought the front seven played very well. Obviously, they played with good speed and they really allowed for me and Steven [Longa] and all of those guys to move around freely and go and make plays.”