Rutgers QB Tom Savage displays growth

Rutgers freshman quarterback Tom Savage displayed maturity beyond his years this season, but he took another big step in his development with his performance against Louisville. Savage went 10 of 16 for 168 yards and a touchdown. So, why did coach Greg Schiano say "I can't wait for when he is done with this season ..."

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano thought Tom Savage would be fine, but it was based on character reading because no precedent existed.

Savage comes across as unflappable through adversity, but that was after minor setbacks in the course of a game. Schiano was anxious to see how Savage responded following the worst outing of his short career.

It didn't take long for Rutgers' freshman quarterback to give a pleasing response.

In a significant step to his development, Savage connected on his first eight passes in the 34-14 win at Louisville, and demonstrating he could summon confidence when there was reason to question it.

"When you're young like that, you don't have a lot of experience to call upon,'' Schiano said. "He created some on how to come off the mat and come out and play, and I think that will serve him well. All these things will serve him well.''

The uncertainty existed because Savage took a mental and physical beating the prior week at Syracuse.

The offense was miserable, Savage was 7 of 17 for 66 yards and he was sacked a staggering nine times.

There was also confusion in pass protection calls, and a modicum of trust could have been lost in the offensive line, and the offensive coaching staff. None of those proved to issues.

"Tom has got a real good personality for playing the position,'' Schiano said. "He doesn't get too high, doesn't get too low. He has fun playing, so the guys like to play with him. He's a natural leader, and I think all that stuff plays into it. Then, you take his physical ability …''

There is the 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame, the strong right arm and awareness of a pocket forming around him.

He came out throwing against the Cardinals and got off to a fast start, beginning with a 23-yard pass to receiver Tim Brown on Rutgers' first play. Savage and Brown connected a few plays later on a crucial third-and-8, and it led to the Scarlet Knights' first touchdown.

On Rutgers' second possession, Savage was 4 for 4 for 43 yards, and followed it by going 2 for 2 for 34 yards on the third possession as the Scarlet Knights built a 21-7 lead.

"I felt like I was getting in the groove in the beginning,'' Savage said. "I was enjoying it. The offensive line was blocking awesome, like they always do.''

Savage finished 10 of 16 for 163 yards, and also was sacked twice. The only knock is his penchant for holding onto the ball too long to wait for a play to develop, but that could be remedied with a better understanding of defenses and maturity.

It also has Schiano drooling about what the next few seasons could be like with Savage as the quarterback.

"I can't wait for when he is done with this season, and he gets to spend a whole offseason learning defenses, because it's so hard to learn our offense and (opposing) defenses,'' Schiano said. "He can just spend a whole offseason learning defenses and go out next spring (and) in training camp, and know what he's looking at. It's going to be fun.''

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