Record, not stats matter for Jenkins
Nevada Appeal Sports Writer
Too often quarterbacks are measured by yardage and touchdown totals rather than wins and losses.
Louisiana Tech was struggling at 2-3 when head coach Derek Dooley benched fifth-year senior Taylor Bennett in favor of sophomore Ross Jenkins, who had seen relief action in the Boise State and Hawaii games.
Jenkins’ stats are far from gaudy ” 63 completions in 116 attempts for 753 yards. Tech, however, has won five of the six games he’s started and qualified for a bowl game for the first time since 2001.
“When all is said and done the most important is the win and loss column,” said Jenkins, who will be under center when Tech hosts Nevada Saturday (11:30 a.m.). “Numbers are not everything. In high school, I threw the ball all over the place and had good numbers (2,605 yards, 25 TDs), but we only went 6-4.
“This has been a good run for us. It was tough when Taylor was chosen as the starter. I had to play a back-up role. I supported him and supported the team. I stepped up and made the most of the opportunity. I’m finding my place and I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable.”
Jenkins knows a little bit about Nevada. The only appearance he made in 2007 was in the season’s final game against the Pack, a 49-10 setback that knocked Tech out of a bowl game. He knows he and his teammates will have their hands full on Saturday.
“My first career pass I completed for 12 yards,” he said. “I played the entire fourth quarter. I went into the off-season feeling like I was part of the team.
“Obviously the first thing that jumps out at you (about this year’s team) is their run defense which is No. 2 in the country, and we like to run the ball. It will be a great challenge. They play hard. The big thing I noticed is that teams are facing third and long situations.”
That’s where Jenkins comes in. Tech has been able to beat people with a good running game led by Daniel Porter and Patrick Jackson, and a good run defense. Porter has gained 1,036 yards and seven scores, while Jackson is at 565 with seven scores. If Nevada plays its usual game against the run, Jenkins is going to have to step up and deliver much better than he’s done in the past.
Tech’s passing game ranks 107th out of 119 1-A team with 147.8 yards per game, a fact that Dooley is well aware of. It’s a combination of not throwing the ball much because of the run game, not protecting well and not having many solid receivers. Jenkins is completing 54 percent of his passes compared to 39 percent by Bennett.
“Ask me where our passing game is, and I think it’s last in the country,” Dooley said. “Am I happy with that? Of course not. We have been able to grind out five wins down the stretch. Our objective is to find a way to win, and we’ll do whatever we have to do to win.
“If that means being better in the passing game and throwing the ball more, then that’s what we’ll do. If we’re having succes running the ball, we’re going to keep running the ball. Our throwing game is not where we want it. Knowing that we’re not throwing it well, we’re not going to keep serving it up and getting beat, either.”
So for now, Jenkins has become the caretaker for the ball-control offense.
“You have to figure out how not to lose,” Dooley said. “You lose by turning it over, throwing interceptions and giving up scores.
“Ross has done a good job getting us into the right run checks. I’d like him to make a few more throws. Anytime you are throwing it 20 times you need to be completing 14 of those for good yardage.”
Jenkins did that in his first start, completing 13 of 20 for 192 yards in a 46-14 win over Idaho. His next three starts he was limited to less than 100 yards. He has bounced back nicely in his last two games, completing 24 of 37 for 277 yards and three scores.
The mental part of the game is where Jenkins has excelled. Under his watch mistakes have been kept to a minimum.
“I’ve always been a student of the game,” Jenkins said. “I understand football really well. My high school coach gave me a lot of freedom to check plays at the line of scrimmage. It’s all about film study, learning defenses and what they’re going to do in certain formations and what they’re going to give up.
“We do have to throw better and we have to protect better. We will throw when we have to; throw when we need to. Everyday I’m getting more and more comfortable back there.”
Obviously on Saturday, Nevada would like to make Jenkins as uncomfortable as possible with a heavy pass rush.
– Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281