Rutgers Rolls Through Pittsburgh

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — For the second straight game, the Rutgers defense wreaked havoc and true freshman quarterback Gary Nova did enough to lead the Scarlet Knights to a victory. With the 34-10 win over Pittsburgh, Rutgers remains in sole possession of first place in the Big East and 2-0 in the conference for the first time since 2006.

Quarterback controversy and offensive line questions dominated the week leading up to Rutgers' Big East opener. But like in every other win this season, the defense stole the show.

Winning 34-10 against Pittsburgh (3-3, 1-1), the Rutgers (4-1, 2-0) defense swarmed quarterback Tino Sunseri to the point where he may want to "blackout" the events at High Point Solutions Stadium.

"That was pretty good – I am proud of the way the kids played," said head coach Greg Schiano. "Save maybe two plays, that was really good stuff. We lost our focus for a little bit at the end of the quarter there, but we got it back which I was glad to see. I think they played a physically very aggressive type of football – there was some hitting going on out there"

Four interceptions, including a pick-six from sophomore cornerback Logan Ryan, kept Pittsburgh from building any type of momentum. After taking the opening drive 70 yards for a field goal, Pittsburgh's offense was ineffective until it was too late.

Pittsburgh came into Piscataway with the worst sacks-allowed number in the country and likely leaves in the same position.

Justin Francis made a living in the backfield, leading Rutgers to six total sacks.

"The kids did a good job and executed what we asked. I think as important as the sacks was that each time he threw the ball he was hit. That has a cumulative effect on a quarterback when he gets hit every snap."

The Rutgers offense was stuck in the Alabama mud in the first half, but broke out just enough in the second to secure the win.

Schiano and offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti entrusted true freshman Gary Nova with the starting quarterback role and stuck with him the entire game.

Nova's first half did not go well, but he did not turn the ball over and built enough steam at halftime to finish with a solid performance. Nova completed 11 of 24 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns.

"Every decision we make is based on what gives us the best chance to win," Schiano said. "They're both great kids. They're both great competitors. ... There are some rough stretches. There were some good stretches." The first touchdown came on a red-zone designed pass to Mark Harrison. The second, five minutes later, came when fullback Joe Martinek broke a third-and-long screen for a 60-yard score. "It was the perfect play-call," Martinek said. "I just saw [Quron Pratt] with a great block and two of my linemen in front of me and I knew I was gone."

Running back Savon Huggins added a late touchdown run to close out the game.

For the first time since 2006, the Scarlet Knights are 2-0 in the Big East. Rutgers is in sole possession of first place in the conference with Navy at home next weekend before key games against Louisville and West Virginia.

"That was an old-fashioned Rutgers win," Schiano said. "It was fun to be a part of. I'm proud of our football players. I'm proud of our coaches. ... There's something about the DNA of this team. ... These kids are something. They're a special group of kids."

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