PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Rutgers has a lot to clean up if it wants to be ready for South Florida by Thursday night. The Scarlet Knights came out of its FCS tune-up game with a victory, but raised serious concerns along the way in a 26-0 win over Howard.
The running game steamrolled Howard, as expected, and the Bison did not stand a chance against the Rutgers defense. The problem, however, came in the execution on all three levels.
“I think what we did is we missed opportunities to make plays,” said head coach Kyle Flood. “I think we gotta do a better job catching the football, whether it's the receivers, whether it's the tight ends, we have to do a better job catching the football. We have opportunities in the passing game to make big plays and we're not making them right now. And I think we have the talent to make them.”
Sophomore Gary Nova and his receivers were sloppy at best offensively. Nova set the tone for a less-than-stellar day with a pick on the first drive and his receivers did not help him any, dropping four passes.
Finishing with 130 passing yards and two touchdowns on 15-of-27 passing, Nova has a 56 percent passing clip on the season.
“I think we have to get him more help,” Flood said. “It takes all 11 guys on offense and, I know when you don’t complete the ball at a high rate, you always look at the passer first and that’s part of the job. … Gary will certainly be as critical of himself as anybody.”
Flood wanted improvement with penalties and instead saw a terrible showing. Eleven penalties for 92 yards kept Rutgers in poor field position throughout the game. Penalties negated two interceptions on free plays and brought back four first downs.
Rutgers perplexingly made just two of four extra points as well, twice boxing exchanges.
“We certainly are going to address it,” Flood said of the miscues. “There’s no doubt.”
The running game did not disappoint.
Jawan Jamison followed off his big start to the season with a series of explosive plays. Breaking the century mark on the ground, Jamison totaled 110 yards on 10 attempts.
Following a 19-yard loss on a botched shovel pass, Jamison broke a career-long 64-yard run to set up the first score of the day.
The Rutgers defense offset its brutal string of penalties with an unforgiving push of the line of scrimmage. The Scarlet Knights wreaked havoc for quarterback Jamie Cunningham, a true freshman.
Shutting out the Bison, Rutgers held Howard to 149 total yards. Senior cornerback Brandon Jones scored his second touchdown in as many games, returning a Miles Shuler punt block for a touchdown.
In the locker room, Rutgers is already counting down to the start of the Big East season. South Florida looms large Thursday at Raymond James Stadium, with the Bulls coming off a thrilling last-second win at Nevada today.
“I feel like we will [be ready],” Jamison said. “We’re going to have to step it up, practice that much harder [because of the short week].”