"I hate losing," Nova said. "And it's been a while since we've won. But you can't really focus on the bad. As well as we played on offense [against Fresno State], we still have some things we need to get fixed up and obviously we got a loss. That still hurts but we have to move on."
Sophomore receiver Leonte Carroo, who experienced just as much high school success at Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep, losing has not been easy.
Carroo played as a true freshman, but did not have a major role on offense. He watched most of the three straight losses from the sidelines. The helpless feeling he had makes him want a win against Norfolk State in the worst way.
"It's pretty hard," Carroo said on the losses. "There are times where it gets to me. I was playing special teams last year and I would watch guys like Tim Wright, who was my roommate, and how he prepared to win championship games.
"He taught me how hard it was to prepare. Just watching him and watching our team lose three straight last year, it was hard. We're making sure we put ourselves in a position right now to make sure that won't happen."
Norfolk State is as heavy an underdog as anyone will see at High Point Solutions Stadium. Losing by a combined 90-0 during its last two games at Rutgers, Norfolk State cannot be taken lightly, Carroo said.
"There's a lot of urgency," he said. "You see guys out there moving much faster. You see us watching more film and talking to each other more as a team to make sure that won't happen again. That's the last thing we want is a loss when we've been working hard all offseason. We just want to come out, execute the fundamentals and let it all go."
The American Athletic Conference has already seen FCS losses by Connecticut and South Florida. Rutgers does not need a reason to stay focused after four straight losses, but other conference results did not go unnoticed.
"I can't speak for those teams, but I know we still have a sense of urgency about this opponent," Nova said. "We're not taking this team lightly. Their defense has been ranked in the top 10 the past three years in FCS, so we know it's a good team. We have to play well to beat them."
Nova led Rutgers to victory over MEAC foe Howard last season, but not without some hiccups. As a sophomore, Nova completed just 15 of 27 passes for 130 yards. He threw a pair of touchdowns and an interception.
"They have a solid defense and it's going to be a real test for us," Nova said. "If we don't perform the way we should, then they're going to give us a run for our money."