Henry comes home, carries load for Titans late in 37-16 win
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Derrick Henry lowered his shoulder and knocked Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the ground. He did the same to A.J. Bouye a few plays later.
Henry took advantage of a brief stint as Tennessee’s featured back Sunday and delivered his best game in two seasons.
The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner ran 14 times for a career-high 92 yards and a touchdown in a 37-16 victory at Jacksonville. His 17-yard touchdown run in the third quarter set the tone for the Titans’ dominating second half.
“It feels good to come down and get the win,” Henry said. “Give all the credit to the offensive line, tight ends and fullback. They’re opening all the holes for me. They’re doing their job. I just have to do mine. My job is to be physical and run downhill.”
The former Alabama star was plenty physical while filling in for DeMarco Murray, who sat out part of the second half with a tight hamstring.
Murray stood on the sideline while wearing a cap backward. He had a front-row seat for Henry’s handiwork.
So did a large contingent of Henry’s friends and family. Henry grew up in nearby Yulee, about 30 miles north of EverBank Field, and had dozens of supporters on hand for his career day. Henry’s performance wasn’t anything close to what he did in high school — he set the national record for rushing — or in college, where he set the Southeastern Conference’s single-season record with 1,986 yards rushing in 2015.
But it was nonetheless special, especially in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
“It’s always good to come back home and play in front of your hometown,” said Henry, who added that those closest to him got through the hurricane unscathed. “I had a lot of family and friends here. I told them to be calm, just sit back and relax. This is my hometown, and for what happened here, the terrible tragedy, I saw water everywhere downtown, some of my people their houses got hit by trees.
“If I can donate and do anything humanly possible, I’ll do that. Hopefully this will never happen again.”
The Titans (1-1) finished with 179 yards on the ground against Jacksonville, including 121 in the final 30 minutes. Henry had most of those, including the TD run on a play Tennessee installed Saturday night at the team hotel.
It turned a six-point game into a double-digit lead and started an onslaught of points for the visiting team.
“He came in and had a big run, a really big run,” coach Mike Mularkey said. “We actually didn’t put the play in until Saturday night, when we had a look at another thing. We never practiced it, and those guys blocked it up front like we wanted. It was a great run. ... He came in and did what he was supposed to do. He ran the ball well.”
Henry finished with 490 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie and was hardly a factor in the season opener against Oakland.
Given a chance, he flashed against the Jaguars.
“He’s a good player, and got a number of opportunities, and took advantage of it,” Mularkey said.
He might have earned more work moving forward, too.
“It was awesome to start running the ball the way we did in the second half, to start popping the holes open and get the runs breaking out,” right tackle Jack Conklin said. “It was huge for us.
“It’s picking up where we left off last year. That’s the way we want to play. It’s smash-mouth football. We love when (the coaches) want to run, run, run the ball. That’s what we’re all about.”