Football

Frisco Liberty alum Jay Ajayi is NFL’s first 200-yard man in 2016

Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) rushed for 204 yards in his first start this season for Miami. Ajayi’s previous career-best was 48 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 9 last season, his rookie year.
Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) rushed for 204 yards in his first start this season for Miami. Ajayi’s previous career-best was 48 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 9 last season, his rookie year. TNS

Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi didn’t need long to answer when asked if he remembered his last 200-yard rushing game.

“In college. My last game on Boise State turf against Utah State,” Ajayi said in a phone interview.

It wasn’t his final game on the blue turf — the Broncos played Fresno State at home the following week — but the Frisco Liberty alum did rush for 229 yards and five touchdowns on 27 carries against the Aggies on Nov. 29, 2014. It was one of three 200-yard games Ajayi had in his 38 games at Boise State.

It took Ajayi only 14 games to top the 200-yard mark in the NFL.

“It’s a big deal,” Ajayi said. “I feel really blessed to be able to do it. I just want to let it not be just the one-time thing and hopefully be able to do it again.”

Running backs have topped the 200-yard mark only 126 times since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, and Ajayi’s is the only one in the league this season.

Ajayi, whose previous career best was 48 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 9 last season, rushed for 204 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. He earned AFC Offensive Player of the Week.

“It was great,” Ajayi said. “Credit to the O-line getting those guys back healthy, getting them out there. I felt really confident going into the game. The receivers did a great job outside blocking. I just ran hard, and we were able to get a 200-yard day. It was amazing.”

Ajayi went over the 200-yard mark on a 62-yard touchdown run with 50 seconds left that iced the 30-15 victory.

“I didn’t know until I was on the sideline,” said Ajyai, who was in on 48 of 70 plays. “The guys started coming up to me and saying, ‘You did it. You got over 200. Way to go.’ Everyone was just cheering. We were all just cheering together.”

Ajayi has won the job. Finally.

Ajayi, who had only 49 carries for 187 yards and a touchdown in nine games as a rookie last season, inherited the job when Lamar Miller left for Houston in free agency. But Ajayi didn’t handle the preseason finale well, fumbling and dropping a pass, and coach Adam Gase named free agent signee Arian Foster the starter for the season opener.

Ajayi handled that even worse, and the Dolphins left him home when they went to Seattle for the season opener.

The Dolphins gave Ajayi only 18 carries in the next three games before Foster was hurt, then Ajayi took advantage.

“It was what it was, and I just had to put my head down and grind and just focus on what I can do for myself and just focus on my attitude and my level of play,” Ajayi said. “It definitely feels good to be in this position now considering where I was earlier this season. I just want to keep going, taking it week by week and continue to be a professional and continue to do my job.”

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760, @NFLCharean

My five cents

1 Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, the first overall draft pick in 2009, has become one of the league’s elite passers. In 15 games with offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, the Highland Park alum has completed 68.9 percent of his passes for 4,044 yards with 34 touchdowns and six interceptions.

2 Ryan Fitzpatrick’s career with the Jets effectively has ended, and Geno Smith, in the final year of his contract, likely leaves after this season. If the Jets believe either Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg is the long-term answer, they should get on with the process of finding out for sure. Neither Petty nor Hackenberg has taken a regular-season snap.

3 Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews drew attention when another former A&M product, Michael Bennett, called out Matthews for a low block last week. Matthews, who has allowed one sack and ranks second on the team with four penalties, including two holds, continues to struggle as have most of the A&M offensive linemen drafted in the first round. The Bengals benched right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, a first-round pick in 2015, during last week’s game.

4 Saints linebacker Craig Robertson, who signed a three-year, $5 million contract with $1.985 million guaranteed in the off-season, has a team-leading 55 tackles. The North Texas alum has two pass breakups and a fumble recovery as well.

5 Halapoulivaati Vaitai retained his starting right tackle job with the Eagles despite a shaky first game. The Haltom City and TCU alum, a fifth-round pick, allowed two sacks in his NFL debut.

Who’s hot

Tennessee Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo finally has become the player the Washington Redskins thought they were drafting in the first round in 2009. He has seven sacks, equaling last year’s total in his first season with the Titans. The former UT star had a career-high 11 sacks his rookie season.

Who’s not

Atlanta Falcons right cornerback Robert Alford leads the team with eight penalties for 110 yards, accounting for six first downs for opponents. Officials have called him for pass interference five times. He also has had a taunting penalty, unnecessary roughness and illegal use of hands. According to STATS, Alford has allowed 20 catches on 34 targets for 258 yards and two touchdowns while defensing seven passes.

2017 NFL Draft

Dane Brugler of CBS Sports and NFLDraftScout.com gives his top-10 senior offensive guards and top-five draft-eligible underclassmen at the position for the 2017 draft:

Senior guards

1. Dan Feeney, Ind. (6-4, 310, 5.09)

2. Dorian Johnson, Pitt. (6-5, 300, 5.20)

3. Nico Siragusa, San Diego St (6-4, 330, 5.37)

4. Zach Banner, USC (6-8, 360, 5.46)

5. Johnny Caspers, Stanford (6-3, 296, 5.29)

6. Forrest Lamp, W. Kent. (6-3, 300, 5.12)

7. Greg Pyke, Ga. (6-5, 313, 5.24)

8. Jessamen Dunker, Tenn. St. (6-4, 290, 5.16)

9. Isaac Asiata, Utah (6-3, 323, 5.38)

10. Erik Austell, Charleston Sou. (6-3, 292, 5.07)

Draft-eligible underclassmen

1. Billy Price, Ohio St. (6-3, 315, 5.19)

2. Quenton Nelson, ND (6-5, 325, 5.23)

3. Damien Mama, USC (6-3, 355, 5.47)

4. Sean Welsh, Iowa (6-2, 292, 5.24)

5. Braden Smith, Auburn (6-5, 305, 5.21)

Numbers game

300 Games coached by Andy Reid, including the postseason, after today. Only 13 other head coaches in NFL history have paced the sideline for 300 games as a head coach, with New England’s Bill Belichick and Los Angeles’ Jeff Fisher the only other active coaches on the list.

Blitz

  Since the current playoff format in 1990, 92 teams have started 1-5. The 2015 Kansas City Chiefs are the only one that rallied to make the postseason.

  Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell averages a league-leading 146.7 yards from scrimmage per game since returning from a three-game suspension.

  Steelers quarterback Landry Jones, who replaces Ben Roethlisberger in the starting lineup, went 1-1 last year.

  The Arizona Cardinals’ opponents have drawn 146 false start penalties at University of Phoenix Stadium since the building opened in 2006. That ranks as the most at any stadium in that span.

  Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has a 7-0 career record against the Titans.

  Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski needs one touchdown to tie Stanley Morgan’s team records for touchdowns (68) and touchdown receptions (67). Gronkowski has 67 touchdowns in his six-plus seasons, 66 of them receptions.

  Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib has 33 career interceptions since entering the league in 2008, the most of any corner in that span. His nine interceptions returned for touchdowns ranks fourth in NFL history behind only Rod Woodson, Darren Sharper and Charles Woodson.

  The Seahawks are averaging 88.8 yards rushing per game. They have not averaged under 100 yards rushing per game since Pete Carroll’s first season in Seattle in 2010.

  Buffalo leads in the league in point differential at 59. That’s one point better than the Patriots.

  Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill ranks fourth in the NFL in yards per attempt at 8.11. His career best is the 7.18 he had last season.

  The Saints have allowed only seven touchdown passes after giving up an NFL-record 45 last season.

  The Redskins have five consecutive road wins. They have not won six in a row on the road since 1991.

  The Eagles, under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, blitz less than any team in the league. Philadelphia has blitzed on only 14 percent of its opponents’ pass plays.

  Giants receiver Odell Beckham has nine career touchdown receptions of 50 or more yards, eight of 60 or more yards and five of 70 or more yards.

  The Bucs went only 2-4 last season without receiver Vincent Jackson, who missed six games with a series of knee injuries.

  The San Diego Chargers are only 1-11 in their past 12 road games.

Information from The Sports Xchange was used in this report.

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