“I tend not to get fired up,” Nova said. “But in that moment I felt like it wasn’t about, you know ‘rah rah.’ It was about us. Like I said, it wasn’t the more talented team. It was about who was going to stick together and want it more.”
It’s a good thing he spoke up.
Because the Scarlet Knights came to play Friday night.
Led by Nova, Rutgers defeated North Carolina 40-21 to win the inaugural Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field. He finished 9-of-20 for 184 yards and added two more touchdowns to his school record 73 touchdown passes in the win.
His bowl statistics weren’t the story.
Wining the bowl, however, was for Nova. The win, solidified his record setting career in a Scarlet Knights uniform.
“I do think this really was the only thing left out there for him that he hadn’t accomplished,” Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. “And now he has leading this team to a bowl championship. Gary was very emotional in the locker room, which I would expect. He’s poured so much of his life into this program over the last four years, it would hard not to be emotional in a moment like this.”
Flood wasn’t kidding.
Nova leaves the program as one of the more decorated Rutgers quarterbacks in school history. He has a career 25-16 record. He is second in career passing yards with 9,258 yards. And most notably, he leaves the program in good shape. And his teammates commended him in the post-game celebration.
“It was just weird, after the game everybody was just thanking me,” Nova said. “I just wanted to let them know, ‘Don’t thank me. I thank you guys for everything. For being there for me through the tough times. Just letting them know they’re the reason why I was able to persevere and push through. Told them not to settle for this next year, 8-5 is good, but next year sett all your goals to be even better.”
Afterwards, Nova was asked if he had thought about what he was able to accomplish in his career. Fittingly, he focused his answer on his teammates.
“No, not really. Just been thinking about the guys,” Nova said. “The relationships I’ve built and I’m going to miss these guys. I’ll see a lot of them, but it won’t be the same. I won’t be strapping it up with them anymore. I have friends in this locker room forever.”
One thing is for sure. His career at Rutgers is over, but he won’t be forgotten.