After Rutgers’ come-from-behind 37-28 victory over New Mexico in our 2016 debut of A Lot of Sports Talk’s College Football Game of the week, here are our takeaways from the contest, provided by editor-in-chief Adesina O. Koiki.
1. Many (More) Happy Returns
When taking over as head coach of the Scarlet Knights, Chris Ash knew that he inherited one of the best return men in the nation, Janarion Grant. When asked after the game if anything about Grant surprised him when getting to know more about his special teams ace, Ash said he wasn’t surprised at Grant’s ability…but was surprised that opponents still decide to kick to him and give him the chance to put that talent on display.
New Mexico was the latest team to allow Grant the chance to change a game with one return. He did just today, with his 69-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the second quarter giving the Scarlet Knights the lead for good at 28-21. That touchdown was the eighth return touchdown of Grant’s career, currently tops among all active FBS players in return touchdowns.
What might have surprised Ash, as well as everyone else at High Point Solutions Stadium, is his ability to throw the football. Grant also threw an inch-perfect 21-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to Andre Patton on an option pass to cut New Mexico’s lead to 21-14.
2. The triple option is alive and well
Watching New Mexico run its offense was a trip down memory lane more than anything else, as the Lobos employ a triple option attack that would have made the service academies proud.
There’s a slight variation to what you might have seen in the 1960s, with the Lobos opting to line up its quarterbacks in the shotgun or pistol formation. Other than that, a lot of the principles of the triple option are in tact. (It almost was jarring to see the fullback sometimes line up in a four-point stance for a few plays.)
Its effectiveness was on display today as the Lobos, who ranked in the top 10 in the FBS in rushing yards, ran for 156 yards in the first quarter alone – when they took a 21-0 lead – on its way to 293 yards on the ground in the contest. That success on the ground also led to a rare touchdown pass from the Lobos, with quarterback Austin Apodaca finding Patrick Reed streaking down the middle for a 36-yard touchdown which gave the Lobos a 14-0 advantage.
However, the Lobos lost the lead, which meant that they had to abandon their run attack more and go to the air. That usually spells trouble for the Lobos under Bob Davie as, coming into the game, New Mexico was 1-11 in games under Davie in which the team has attempted at least 20 passes. Today, the quarterback combination of Apodaca and Lamar Jordan combined for 24 passes.
Make that 1-12 now.
[Cover photo (Janarion Grant) courtesy of Ela/Getty Images]