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Rutgers Ends Losing Skid With Win At Army


With a laundry list of banged up guys on the injury report, Rutgers had to fit pieces of a puzzle that were a little too small and too big for a 31-21 victory over Army.

The Scarlet Knights ran behind an offensive line comprised of two new faces, and one player moving over a spot. Redshirt freshmen Zack Heeman (left guard) and Marcus Applefield (right guard) made their first career starts, filling in for Dorian Miller and Derrick Nelson, who both missed the contest. Starting right guard Chris Muller slid over and made his debut at center in which Nelson manned. The re-tooled line helped pave way for 254 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

Paul James (34) Rutgers at Army - November 21, 2015 (Ben Solomon Photo)

Paul James (34) Rutgers at Army – November 21, 2015 (Ben Solomon Photo)

Senior running back Paul James gashed the Black Knights (2-9) for 116 yards and three scores, including a long of 54-yards. Sophomore Robert Martin added 99 yards and touchdown on 17 carries. The 254 yards was the most on the ground this season since the victory over Kansas back on Sept. 26.

“I thought he was back to 100 percent, and he looked that way, “head coach Kyle Flood said postgame regarding the oft-injured James. “When he’s 100 percent, he’s a threat.”

Sophomore Josh Hicks, the team’s second leading rusher on the season, took one for the team and moved over to strong safety on defense with Davon Jacobs now out for the season, and ball-hawking Anthony Cioffi suspended for the game. Flood approached Hicks with the idea earlier in the week. Hicks also spent time on defense last year, but never saw game action.

“Coach Flood pulled me out of the meetings,” Hicks told the media after the game. “He was like, ‘Can you play safety?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do anything for the team.’ That’s how it started. I’m going to give 100 percent at all times. I’ll do whatever to play.”

Hicks got the starting nod and was able to learn on the fly. The Palmetto, Fla. native recovered a fumble off a mishandled snap and leaped to intercept a wobbly pass from Army quarterback Chris Carter late in the fourth quarter in the end zone to preserve the double digit triumph.

Carter, a true freshman making his first career start, passed for a season high 140 yards and score on 4-of-6 passing. He also added 111 yards on the ground with a touchdown. The Black Knights tallied 401 yards of total offense on the day.

Rutgers weakside linebacker Steve Longa, who came into the game with 111 tackles, had played in 36 straight games before being ruled out shortly before kickoff up in West Point, N.Y. Freshman Deonte Roberts got the start and made four stops before leaving the game.

Rutgers DL No. 99 Kevin Wilkins blocking a FGA at Army (Ben Solomon Photo)

Rutgers DL No. 99 Kevin Wilkins blocking a FGA at Army (Ben Solomon Photo)

Rutgers won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, and Army wasted no time storming down the field before defensive lineman Kevin Wilkins blocked a 42-yard field goal attempt giving the Knights 44 blocked kicks since 2009, the most in the time frame. Wilkins got pressure up the middle and stuck his big bear paw and tipped the football.

Scarlet Knights kicker Kyle Federico barely made his 41-yard attempt to the end the first half as the ball hit the top of he cross bar and slid home for three points.

Normally, teams need to go 6-6 to reach bowl eligible status. However, Rutgers has an outside chance at reaching a bowl if they were to take care of business at home against Maryland next week in their regular-season finale. With a record 40 bowl games and 80 teams playing in those games, bowls may need to look for 5-7 teams to fill the slots.

When asked if winning these last two games help the outlook for otherwise a season full of turmoil, Flood said winning would help.

“I think winning helps everything; it always helps,” Flood said. “For us, we take it one week at a time, and now we’ve got one more one-week season. We’ll do everything we can to be 1-0, and at the end of it we’ll look at it and see where it puts us. I hear a lot of things about 5-and-7 teams being in bowl games, but I know there’s a lot of games that have to be played so I’m not focused on that right now.

“…I’m really proud of this team. I’m really proud of the unselfish nature of the players on this team.”


Follow me @ChrisWasky on Twitter

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