It was 10-0 with more than 9 minutes left in the second quarter for the Rutgers football team's game against Temple last Saturday night. After an offensive holding call that negated a long completion from junior quarterback Gavin Wimsatt to senior receiver Isaiah Washington, followed by a rushing play that lost them a yard, the Scarlet Knights (2-0, 1-0) were backed up in their own territory.
On 2nd and 20, Rutgers needed a big play to get them first down yardage. With approximately 9 minutes left in the second quarter, Wimsatt launched the football deep down the left sideline to an open man down the field.
Senior receiver and Division II transfer JaQuae Jackson found himself on the receiving end as he gained space from the defensive back covering him and made the catch that was dropped right into his hands. He took it for a 61-yard connection that set the Knights up in their offensive territory.
"It was awesome," Jackson said of his big catch. "(Wimsatt) put it out there for me. He made the throw. Without that throw, I can't make the play, so everything goes to him and the o-line."
That completion led to Rutgers converting its second field goal of three on the night in a blowout 36-7 win over the Owls (1-1, 0-0). It was the Knights' longest offensive play since 2021 and Wimsatt's longest pass of his collegiate career.
Overall, Jackson hauled in four receptions, totaled 95 yards and produced multiple first downs. It was a game that Wimsatt saw coming.
"(Jackson) is a great receiver, and I'm just glad you guys got to see what we've been seeing all summer in camp. He's been working hard," Wimsatt said.
Jackson's performance against Temple was something head coach Greg Schiano expected as well.
"The performance that (Jackson) had tonight, I've seen that coming, but you guys have not been able to see that coming because he missed some of camp," Schiano said in his postgame press conference. "But I was really pleased with him. I think that that was something we needed. That was a shot in the arm we needed."
When Wimsatt and Jackson paired up for the largest play of the night for either team, the crowd of more than 45,000 fans at SHI Stadium on Busch campus roared in approval. That's something Jackson, who played Division II football at California University of Pennsylvania, wanted to see after he transferred to a Division I Big Ten program.
"It was a great environment," Jackson said. "This is something I've been wanting to do, something I've been dreaming of since (I was) a kid. So, I'm just very blessed and humbled to be here and be here in this position."
For the people who had doubted Jackson would be able to adjust to Division I play, the receiver has some words to share.
"They can question everything. (I'm just going to) come out here and just perform and just do my job and do what I (do)," Jackson said. "We practice this every day, so if practice is good, you're gonna play good."
Jackson and Rutgers will now look ahead to next Saturday when the Knights take on Virginia Tech at 3:30 p.m. for their third straight home game in Piscataway. Jackson and his teammates were able to relish in their victory against the Owls but will have to remain focused for their game the following week.
"Ain't nothing like a win in the locker room," Jackson said. "It's a great feeling. We're gonna celebrate this tonight, but as soon as tomorrow hits, (we're going to) focus on Virginia Tech. Got some more work to do. Got to clean up some stuff. Got to keep going."
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