With a 14-0 deficit to an FCS opponent that went 1-10 a season ago, Rutgers was in trouble early on against Howard.
Then Janarion Grant happened.
The senior speedster returned a kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter and from there, the Scarlet Knights’ depth outwore the Bison with 52 unanswered points in a 52-14 rout at High Point Solutions Stadium.
“I think that pick every guy’s head up,” Grant said of his kick return to put Rutgers on the board. “Just keep going. We still got a lot of game left. You can’t just give up because we’re down, like, 14 points.”
Rutgers (1-1) received the spark it needed from Grant, who had a career day.
The Trilby, Fla., native totaled three scores on the day with his first-quarter kickoff return and respective rushing touchdowns from 58 yards and 21 yards out.
He ended the day with 249 all-purpose yards — 106 yards on six carries, 24 yards on two receptions and 119 yards on kickoff returns.
“Can’t say enough about Janarion Grant, what he brings to the offense and to special teams,” said head coach Chris Ash. He’s, right now, our most electric player and we can’t get the ball in his hands enough. Obviously, the big kickoff return helped us generate some momentum there in the first half. Some kind of things were bleak.”
After a first half where Howard (0-2) outgained Rutgers 159-15 in the first quarter, Grant got things going for the Knights when they turned to him in the wildcat formation.
Grant flashed speed on a 58-yard direct snap for a touchdown shortly after the third quarter began. Two offensive possessions later, he added a 21-yard scamper as Rutgers created the separation it needed to put the game away.
“He doesn’t do (the kickoff return for a touchdown) in the first quarter, we’re going into halftime down,” said junior quarterback Chris Laviano. “(Grant) kind of covered the offense on his special teams runs and he did a really great job today.”
Laviano got off to a slow start in the first half, which started with an interception on the first play from scrimmage. He completed 11-of-22 passes for 137 yards and added three touchdowns — two in the second half to junior Carlton Agudosi and redshirt freshman Jawuan Harris.
Junior quarterback Gio Rescigno replaced Laviano in the fourth quarter and broke multiple tackles on his way to a 42-yard score to put Rutgers up 49-14.
The next offensive possession, Rutgers went with true freshman Tylin Oden over juniors Zach Allen and Hayden Rettig. On direct snaps and zone-read options, Oden collected 55 yards on nine carries with a long of 30.
The late momentum takes Rutgers into its third game of the season when it takes the field next Saturday for its final non-conference matchup — a noon tilt with New Mexico State at home.
“If you guys don't know much about New Mexico, it's a real team coming in here,” Ash said. “They run the option. They have good skill players. Coach Bob Davie is an outstanding football coach. They have been able to run the ball on anybody. They do a lot of exotic things on defense that create problems. So this is a real football team and a real test for us next week and we have to have a great week of preparation, because if you don't, that option will kill you.”null