Rutgers returns to High Point Solutions Stadium with lofty goals amid change in Big East
GAMEDAY PAGE 2
SEPTEMBER 7, 2012
KNIGHTS GAMEDAY RUTGERS VS. HOWARD
GAME 2: High Point Solutions Stadium, 3:30 p.m. TV: Big East Network RADIO: 1450 AM
INSIDE the NUMBERS SCARLET KNIGHTS (1-0)
PASSING CMP YDS TD INT. AVG. 1 G. Nova 55.0% 158 1 158 RUSHING J. Jamison S. Huggins RECEIVING T. Wright J. Jamison B. Coleman
Senior linebacker Khaseem Greene recorded a team-high 14 tackles last Saturday at Tulane. Greene said a letdown against lowly Howard is not an option. NOAH WHITTENBURG, PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR
Rutgers combats FCS perceptions BY TYLER BARTO SPORTS EDITOR
It has not happened to Kyle Flood, but the Rutgers football team’s head coach sees the program’s history dotted with them. “We have games like that in our history,” Flood said. “It was a little prior to when I got here, but they’re there and they’re on the record.” So while the rest of the Big East grips from Pittsburgh’s upset loss to Football Championship Subdivision opponent Youngstown State last weekend, Flood continues to work on revisionist history. He understands the temptation of dismissing MEAC foe Howard tomorrow. He is conscious of the lure of looking for ward to Thursday night’s ESPN televised matchup at South Florida. And he has tape of it happening in Western Pennsylvania. Only Flood does not see it with the Scarlet Knights. “I think when you have an immature football team, you might be fighting that,” Flood said. “I think we’ve got a mature football team that understands we’ve got an opportunity this week to go … to 20 and to keep all of our goals for this season alive by doing it. I think that’ll be motivation enough.”
Outside of the Bison’s (1-0) 4-2-5 defense, little is striking about the Knights’ home opener. Rutgers (10) opened last season with a 48-0 victor y against the MEAC’s Norfolk State, and it last beat Howard, 45-7, in 2009. But larger issues loom. Following tomorrow’s game, the Knights have four days to prepare for the Bulls, whose success in September at home is well documented. They will have a full practice Sunday, a day usually reserved for walk-throughs. And they will next play at home Oct. 6 against Connecticut. “I can’t remember ever in the first month only playing one game at home,” said senior linebacker Khaseem Greene. “It’s different. It’s unique, and it’s going to tell us a lot about this team.” It likely will not learn much about itself against Howard. But that does not mean Flood will not be taking notes. His offensive line could do well to follow up its 151 rushing yards and no-sack performance against Tulane. It likely will. His defense could save face by minimizing big plays through the air. It likely will. And sophomore quarterback Gary Nova could use Game 2 as a
confidence builder entering a pair of high-profile matchups — Arkansas welcomes Rutgers on Sept. 22. He figures to do so. “At the end of the day, the South Florida game is going to come regardless,” Greene said. “We can’t think about that one or else Howard will hit us in the mouth.” Nova earned his first career playing time in last year’s home opener. He went 6-for-17 for 97 yards and a touchdown. A year later, he can of ficially introduce himself in style to Piscataway as the Knights’ fulltime star ter. This time, he has tape to build from. “He will learn from that experience,” Flood said. “I have no doubt about that. And he’ll be better for it this week. Fortunately for us we’re able to learn from that experience and win the game. It’s always nicer to teach and correct after a win for sure.” For now, the Knights will focus on themselves. They have a history that tells them to do so. “We can only control what we do,” said senior cornerback Marcus Cooper. “I’m not really going to start to look at other teams and see what they’re doing.”
NO. YDS TD 18 112 1 12 46 0 NO. YDS TD 3 29 0 2 41 0 2 41 1 DEFENSE TKL K. Greene 14 Jamal Merrell 7 L. Ryan 7 INJURIES Questionable —WR J. Deering Doubtful — TE P. Carrezola, DT A. Page OUT — DE M. Booker
LNG 46 31 LNG 15 34 43 SCK 1 0 0
AVG. 6.2 3.8 AVG. 9.7 20.5 20.5 INT 0 0 0
PASSING CMP YDS TD R. Liggins 60.0% 132 2 Cunningham 90.9% 79 1 RUSHING NO. YDS TD A. Freeman 14 63 1 W. Parker 12 54 0 RECEIVING NO. YDS TD B. Flanagan 3 56 1 A. Freeman 3 39 0 J. Duncan 3 32 0 DEFENSE TKL
INT. 0 0 LNG 19 13 LNG 32 27 14 SCK
AVG. 132 79 AVG. 4.5 4.5 AVG. 18.7 13.0 10.7 INT
SCHEDULE Sept. 1 Sept. 8 Sept. 13 Sept. 22 Oct. 6 Oct. 13 Oct. 20 Oct. 27 Nov. 10 Nov. 17 Nov. 24 Nov. 29
Tulane Howard South Florida Arkansas Connecticut Syracuse Temple Kent State Army Cincinnati Pittsburgh Louisville
W, 24-12 3:30 p.m. 7:30 p.m. TBA TBA TBA TBA 3:30 p.m. TBA 12 p.m. TBA 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 1 Sept. 8 Sept. 15 Sept. 29 Oct. 6 Oct. 13 Oct. 20 Oct. 27 Nov. 3 Nov. 10 Nov. 17
Morehouse Rutgers Norfolk St. Savannah St. Forida A&M N.C. A&T Morgan St. S.C. St. Hampton Ga. Southern Delaware St.
W, 30-29 3:30 p.m. 4:00 p.m. 1 p.m. 1 p.m. TBA 1 p.m. TBA 1 p.m. 2 p.m. 1 p.m.
Key Matchup RUTGERS DEFENSIVE LINE VS. HOWARD PASS PROTECTION The Knights recorded three sacks last Saturday against a Tulane team that often times opted for three-step drops. If the Knights front four can consistently create pressure, it could go a long way toward an easy afternoon for the team’s secondary.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP : OFFENSE
BRANDON COLEMAN WIDE RECEIVER
KALEB JOHNSON TACKLE
ANTWAN LOWERY GUARD
BETIM BUJARI CENTER
ANDRE CIVIL GUARD
R.J. DILL TACKLE
D.C. JEFFERSON TIGHT END
TIM WRIGHT WIDE RECEIVER
GARY NOVA QUARTERBACK
MICHAEL BURTON FULLBACK
JAWAN JAMISON RUNNING BACK
Sophomore 6’-6”, 220 lbs.
Sophomore 6’-4”, 300 lbs.
Junior 6’-4”, 305 lbs.
Sophomore 6’-4”, 290 lbs.
Junior 6’-3”, 275 lbs.
Senior 6’-7”, 310 lbs.
Senior 6’-6”, 250 lbs
Senior 6’-4”, 220 lbs
Sophomore 6’-2”, 225 lbs
Sophomore 6’-0”, 230 lbs
Sophomore 5’-8”, 200 lbs
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP : DEFENSE
MARCUS THOMPSON RIGHT END
SCOTT VALLONE TACKLE
ISAAC HOLMES TACKLE
KA’LIAL GLAUD LEFT END
JAMAL MERRELL LINEBACKER
STEVE BEAUHARNAIS LINEBACKER
KHASEEM GREENE LINEBACKER
MARCUS COOPER CORNERBACK
LORENZO WATERS STRONG SAFETY
DURON HARMON FREE SAFETY
LOGAN RYAN CORNERBACK
Junior 6’-2”, 260 lbs
Senior 6’-3”, 275 lbs
Junior 6’-3”, 275 lbs
Senior 6’-2”, 230 lbs
Junior 6’-4”, 220 lbs
Senior 6’-2”, 230 lbs
Senior 6’-1”, 230 lbs
Senior 6’-2”, 190 lbs
Sophomore 6’-0”, 200 lbs
Senior 6’-1”, 200 lbs
Junior 6’-0”, 190 lbs
SEPTEMBER 7, 2012
GAMEDAY PAGE 3
KNIGHT NUGGETS BY THE NUMBERS The Howard offense scored a touchdown with only 22 seconds remaining against Morehouse State to seal a 30-29 victory. Freshman Jermaine Cunningham came off the bench to engineer the drive.
Howard allowed 218 yards on the ground in its season opener and 472 yards overall. Rutgers, meanwhile, gained 151 rushing yards, led by Jawan Jamison’s 112 on only 18 carries. Jamison also scored.
Rutgers last outscored a MEAC opponent by 48 points. The drubbing came in a 48-0 victory last season against N.C. Central in the Knights’ home opener at High Point Solutions Stadium.
Rutgers’ longest run play against Tulane was three yards longer than its biggest pass. Jamison ripped off a 46-yard touchdown run to lift the Knights to a 7-0 second quarter advantage.
BIG QUESTION CAN THE RUTGERS PASS DEFENSE CUT DOWN ON LONG CONVERSIONS? LOGAN RYAN Junior Cornerback
Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin burned the Knights secondary for third-and-long conversions, extending Green Wave drives. Howard, meanwhile, has a signal caller competition on its hands.
THE ADVANTAGE GOES TO... OFFENSE The Rutgers attack has too many weapons for Howard, which allowed 29 points to Morehouse, to handle.
DEFENSE The Knights are likely upset they gave up a late score to Tulane. Chances are they do not want to repeat it.
Howard head football coach Gary Harrell is well aware of the challenge he faces with Rutgers. Flood earned high praise from Harrell, as well. KEITH FREEMAN, SENIOR STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Coach stresses mental edge BY JOEY GREGORY
COACHING Head coach Kyle Flood’s consistent demeanor has the Knights at ease in his first season.
SPECIAL TEAMS Junior Jeremy Deering — or whoever return kicks — could score Rutgers’ first special teams touchdown.
X-FACTOR The Knights’ home opener at High Point Solutions Stadium should provide enough energy to handle the Bison.
MOMENTUM Rutgers’ Era of Good Feelings began with a near-steady showing against Tulane on the road.
RUTGERS WINS IF...
HOWARD WINS IF...
IT ASSERTS ITS WILL IN THE TRENCHES AND AT THE SKILL POSITIONS
IT CONTROLS THE CLOCK AND DOES NOT SUFFER COSTLY TURNOVERS
The difference between the FBS and FCS levels largely occurs along the offensive and defensive lines. Rutgers should not have a problem dictating the pace.
There is little margin of error for Cinderella Howard, which has to play a near-perfect game and hope everything goes wrong for the host Knights.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK “It’s important for the starting five [offensive lineman]to take all the reps — in camp, in practice. By us being all together, the sky’s the limit.”
ANTWAN LOWERY Junior Left Guard
TARGUM’S FINAL VERDICT RUTGERS WINS, 38-7 Howard returns to Washington, D.C., with little show except its payout for playing a BCS team.
ASSOCIATE SPORTS EDITOR
Howard squeezed out a close win last weekend in its season opener against Morehouse. Freshman quarterback Jamie Cunningham led a 30-29 victory en route to being named MEAC Rookie of the Week. But the Rutgers football team is not Morehouse, and Howard head coach Gary Harrell knows that. “We know it’s going to be a situation where they’re bigger, supposedly stronger,” he said. “I just think it’s going to be mind over matter. We just have to be mentally into the game.” On paper, the Scarlet Knights have a clear advantage, the most glaring dif ference being the subdivision. Rutgers is a BCS school while Howard is an FCS school. Although BCS schools are traditionally more powerful than FCS schools, Knights head coach Kyle Flood sees the two subdivisions mixing as a positive. “You get one more Saturday experience for the fan base in your area,” Flood said. “I think it gives the FCS opponent a great opportunity to showcase their program.” Positive or not, the Bison still have their hands full tomorrow. To stay competitive, they need to start with the right frame of mind. After barely slipping by its Division II opponent in Morehouse, Howard needs an upgraded approach. “They have to get in the mindset of, ‘I have to play Division I football,’” Harrell said. “And when that play is over, they have to do it again.” He is stressing that a team effort and sound fundamentals will keep the Bison in the game and give them a chance for a win. Harrell and his team have studied film. They know what to expect when it comes to the Knights’ style.
“They’re just a tough team,” he said. “They don’t believe in finesse. They want to go right at you.” After watching Rutgers’ game against Tulane, Harrell knows a central focus of his defense has to be against the run. The Knights ran nearly twice as many rushing plays as they did passing plays. And after allowing the Maroon Tigers’ 472 yards of total offense, including 218 yards on the ground, the Bison have many concerns with keeping Rutgers out of the end zone. But offense is only half of the stor y. The Knights’ more impressive side of late has been defense, led by last year’s Co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Khaseem Greene, who accumulated 14 tackles in Saturday’s victory at Tulane. Harrell is well aware of that. “We watched [the defense] since we saw the film on Sunday,”
he said. “Now we see why Tulane had the problems they had.” Much of that, Harrell said, is because all of the players stick to their assignments, hit their gaps and do their jobs. But he also gives credit to defensive coordinator Robb Smith. “[Smith] does a great job as far as changing up the fronts, slanting the line and incorporating the safeties into the run,” he said. The difficult part, Harrell said, will be trying to come up with a game plan that will find holes in the defense and exploit them. To compete, the offense needs to gain a mental edge, as well as try to create double teams and adjust to what the defensive front looks like, he said. His aim is to identify Rutgers’ plan and then find some way to disrupt it. If the Bison fail to do that, it will be a very long ride back to the nation’s capital.
Sophomore Savon Huggins will earn several chances against a weak Howard defense. KEITH FREEMAN, SENIOR STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
GAMEDAY PAGE 4
SEPTEMBER 7, 2012
ROLE LT KALEB JOHNSON 6-foot-4, 300 pounds 12 career starts Previous position: RT
LG ANTWAN LOWERY 6-foot-4, 305 pounds 8 career starts Previous position: RG
C BETIM BUJARI 6-foot-4, 290 pounds 3 career starts Previous position: RG
RG ANDRE CIVIL 6-foot-4, 305 pounds 14 career starts Previous position: LT
RT R.J. DILL 6-foot-7, 310 pounds 34 career starts Maryland transfer
BY TYLER BARTO SPORTS EDITOR
Despite the gaudy numbers for the Rutgers football team — 151 rushing yards, zero sacks allowed against Tulane — the one Antwan Lowery cannot get out of his head is five. The junior left guard got used to it, starting in training camp. “It’s important for the starting five [offensive linemen] to take all the reps — in camp, in practice — just so on Saturday nights that feeling is just like it is in practice,” Lowery said. “By us being all together, the sky’s the limit.” The feeling is not one well known in Piscataway in recent memor y. Eleven different players earned starts along the offensive line last season, and the starting picture in 2010 was not clear, either. The results showed. The Scarlet Knights allowed 40 sacks in 2009, followed by two-year totals of 61 and 30, respectively. Lowery saw the sacks pile in 2010, his first season of playing time. And while the line improved a year ago, the Miami native started only three games and appeared in four. But for Lowery, five remains the magic number. “During camp, when one of the guys went out for a couple plays, as a line we were yelling to get back in because we needed to take those reps together,” he said. “[Offensive line coach Damian Wroblewski] just lets us take control of us because we’re our own police.” The added accountability is telling considering the line’s spotty track record. But while four one-time starters return, nearly all have a new home. Sophomore Kaleb Johnson
swapped tackle spots to the blind side after he sat out the spring because of offseason surger y. Classmate Betim Bujari played mostly guard last season, but now he finds himself making the majority of line calls at center. Junior Andre Civil, the Knights’ starting left tackle a year ago, moves to right guard. And with the revamped unit comes a remodeled gauge of success. “It’s not about just rushing for 150 yards,” said senior right tackle R.J. Dill, the line’s newcomer. “If you look at the good things only, you get complacent. The thing here is not to be good Week 1. We want to be better in Week 2, better in Week 3.” The message, Dill said, comes from Wroblewski. The first-year offensive line coach spent the last five seasons at Delaware, where he served as the Blue Hens’ recruiting coordinator, among other capacities. He knows how to sell, Dill said. “I think Coach Wrobo feels that way,” he said. “Until we play a perfect game, I don’t think any of us will be happy, and I don’t think it’s really attainable.” As season openers go, the offensive line was close. The Knights’ 151 yards on the ground put them over the century mark for the fourth time in five games. Sophomore quarterback Gary Nova saw little pressure in his first extended playing time since Nov. 5 against South Florida. And head coach Kyle Flood played only five linemen, despite the temptation to insert sophomore Taj Alexander. “It’s just been my experience over 19 years that the better offensive lines I’ve coached,
Junior left guard Antwan Lowery points to the line’s improved communication. KEITH FREEMAN, SENIOR STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER seen, been a part of, have all had continuity to a certain degree,” Flood said. “It doesn’t have to be five, but there’s got to be a certain degree of continuity. There is a chemistry that builds with those guys as they gain experience playing next to each other.” Lowery credits his relationship with Johnson. Johnson said Bujari has become a vocal leader. And Dill points to Civil as the Knights’ most valuable lineman because of his versatility. They strived for communication during training camp, Lowery said, and the early results showed so. “It’s been a really great feeling to be involved with an offensive line that cares about each other as much as we do,” Dill said. “Do we have our arguments? Yes, but all brothers do.”
It is a dynamic Lowery credits to Wroblewski, who shares Flood’s lineage. Both of their coaching trees include stops along the offensive line at Hofstra and Delaware, where Flood spent a combined nine seasons. He enters his eighth year in Piscataway, where he has seen the ups — 2007’s second-best sacks allowed total nationally — and downs — 131 sacks allowed since 2009. Lowery sees the big picture, if only because of a cloudy past. “We left a lot change on the table [against Tulane],” he said. “There were plays that if one block was made, the ball could’ve sprung here. Or if one blitz was picked up, Gary would’ve had a little more time. We know that this is the start of something that can be great.”
SEPTEMBER 7, 2012
GAMEDAY PAGE 5
REVERSE BY JOEY GREGORY ASSOCIATE SPORTS EDITOR
The Rutgers football team’s defense has been at the forefront of the program since the departure of star running back Ray Rice for the NFL. This season is no different. The Scarlet Knights have already scored a defensive touchdown after only one game — senior cor nerback Brandon Jones ran an interception to the end zone in the season opener. Senior linebacker Khaseem Greene has not lost his pen-
chant for making tackles, picking up 14 against Tulane. But with recent injury problems, the defensive line has some question marks surrounding it. Senior defensive end Marvin Booker is the biggest hole to fill. Head coach Kyle Flood said the Piscataway native suffered a bone bruise Saturday at Tulane. “He’s going to be [out for] probably a couple weeks,” Flood said. “You won’t see Marvin until after the bye week .” Although the Knights have redshirt freshman defensive end Max Issaka back in pads, Flood is not sure how much he will be
used given his limited time going full speed in practice. In addition, redshirt freshman defensive tackle Al Page was not at full speed in practice either, making Flood wary of using him. “I’m not crazy about playing the guys who don’t hit during the week,” he said. “I think it’s hard enough to play Division I football, [especially] when you do it without practicing.” Without Page, Booker and potentially Issaka, Rutgers’ front four will have to lean on veterans such as Ka’Lial Glaud and Scott Vallone, as well as less experienced players like Myles
Senior defensive end Ka’Lial Glaud is one of the few veterans of the defensive line, and he only started playing there last season. DAILY TARGUM, FILE PHOTO, 2011
Jackson, who has played in only two games as a Knight. “[Not having Booker] takes a hit at our depth a little bit,” Glaud said. “Me and Booker were doing the rotations and getting the same amount of plays, so it just forces some of the younger guys … to step up.” Jackson does not have the game experience that players like Glaud and Vallone do, but Glaud does not see that as a problem. He said Jackson has the knowledge of the position and the rest of the Rutgers defense to compensate, and he is not prone to making many mistakes. “When his number gets called, he can make an impact,” Glaud said. “[He cannot] only do his job, but also make some plays for us.” Other than filling gaps left by injur y, the Knights also have some players adapting to new roles, such as junior defensive tackle Isaac Holmes. Holmes earned the nod Saturday against Tulane. “It was a new experience,” he said. “To be the guy to go out there with the first string, after watching for so many years, I thought it was fun.” During pregame warm-ups, Holmes went out onto the field in an attempt to expel the nervousness accompanied with his first season-opening start. Judging by the numbers, he did so. The Green Wave managed only eight rushing yards, a figure that surprised even Holmes. “I didn’t know exactly how many rushing yards they had,” he said. “When we found out they had eight, we said, ‘Well, we did our job up front.’”
DE MARCUS THOMPSON
6-foot-2, 260 pounds 3 career starts DT SCOTT VALLONE 6-foot-3, 275 pounds 39 career starts DT ISAAC HOLMES 6-foot-3, 275 pounds 1 career start
DE KA’LIAL GLAUD 6-foot-2, 230 pounds 5 career starts
DE JAMIL MERRELL 6-foot-4, 255 pounds 6 career starts DE MARVIN BOOKER 6-foot-2, 240 pounds 1 career start DT DARIUS HAMILTON
6-foot-4, 260 pounds 0 career starts
GAMEDAY PAGE 6
SEPTEMEBR 7, 2012
BIGEAST GAME OF THE WEEK USC
NC STATE at CONNECTICUT The reeling Wolfpack enter East Hartford, Conn., following a blowout loss against Tennessee in their season opener. Sophomore running back Lyle McCombs is electric for the Huskies.
PREDICTION: Connecticut, 20-7
SOUTH FLORIDA at NEVADA
Syracuse looks to erase memories of last week’s breakdown loss against Northwestern at MetLife Stadium, where No. 2 USC aims to flex its muscles in a rare appearance on the East Coast. Matt Barkley, a Heisman hopeful, leads the high-powered USC attack Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib threw for 470 yards in a into the Garden State. season-opening loss to Northwestern. GETTY IMAGES
’Cuse QB Ryan Nassib vs. USC Secondary
No. 2 USC, 48-17
The 6-foot-2, 229-pound signal caller completed 67.7 percent of his 65 passes against Northwestern in a losing effort. He likely will not have the same luck against a vaunted USC pass defense.
Playing close to home will not help the Orange much this time.
The Bulls, like Rutgers, fight the temptation to look ahead to their Big East opener in only five days. The Wolfpack no longer have do-it-all quarterback Colin Kaepernick at their disposal. PREDICTION: South Florida, 28-21
BIG EAST STANDINGS Football
TEAM 1. Cincinnati 2. Connecticut 3. Louisville 4. RUTGERS 5. Temple 6. South Florida 7. Syracuse 8. Pittsburgh
RECORD PRE-RANK 2011 1-0 4th 10-3 1-0 6th 5-7 1-0 1st 7-6 1-0 3rd 9-4 1-0 8th 9-4* 1-0 2nd 5-7 0-1 7th 5-7 0-2 5th 6-7
*Temple played in the Mid-American Conference last season before accepting an invitation to rejoin the Big East beginning this season.
GAMEDAY PAGE 7
SEPTEMBER 7, 2012
Corner’s early time on ‘D’ shows faith as behind the three veteran cornerbacks. But later on he adjusted his approach, trying to soak in all the Tejay Johnson was at a disadexperienced players had to tell him. vantage from the moment he He shares a locker with Jones arrived at Rutgers. and sits with Ryan in meetings. He was supposed to be a part of “I just felt like learning from the 2010 recruiting class, but did those guys and sitting in meetnot qualify academically, so he had ings with those guys [benefited to go to Fork Union Military me],” Johnson said. Academy (Va.) for a year. But none is more valuable to Then at the end of his first him than Cooper. The two have training camp, the coaching staff several similarities. transitioned him to cornerback. Both are listed at 6-foot-2 and Once he completed his redshirt 190 pounds, so Cooper can season and was ready to play, he advise Johnson on how to best found himself waiting behind three utilize his size. established players in seniors But perhaps Marcus Cooper and what is more Brandon Jones, as important is that well as junior Logan “We feel like both made the Ryan. And he dealt anything easy to same transition. with injuries that lingered until learn is easy to stop. Cooper was also a receiver who the spring. It’s very hard to switched to cornerBut that did not stop Johnson from learn our defense.” back and found success. Now he is trymaking a splash in TEJAY JOHNSON ing to help Johnson the season opener Sophomore Cornerback do the same. at Tulane. Cooper said While he did Johnson makes not earn as signifiit easy. cant an amount of time at corner“Tejay’s work ethic allows him back as he did on special teams, to do the things that he does,” he still managed to earn the attenCooper said. “He’s a smart kid. tion of head coach Kyle Flood. He’s always trying to work and “I could … point to two tackles trying to get better. I definitely by Tejay Johnson on kickoff covexpected to see growth.” erage that are big plays in the Right now, Johnson’s central game, probably 25- to 35-, 40-yard focus is his footwork. He uses forfield position swings if he doesn’t mer LSU standout and Arizona make those tackles,” Flood said. Cardinals cornerback and return Most of the special teams are man Patrick Peterson as a model. composed of defensive players, Peterson is about the same so the team considers it part of size, and since he has speed he the defense, Johnson said. can cover smaller players, taller And kickoff coverage is only one ones and any receiver in part of the complex defensive sysbetween, he said. tem Johnson needs to master to be Good footwork is one of the a successful Rutgers cornerback. deciding factors in a taller corner“This system is a hard sysback’s effectiveness, Johnson said. tem,” he said. “We feel like any“If he can get his feet as quick thing easy to learn is something as a smaller guy, he’s two times easy to stop. It’s very hard to better,” he said. learn our defense strategy, but Johnson has a few more years once you learn it, you have to to keep improving, and earning a learn why things are the way they spot on the depth chart with three are. That’s what I’m doing now.” experienced players is the first of When he first star ted learnmany potential accomplishments. ing the system, he saw himself
BY JOEY GREGORY
ASSOCIATE SPORTS EDITOR
Sophomore quarterback Gary Nova responded with a 43-yard touchdown to Brandon Coleman following his first interception of the season at Tulane. KEITH FREEMAN, SENIOR STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Nova learns from giveaway BY JOSH BAKAN ASSOCIATE SPORTS EDITOR
A memory flashed into Gary Nova’s mind when he threw an interception Saturday on fourth down to Tulane cornerback Ryan Travis. The sophomore quarterback on the Rutgers football team remembered the worst game of his career. Nova was responsible for four turnovers — two interceptions and two fumbles — last year against West Virginia. Whenever he throws an interception, it brings him back to a valuable lesson he learned on that snowy day at High Point Solutions Stadium. “Last year against West Virginia, I would throw the ball away and get an interception by the sidelines,” Nova said. “Now when I’m throwing it away, I’m throwing it in the stands.” Head coach Kyle Flood named Nova the starting quarterback during training camp, and Nova got
his first chance to prove he moved on from his rookie mistakes. The interception was Nova’s biggest blunder. Flood brushed off the mistake. “Myself, the coaches and Gary alike would like to have that one throw back on fourth down, but as I said in training camp, he will learn from that experience,” Flood said. Nova made it a point to not force big plays this season and to give up by throwing the ball away instead of risking turning the ball over or losing yardage. The Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) product did not get many chances to prove himself against the Green Wave. He threw the ball 20 times and handed it off to a running back 35 times. Nova acknowledges the offense around him puts him in position to be a successful passer. That star ts with the offensive line. The line’s rotation was consistent throughout training camp. It developed chemistry, enough so to prevent any Tulane sacks.
Sophomore Brandon Coleman scored the Knights’ first passing touchdown. KEITH FREEMAN, SENIOR STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
“The offensive line was great,” Nova said. “They have talent all over the place.” Nova also enjoys his plethora of receivers, a part of the team deep and balanced enough that even the best Knights receivers might not get a chance to catch the ball during a game. That was not the case last year when Mohamed Sanu was around. The wideout caught 115 passes, more than triple the next leading receiver’s total. That was Quron Pratt, who caught 32 passes last year. The junior wideout did not catch a single pass against Tulane. “Pratt didn’t have a catch last week, but in the weeks coming up, he could have 10 catches,” Nova said. “We need him to be ready, which he will be. These guys know their role, and they’re not selfish guys, so they understand.” Senior wide receiver Tim Wright led Rutgers with only three receptions against the Green Wave. Sophomore wideout Brandon Coleman and sophomore tailback Jawan Jamison went for a team-leading 41 yards each. Nova threw for 151 yards, and Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin out-threw him for 254 yards. Nova’s interception could have been consequential for Rutgers, which led only, 10-3, entering the fourth quarter. A Tulane comeback would have been reasonable, but senior cornerback Brandon Jones cushioned Rutgers’ lead with a touchdown off an interception. Nova sealed the deal with a 43-yard touchdown pass to Coleman to give Rutgers a 24-6 lead. Overall, Flood was happy with how Nova’s performance. “Fortunately for us, we’re able to learn from that experience and win the game,” Flood said. “It’s always nicer to teach and correct after a win for sure.”