When Janarion Grant raced 76 yards on a bubble screen in the second quarter, he appeared to be primed for the end zone.
But when Grant came up short at the three-yard line, Rutgers lost its top playmaker. Things didn’t bode well for the Scarlet Knights (2-2, 0-1) without the senior wide receiver on the way to a 14-7 loss in their Big Ten opener at High Point Solutions Stadium.
With an injury to his right ankle, Grant was helped off. He returned to the sidelines out of uniform and on crutches.
“He went down — he’s a big part of our offense,” said redshirt-freshman wide receiver Jawuan Harris, who replaced Grant in the slot on offense and as a returner on special teams. “He’s a big part of the whole team, actually — special teams, everything.”
Head coach Chris Ash had no comment on Grant or his health’s outlook without speaking first to the medical team.
For Iowa (3-1), two touchdowns were all it needed to outlast Rutgers.
The Hawkeyes scored in timely fashion with a 36-yard strike from C.J. Beathard to George Kittle before the end of the first half. Rutgers fumbled at its own 21 midway through the fourth quarter, and Iowa capitalized on a 26-yard run after a false start.
Senior wide receiver Andre Patton caught the only touchdown of the day for Rutgers on a 14-yard pass from Chris Laviano to tie the game up at 7-7 early in the fourth quarter, but was on the unlucky end of the late fumble.
“I personally don’t think I had the ball all the way through, so I was fighting to get control of the ball,” said Patton, who ended the day with three catches for 33 yards. “But unfortunately, it was an unfortunate call. So I just played and can’t really do nothing about it.”
Laviano ended his day 13-for-24 with 190 yards and the touchdown to Patton, but struggled without Grant as a target. The junior quarterback hit Grant five times for 98 yards in the first half before the injury, which included a long of 76 on a bubble screen.
Without Grant, Laviano was 8-for-19 with 92 yards.
“Obviously you’re going to change it a little bit just because of what a dynamic playmaker that kid has been for us. So we slid Jawuan Harris over there into that slot. Jawuan’s very capable, young kid., obviously. But you have to tailor what you do a little more. That’s going to fall on the outside receivers and the quarterback to pick up the slack, so to speak. There’s no guy who’s going to break three tackles and go 76 yards.”
Rutgers used Harris in Grant’s place, but Harris was unable to leave his mark. He was in on a pair of fourth downs deep in Iowa territory.
On the first, he did not receive the pitch from Laviano on a speed option left. Laviano kept it instead and the Hawkeyes stuffed him before the goal line.
Harris then took a handoff on Rutgers’ last fourth-down try late in the game, but only got back to the line of scrimmage before the turnover on downs. Iowa ran the clock out after it got the ball back.
Rutgers was 1-for-4 on fourth downs.
“I don't know if we left a lot of the points,” said head coach Chris Ash. “(Iowa) made some plays. I felt like there were plays there that we had that we didn't finish. At the end of the first half we had it down in the red zone deep and fourth down we go for it and run an option play and it was there, just didn't execute it the right way.
“But those things happen in big games. They have something to do with it, too, best laid plans don't always work when the opponent has something to say about it and that was one of those scenarios.”null