Thursday represented a milestone of sorts for New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
It has been exactly 1,000 days since Garoppolo, the Patriots’ interim starter during Tom Brady’s four-game Deflategate suspension, last started a meaningful (i.e. non-preseason) game. With the 24-year-old set to make his first NFL start this Sunday night in Arizona against the Cardinals, let’s take a little trip down memory lane.
The scene: Dec. 13, 2013. Eastern Illinois vs. Towson in the quarterfinal round of the FCS playoffs, on a snow- and sleet-covered field at O’Brien Stadium in Charleston, Ill.
Garoppolo was one of the most prolific passers in the nation during his senior season at Eastern Illinois, ranking second in all of Division I in passing yards (5,050; 33 behind current Oakland Raiders signal-caller Derek Carr) and first in touchdown passes (53; three ahead of both Carr and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston).
With the future second-round draft pick leading the way, Eastern Illinois put up video-game numbers throughout the 2013 season, averaging 48.2 points per game and cruising to an 11-1 regular-season record. The Panthers even gave their two FBS opponents all they could handle, routing San Diego State 40-19 in their season opener and falling to Northern Illinois in a 43-39 barnburner.
A 50-19 blowout of Tennessee-Martin in the opening round of the playoffs set up a quarterfinal date with Towson, which was ranked fifth in the nation at the time and boasted the leading rusher in FCS, Terrance West.
Garoppolo was on point against the Tigers that day, braving the Foxboro-esque conditions to complete 38 of 50 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns while also picking up 35 yards on the ground and rushing for more two scores.
Unfortunately for him, West was even better. The soon-to-be Cleveland Browns draft pick amassed an astounding 356 rushing yards on 39 carries and ran for five touchdowns. Towson won 49-39, knocking Eastern Illinois out of the postseason and ending Garoppolo’s wildly productive collegiate career.
Will Garoppolo be able to replicate his eye-popping numbers at the NFL level? We’ll begin to find out Sunday night.
Thumbnail photo via Bradley Leeb/USA TODAY Sports Images