It meant plenty to JaMarcus Russell, who had persevered through the
longest day of his life to throw a two-yard scoring pass to Zach Miller on
"You've got to look your guys right in the eye and let them know you're
ready down deep and you'll fight it off," Russell said. "Things didn't go
too good and I'm proud of the guys to keep fighting to get out there and get
a drive going."
Russell took the Raiders 70 yards in 12 plays for the touchdown on a
drive that included a 12-yard pass to Jerry Porter and a 19-yard hookup to
Chris McFoy. The microphone-to-helmet communication system was out, so
Russell took his plays through backup Josh McCown, who shouted and signaled
from the sideline.
Even with the final drive, Russell's stats weren't much to look at.
He entered with 3:15 left in the first quarter and the Raiders already
trailing 14-0. He missed two series at the end of the half when he was
knocked out of bounds and fell awkwardly, knocking the wind out of him.
But he returned in the second half and finished out the game after
playing only five series in two previous games.
Russell's final line was seven completions in 23 attempts for 83 yards,
three interceptions and one touchdown. He threw at least two more passes
into coverage that could have been picked off and lost a fumble.
He was also sacked twice.
It wasn't much to look at or admire, other than the ending.
It was also the worst fears realized for coach Lane Kiffin.
"It was one of your nightmares come true," Kiffin said. "This was my fear
all along for JaMarcus' first game. It's what we wanted to get rid of in the
preseason and we didn't have a preseason. We wanted him to experience those
things, the speed of the game and the decision to make. The guy hasn't
played in a year, and played today against a very good defense."
Kiffin, who has taken it slow with Russell after a contract dispute kept
him out of training camp and the preseason, seemed more affected by the game
than the quarterback.
Russell even seemed amused by questions regarding his psyche.
"I'm good. There were a lot of things to learn from," Russell said.
"Things didn't go the way we wanted to. Who cares? You've got plenty of time
to keep playing."
As bad as things were going, even as Russell was making rookie mistakes
such as throwing late across the middle, his demeanor seldom changed.
His performance, however, suggested something else, according to Kiffin.
"Naturally, his confidence wavered a little bit," Kiffin said. "Extremely
poor decision-making -- I haven't been around decision-making like that
before, as far as just throwing the ball up across the field like he did a
number of times. I'm sure that didn't help his confidence. Your first time
playing an extended amount of time like that, to not have success, can't
Miller, the rookie tight end, never saw a sign of panic.
"He was really composed and calm," Miller said. "He doesn't get
frustrated and let things affect him. He just goes back out there, runs the
offense. Sometimes it's easy for a quarterback to lose his composure and he
did a good job."
Veteran Jacksonville safety Sammy Knight liked what he saw despite the
"He was happy to be in there," Knight said. "He wasn't scared. He was
focused, wanted to test the waters. He did all right other than a few
mistakes, but you expect those things to happen, especially when you're not
running the ball."
In the regular-season finale against San Diego, Kiffin said Russell will
make his first NFL start.
He has plenty to work on, Kiffin said.
"There's a list," Kiffin said. "Where do you start? Ball-handling in the
run game. Footwork in the passing game. Decision-making. Timing. Accuracy.
You name it, it was out there on film. So he's got a long ways to go."