PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Paul James is back gaining yards for Rutgers.
A year after a lower leg injury sidelined him for four games and likely deprived him of a 1,000-yard season, the Scarlet Knights halfback rushed 29 times for 173 yards and three touchdowns in Rutgers' 41-38 win over Washington State on Thursday night.
"It was a big day, but I'm not really focused on that now. It was in the past," James said. "I'm trying to focus on Howard right now and have a great game and put it behind me and focus on the next team."
However, the guys who pave the way for James have high hopes for him and the running game this season.
"The run game could be one for the history books," right guard Chris Muller said.
That's a sentiment felt by the entire offensive line, which is well aware that the running game will be key when Rutgers makes its debut in the Big Ten Conference.
"That's what we're aiming for, to be honest with you," left tackle Keith Lumpkin said. "That's what we're focusing on — to have one of the best running attacks in the history of the school."
There's a reason the unit that's opening up the rushing lanes for James exudes such confidence. The Scarlet Knights return all five starters on the line, along with fullback Michael Burton, who coach Kyle Flood said "blocks at an elite level."
So when the holes open, James hits them. Then when the defense closes in, the redshirt junior bounces off would-be tacklers.
Much of James' yardage against the Cougars came after contact. James said breaking tackles just comes naturally to him.
"I guess growing up with older brothers playing football you're kind of the little guy so you have to try and break tackles with the older guys and it just kind of developed with me," said the former walk-on, who opened last season with a 182-yard effort against Fresno State. "And then in high school going to a Group I school, our offensive line wasn't too big. So I'd kind of see a lot of guys in the backfield, and it's a developed habit."