NEW ORLEANS — Rueben Mayes was one of college football's best-kept secrets while playing at Washington State, but now word is getting out about him.
Mayes had the biggest game of his rookie season by rushing for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns Sunday as the New Orleans Saints rolled to a 38-7 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"Instinct is taking over now," Mayes said after the second-best rushing performance in Saints' history, behind George Rogers' record of 206.
As an example, Mayes cited a 34-yard gain on what started out to be a reverse. But he said that without thinking he realized he had to keep the ball instead of handing it off, as the play was designed.
"I got the ball and saw the defensive line coming across, and I saw an opening and I just kept it," he said. "Sort of instinctive."
The Saints (3-4) scored on their first three possessions.
Mayes got 133 of his yards and both touchdowns in the first half while the Saints were building a 17-0 lead. Mayes accounted for 50 of the 73 yards on the drive to the first touchdown, which he scored on a nine-yard run.
After Morten Anderson kicked a 31-yard field goal to make it 10-0, Mayes capped a 91-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge. Mayes got 58 of the 91 yards in 6 carries, including the 34-yard run from the New Orleans 11 to the 45.
Mayes sat out most of the final 37 minutes of the game, seeing spot duty while Dalton Hilliard carried the rushing load. Hilliard had 58 yards and 2 touchdowns in 17 carries.
Steve DeBerg, who replaced starter Steve Young at quarterback for Tampa Bay (1-6) five minutes into the second half, scored Tampa Bay's touchdown on a one-yard run.