The Rutgers Scarlet Knights entered this season with high hopes for their running game with former five-star recruit Savon Huggins set to replace Jawan Jamison in the backfield. That never materialized and last week Rutgers started walk-on sophomore Paul James at running back and James has locked up the starting job.
With Rutgers facing Eastern Michigan and retiring Eric LeGrand’s jersey at half-time, Rutgers held a slim 14-10 lead at halftime. LeGrand was paralyzed while making a tackle on special teams against Army at MetLife Stadium a couple of years ago and has served as a source of inspiration for many ever since with his positive attitude. James made sure that was as close as Eastern Michigan would get and didn’t spoil LeGrand’s day as he rushed for two second-half touchdowns.
Right now, it looks like James is doing his best Ray Rice impression these days as he rushed the ball 21 times for 192 yards and three touchdowns. Rutgers needed a big day from James after starting quarterback Gary Nova was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with an apparent concussion and replaced by Chas Dodd. James was the entire offense for Rutgers the rest of the game as Dodd threw only nine passes, completing four of them for just 45 yards.
James has gone from walk-on and afterthought to the heart of the offense as he has rushed for 493 yards on just 61 carries and has six touchdowns over his last two games. James’ emergence has taken a ton of pressure off of Gary Nova and has helped propel Rutgers to a 2-1 start after they lost the opener 52-51 to Fresno State in overtime, the game where James burst onto the scene with 182 yards on 22 carries and supplanted Huggins as the starter.
There is no doubt that Rutgers and their offense will go as far as James’ legs will carry them.