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Game that was: Luton "never showed nerves" in first NFL start

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Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Jake Luton (6) in the huddle during the first half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

JACKSONVILLE – Jake Luton liked his situation Sunday.

"I felt good," he said.

It showed.

Luton, a sixth-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, made his first NFL start at quarterback for the Jaguars Sunday. He said he was ready and comfortable. That was evident, with the rookie from Oregon State nearly forcing overtime in a 27-25 loss to the Houston Texans at TIAA Bank Field.

"He never showed any nerves," Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. said of Luton. "He just played football and did what was asked of him. He wasn't afraid, he was fired up out there, he was excited. It's good, definitely, for your first start in the NFL and not expecting it to come the way it did. Hats off to him for that."

Luton, who replaced injured Gardner Minshew II (thumb) in the lineup, completed 26 of 38 passes for 304 yards and a touchdown with an interception. He also ran for a 13-yard touchdown that capped an 80-yard, late-game drive that gave the Jaguars a chance to tie with 1:30 remaining.

"I felt confident," said Luton, who said 29 family and friends made the trip from his home state of Washington to Sunday's game. "We talked on the sideline when we came out and I just told them 'Hey, just do your job. If all 11 of us do our part every play, we don't have to press, we don't have to go super-fast, just do your job and we'll drive it down field.'

"We did. I thought the guys did really well. I felt good. I felt comfortable."

Luton completed five of six passes for 67 yards on the drive, with his potential game-tying two-point conversion to Chark falling incomplete.

"I was impressed with a lot of things, just the plays in-and-out, no delays of game," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said. "I thought he made some really nice throws. I thought there were some that, obviously, you're going to want to have back. When you're first-time starting and you're down by a score and a two-point conversion and you lead your team down the field to potentially tie the game with a two-point conversion … I think that's another checkmark.

"So, there's a lot of checkmarks."

Luton, who because the NFL canceled the 2020 preseason never had taken an professional in-game snap of any kind before Sunday, said he placed more pressure on himself to run smooth practices this past week than he did in the game.

"By the time we got out there on the field, I was comfortable and ready to go," he said.

Luton completed a 73-yard touchdown pass to Chark on the game's third play for a 7-0 lead. The pass was a perfectly placed deep throw that Chark caught in stride. Luton narrowly missed a possible interception late in the half, and also had two early passes tipped, but his lone turnover Sunday was a deep pass he threw while under pressure that Texans cornerback Vernon Hargreaves intercepted.

Marrone was asked if Luton had done enough to be considered the starter moving forward.

"Everybody's going to ask me—I got asked on the radio show which I do prior to this—Gardner right now is not throwing, so there's no decision, really, to make right now," Marrone said.

Luton was asked the same question.

"That's not really my decision," he said. "I think I'm going to do everything I can to put this team in a position to win and I think Gardner and [backup quarterback] Mike [Glennon] are going to do the same thing. We all prepare really, really hard every single week, regardless of who the guy is going to be out there taking snaps on Sunday. We're all preparing that way and helping each other be the best we can be so, I'm not sure. We'll come back tomorrow, watch it, and keep working and supporting each other."

NOTABLE

Rookie running back James Robinson rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries Sunday and was the NFL's fourth-leading rusher through Sunday afternoon's games with 580 yards and five touchdowns on 132 carries. The rookie free agent narrowly missed his third 100-yard game of the season and second in as many games. "I just go with (what) the game plan is, and when I get the ball, I try to make a play every time," he said. "That's just what's going to help us. What I'm doing is good, but it's just not enough. We've all got to come together and find a way to win and get over that hump." Robinson was asked what he had to say to 32 teams that failed to draft him. "Nothing," he said. "I mean, I'm here now, but it doesn't really matter."

NOTABLE II

Marrone was understandably upset during the game about a missed delay-of-game penalty against Houston, and understandably avoided discussing it much afterward. The Texans took a 27-16 lead in the third quarter on a 77-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Deshaun Watson to wide receiver Will Fuller. Replays showed the play clock at :00 for at least two seconds before the snap. Officials did not call delay of game, and delay is not reviewable under the NFL's instant-replay system. Marrone declined to comment afterward; the NFL fines coaches heavily for publicly criticizing officiating. "It's going to take me a while to get over this one," he said. "I'm kind of pissed." Marrone was asked if he received an explanation from the officials. "They didn't see it," he said. "There's only one person responsible for it. That's what he—the back judge is responsible for the play clock. The other officials don't look at it, it's only one person." Marrone also was asked if the play was why he was "upset." He replied: "I'm not going to do anything. I'm not going to say anything stupid. I think you guys realize it."

NOTABLE II

Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo converted field goals of 59- and 30-yards Sunday, with the 59-yarder tying the franchise record for longest field goal set by Josh Scobee in 2010. But Lambo also reinjured his hip attempting a drop-kick onside kick with the Jaguars trailing 27-25 with 1:30 remaining. Marrone said he didn't have extensive information in the injury immediately after the game. "It didn't look good," he said.

QUOTABLE I

Luton on if he took a moment Sunday to savor his first NFL start: "For sure. I think before the game, just going through warmups, and I looked up and my brother is sitting there in the first row. We're waving and all excited and it's a really cool moment. A really cool opportunity and something I've always worked for. I took a second to appreciate it, I think that's important."

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