JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Akeem Hunt waited all season for a chance to play. When it finally came, he made it count.
Hunt was promoted from Houston’s practice squad Saturday and delivered in a big way Sunday. The second-year pro from Purdue ran eight times for 52 yards in a 24-21 win at Jacksonville . He had a key run down the stretch, a 17-yard gain on a third-and-16 play in the fourth quarter that set up a field goal.
“I wasn’t surprised with what Akeem did,” Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler said. “You were able to see glimpses from Akeem throughout the preseason. He seems to have so much bottled-up energy. If you get him the ball, he might be able to spring the big one every single time. He’s so athletic, he’s so fast, he’s quick and he’s a smart football player as well. He had great vision today and really hit the holes hard.”
He ran five times for 39 yards on Houston’s final scoring drive early in the fourth quarter, none of his carries bigger than that third-down run. The speedy back caught Jacksonville by surprise when he took a handoff and skirted around the left side for the team’s second-biggest gain of the game. It led to Nick Novak’s 51-yard field goal, which proved to be the difference.
“That was crushing,” Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. “I thought it was a pass for sure. Everybody made a mistake thinking it was pass. We’ve got to get off blocks and make the tackle. Nobody seemed to do that and we lost. Two or three plays as a defense will show us why we lost the game, but we were playing a hell of a game.”
The Texans finished with 181 yards on the ground. Lamar Miller led the way with 83 yards, including a 45-yard scamper that set up a first-quarter touchdown.
Osweiler scrambled for 23 more. Hunt’s yardage was equally eyebrow-raising. After all, he was added to the 53-man roster the day before the game because Jonathan Grimes (illness) didn’t make the trip. And Hunt could have been playing elsewhere.
One of the fastest players on Houston’s roster — he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds coming out of college — Hunt was let go in final roster cuts. He was offered practice-squad contracts by Chicago, New Orleans, Kansas City and others after scoring two touchdowns during Houston’s preseason finale against Dallas.
He opted to remain with the Texans and take his chances on the practice squad. Hunt showed glimpses of potential as a rookie last season, rushing for 96 yards on 17 carries and catching six passes for 39 yards. That came after previous stints with the New York Giants and Baltimore.
But what he did in Jacksonville has to top his highlight list.
“Akeem ran really well, especially in the fourth quarter, and it was good to have him in there,” Miller said.