A Look At Rutgers: Nova Saves Scarlet Knights

Gary Nova came off the bench to lead the Scarlet Knights to a 19-16 win at Syracuse on Saturday. Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano is not ready to name a starter for Saturday's game with Pitt, just yet.

It's Groundhog Day again under center for the Scarlet Knights. Or, more appropriately, the Sophomore Jinx is back in town.

Two years ago, freshman Tom Savage was the main Rutgers quarterback. Last year, freshman Chas Dodd beat him out midseason, and Savage wound up transferring.

Now, it's happening again. True freshman Gary Nova came in for a struggling Dodd in the third quarter, and led the Scarlet Knights to a 19-16 overtime victory over Syracuse. After the game, coach Greg Schiano refused to commit to a starting quarterback, saying he'd have to look at the film.

Nova finished 14-of-24 for 122 yards and touchdown, while Dodd went 14-of-31 for 166 yards and no scores.

The victory left the team 3-1 and 1-0 in the Big East, though for a 3-1 team it faces a lot of questions. The quarterback situation is one, especially considering Nova's numbers also included two delay of game penalties, two sacks, and a delay of game. The running game is still not-existent, averaging just over two yards a carry on the season. The special teams was uneven against Syracuse, with the field goal unit an adventure on both sides of the ball.

But unlike the 2010 squad, at least the squad is answering these issues with a winning record.

--Rutgers' running game is still atrocious. It entered the week ranked 99th in rushing offense, and was likely to see that drop after netting five yards on 38 carries against Syracuse. Its longest run from scrimmage against the Orange was eight yards.

--The victory over Syracuse marked the second time in its history that Rutgers opened Big East play with a road win. The previous time came in 2006, when it knocked off South Florida 22-20.

--Rutgers forced five turnovers against Syracuse on Saturday. That gives the Scarlet Knights 18 through four games, after generating 22 in all of 2010.

KEEP AN EYE ON: LB Jamal Merrell -- Rutgers coach Greg Schiano noted that it had been an exceptionally long time since his team had blocked a kick. Not anymore. The sophomore blocked both an extra point and field goal attempt that proved critical in the victory over the Orange, and is a player every opposing coach is now going to have to account for on special teams.

LOOKING GOOD: The defense deserves most of the credit for the victory, shutting down Syracuse and forcing five turnovers. In addition, the special teams blocked both a field goal and an extra point, and nearly won the game with a blocked FG return for a touchdown before the score was nullified by a personal foul penalty.

STILL NEEDS WORK: There were a whole lot of negatives here, even though the Scarlet Knights came away with the victory. It was the worst game of the season by far for the offensive line, which couldn't open holes for the running backs or protect either quarterback. In addition, Rutgers got penalized 13 times for 73 yards.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's like a dream come true. Every day waking up in the summer, I think of going out there and getting a big victory like this. I've seen this place on television a million times and it was crazy to come in here and actually play. I loved every second of it. It's the reason I came to this school." -- Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova told the Newark Star-Ledger, after leading the Scarlet Knights to victory in relief over Syracuse.


--LB Edmond Laryea was in the game for just one play on defense against Syracuse, but he made that play count. The sixth-year senior helped force the Antwon Bailey fumble that sealed the Rutgers victory in double overtime.

--LB Steve Beauharnais had a big game against Syracuse, with nine tackles, two sacks and an interception. He also had a critical penalty, however, getting called for a personal foul that negated what would have been a special teams touchdown off a blocked punt.

--K San San Te had a good news, bad news kind of day. He set a career high with four field goals against Syracuse, including the game-winner in overtime. On the other hand, he also missed three attempts, including a 44-yarder with six seconds to play that would have won the game in regulation.

--LB Khaseem Greene left the game in the second overtime, but the issue was just cramps and it won't affect his status for this week.

--WR Mohamed Sanu moved into seventh place on the Rutgers career receiving list with seven catches. He now has 138 for his career, passing former teammate Tiquan Underwood.

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