Friendly Competition

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Sophomore Tom Savage and freshman Chas Dodd are involved in a weekly competition to be Rutgers' starting quarterback. Coach Greg Schiano hasn't named one yet for Saturday's game at Cincinnati, but the competition hasn't done anything to change the relationship between Savage, who still serves as a mentor, or Dodd, who is eager to keep learning from Savage.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – If it wasn't for sophomore Tom Savage, Chas Dodd would no shot at success this season, and it isn't because Savage's early-season injury and problems moving the offense opened the door for the freshman.

When Dodd arrived on campus in June, Savage quickly became Dodd's mentor. The two talked about the offense, watched film together and dissected plays. When Dodd had a question, Savage answered it.

So, while Rutgers' week-by-week quarterback contest may seem awkward to the outside world, it is comfortable to the two people who matter most – Dodd and Savage.

"Since I came in this summer he's been helping me with (the offense)," Dodd said. "He continues to help me if I have questions. He's definitely here to help me."

Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano is yet to name a starter for Saturday's game at Cincinnati, a pivotal game if Rutgers is to extend its bowl streak to six years. And while Dodd may be the front-runner considering his superior statistics, Savage isn't about to stop fighting for a position many Rutgers fans thought he would hold through the 2012 season.

"You have to keep working, keep grinding," Savage said. "There were no hard feelings. We just have to compete now. We're real good friends, we're close. We know what the deal is."

Coming off a season in which Savage was a freshman all-American, expectations were high as he looked to make significant improvement after an offseason to refine his mechanics, gain a better understanding of how defenses operate and development a stronger on-field relationship with is receivers.

Instead, even before injuring his throwing (right) hand while being tackled on the sideline Oct. 2 against Tulane, Savage's hold on the starting spot seemed tenuous.

After missing two weeks, he returned for mop-up duty at Pittsburgh (Oct. 23), didn't play at South Florida (Nov. 3) and then relieved an ineffective Dodd in the second half of Saturday's loss to Syracuse.

Savage was positioned to re-claim the starting job with a strong performance against the Orange, but completed 6 of 12 passes for 76 yards, and absorbed a pair of costly sacks late in the fourth quarter.

This is not how Savage, or anyone else, envisioned his sophomore season.

"It's been different," Savage said. "Not really what you expected, but now it's me and Chas' turn, and we have to go out and do what we have to do. (The lesson) I guess is you just have to go out and work harder, and you never really take anything for granted, and you have to go out and play and compete."

Dodd is 80 of 143 for 986 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions, but in the last two games much of Rutgers' offense has come out of the Wildcat package.

Savage is 43 of 83 for 521 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. After starting the first four games, he has served as Dodd's backup, and that offers another conundrum as he tries to regain his freshman form.

With Dodd playing in games and taking the majority of reps in practice the last six weeks, it leaves Savage trying to improve while getting little work.

"You take mental reps," Savage said. "You look at the reads, watch film a lot. It's tougher when you don't get as many reps because you have to go out there and read it and you have to see it, but that's where the film room comes in."

Despite the perceived on-field struggles, Savage insists he is a better quarterback now than during his freshman season, when he completed 52.3 percent of his passes, and threw 14 touchdowns against seven interceptions.

"I feel like I progressed a lot," he said. "I didn't perform as well as I wanted to, but I didn't lose any confidence. I'm still the quarterback I was at the beginning of the year. I just have to go out and play."

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