BRIDGEWATER — The only thing that stopped Bridgewater College’s Jarrod Denham Saturday night against Gettysburg was the goal line.
The soft-spoken senior touched the ball three times in Bridgewater’s 41-10 season-opening victory, catching a 41-yard touchdown pass from Jay Scroggins and rushing for scores from 93 and 14 yards out to earn the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week award.
Denham had carried the ball 11 times for 98 yards in his career prior to this season and Eagles coach Michael Clark said last week was the first time the Alexandria product had figured prominently into BC’s game plan.
But as Bridgewater prepares for a Stevenson team that has made five straight postseason appearances, it won’t be the last.
“He’s a mature, fast player so I’d better figure out ways to get somebody like that involved,” Clark said. “We ran 65 plays on Saturday, but Stevenson now has to look really hard at those three and spend extra time on figuring out how to stop those. He’s become someone who affects their preparation.”
Clark said Denham has always had the speed to make a difference, but that he stuck it out at BC despite limited playing time his first three seasons in an era in which transfers are increasingly common is an even bigger part of what made him special.
His teammates have certainly noticed how his perseverance paid off.
“He’s worked hard everyday these years and it’s awesome to see him have a game like that,” said Chase Rosenthal, who was the ODAC Defensive Player of the Week after picking off two passes, one for a touchdown, against Gettysburg. “But we knew he had that kind of speed so it wasn’t a big surprise to us.”
Perhaps the biggest key to Denham’s breakout was finding the right spot on the field. He still wears a tailback’s jersey number, 29, signifying the position he played his first three years at Bridgewater.
“He’s always had that tailback speed, but maybe not the same kind of vision as some others who carry the ball a lot for us,” Clark said.
Despite some concern about depth in the backfield, this year Denham is listed on the roster as a wide receiver. But like fellow former running back Matt DeMasi, Denham might best be described as a utility man. You might see him split wide one play and in the slot or something similar to a wingback position on another.
Scroggins hit him on an out pattern from the wide receiver spot for BC’s first score of the season, but Denham scored twice more on jet-sweep style handoffs, which play to his strengths of simply getting to the outside and turning the corner.
Once he did that against the Bullets, he was gone.
Even after a huge game, Denham still might not get a high volume of touches. Demetreus Jalepes figures to continue to be the workhorse in the backfield while DeMasi and Trey Stephens are established possession receivers.
But as Clark continued to focus on his team coming out on the positive side of what he calls “explosion plays,” Denham should continue to be what is now a not-so secret weapon.
“If we can keep him up around 50 yards a carry...” Clark joked “I don’t know what the minimum number of carries is to lead the nation in that, but if we keep that up we should do pretty well.”