PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Rutgers coach Kyle Flood shrugged off Washington State's big passing numbers in the Scarlet Knights' opening victory.
Rutgers gave up 532 yards through the air, but little else Thursday night in its 41-38 victory in Seattle.
"I think that style of offense — there's a lack of priority or emphasis on the run game — the passing yards are going to be inflated," Flood said Friday. "That's just the reality. I think you see that all around the country with that style of offense."
Paul James ran for 173 yards and scored his third touchdown with 3:24 left to give Rutgers the victory. Gary Nova threw a 78-yard touchdown pass to Leonte Carroo on the first play from scrimmage and Rutgers withstood the passing onslaught from Connor Halliday.
Halliday completed 40 of 56 passes for the 532 yards and five touchdowns, but his fourth-down pass for River Cracraft near midfield with 53 seconds left was batted away.
Nova was 16 of 27 for 281 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and the Scarlet Knights rode James and the run game. James had 113 yards rushing in the first half and touchdown runs of 1 and 56 yards as Rutgers built a 21-10 lead.
Last year, Rutgers allowed a school-record 4,580 passing yards.
"Do I think we can play better in the secondary? I do," Flood said. "Do I think in some ways did we make some improvements from last year? I think we did. I think that's a very explosive offense we played against, but I did see us make some plays on the ball that we didn't make last year."
Some of that came from experience after defensive backs Nadir Barnwell, Delon Stephenson and Anthony Cioffi were thrown into action last year as freshmen.
Cornerback Justin Goodwin had the lone interception against Halliday. And Goodwin has only been playing the position for two weeks thanks to attrition that depleted Rutgers' secondary. One game in, Flood seems pleased with the move despite losing his second-leading rusher from last year to the defensive side of the ball.
"It was good to see Justin Goodwin get the interception," Flood said. "Can Justin Goodwin play better? There's no doubt that he could play better as he continues to gain more and more experience at that position."
Fortunately for the Scarlet Knights, they won't see offenses quite like coach Washington State coach Mike Leach's Air Raid in their inaugural Big Ten season.
"All the really good football teams that I've ever been a part of are going to have to win a game like we won last night and are also going to win a game that's a significantly lower scoring game — your 10-7 games," Flood said. "That's just the nature of the football season."