SAN DIEGO – The 55,000 fans inside Qualcomm Stadium likely will not remember it.
“It was kind of crazy at first with all the people. My adrenaline was going at first but it was fun,” Mathews said. “My linemen did an excellent job of helping me out and without them big guys, I would’ve been in a whole lot of hurt.”
Mathews got to work after plunging between the tackles on his initial carry in Chargers blue. He stiff-armed a tackler on a screen pass during the same drive and earned his first loud applause with San Diego backed against its own goal line for an 18-yard gain.
“That was impressive … shoulder-to-shoulder speed there getting outside in the open,”
That’s the kind of run Head Coach Norv Turner envisioned in practice the last three months and the one that impressed him the most Saturday.
“He’s got all the things you need to be an outstanding runner. He’s physical. He really likes to play football. He’s a very mature young man,” Turner said. “It’s exciting to have him and it’s exciting to have (Mike) Tolbert help him out.”
Mathews challenged defenders, finished off runs and played the entire first half, carrying the ball nine times for 50 yards (5.6 per carry). He also added two receptions for 11 yards.
Mathews described the game as going from fast-forward to normal speed as he stiff-armed tacklers and barreled his shoulder into defenders. It didn’t take much for a guy that admitted to a heavy case of nerves and not sleeping the night before.
“As soon as I got here, that’s when everything started kicking in. I went to the locker room and changed and went down to the field and took a lap. I felt a little nauseous and had to get inside,” Mathews said. “As soon as I got my gear on I was in the bathroom throwing up.”
Before long, he was running out of the tunnel and preparing to enter the game.
“It was an unreal moment. I didn’t think they were going to do that the first time,” Mathews said of the pregame introduction. “It was humbling and I’m grateful for it and I’m glad I’m in (this) position. I’m going to make the most of it.”