The recognition keeps piling up for No. 23 Rutgers after its compelling 35-26 victory over Arkansas. Just 24 hours after cracking the top-25 polls, the Scarlet Knights have the Big East Offensive Player of the Week in Gary Nova.
The sophomore quarterback displayed tremendous poise in a hostile environment and left Fayetteville, Ark., as the victor in a shootout against Tyler Wilson. Nova finished with 397 passing yards, five touchdowns and no turnovers.
“We’re certainly honored that Gary would get that award,” said head coach Kyle Flood. “Probably the most impressive thing of me on the day was the number of receivers he completed the ball to.
With the goal of improving a little bit each week, Nova has a solid stat line through the first month of college football. Despite a slow start, Nova now has 962 passing yards, nine touchdowns, two interceptions and a 60 percent passing clip.
“We were really pleased at how he allowed the offense to work for him, which I think is really important for any quarterback, especially a young quarterback,” Flood said. “He seems to be getting a little bit better at that every week.”
Offensive Line Boom
Rutgers has yet to allow a true sack this season. Both sacks on the stat sheet have been the result of intentional grounding plays.
Two years removed from the worst pass protecting season in the history of the Big East, the Scarlet Knights now have one of the top statistical offensive lines in the country. Flood, who coached the line before taking over, credits the development of young players.
“I think now we’re reaping some of the rewards of that,” Flood said. “I think we have to judge them based on 12 games. I’m not ready to put any stamp on that group before we play this season. I think I want to see the complete body of work. I am pleased with what I’ve seen so far.”
Flood went into the season with high expectations and said nothing the Scarlet Knights have done so far has come as a surprise.
At No. 23 in the country and undefeated, no part of the team’s performance is unexpected.
“I felt like we had a good defense,” Flood said. “I think that’s showed itself. I felt like we had made improvements on the offensive line the last quarter of last season. I think that has continued, which is a good thing.
“I think I’m seeing the progress that I expected. I’m pleased with how we’re playing the game at all three phases and now the challenge for us is to take the success we’ve had and build on it, not take the success we’ve had and remain the same. Because it’s going to take a better effort to beat UConn in two weeks.”
The only team in the country with three road wins in September, Flood saw the maturity of the team evolve during the 4-0 start to 2012.
“I think what going on the road that many times early in the year does, it tests the maturity of your football team,” Flood said. “I felt going into it that we had a mature football team, maybe a little bit more mature on defense than on offense at the start of the season.”
The travel calms down for Rutgers in October. Four of the next five games are at High Point Solutions Stadium, with the only road game coming just a short drive away at Temple.
“It will be nice to have a couple of home games coming up,” Flood said. “We’re excited about it.”
Rutgers and Connecticut will kick off at noon, the Big East announced.