PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Gary Nova and Leonte Carroo don’t like losing. They never did it in high school, so when it was all but over against Arkansas Saturday, they decided to do something about it.
Arkansas had Rutgers almost dead to rights after taking a three-score lead on a halfback pass. The Scarlet Knights then dug in and started one of the best comebacks in school history that ended in a 28-24 victory.
“He was saying we were going to win this game when it was 24-7,” Carroo said. “He’s always a very confident person. He’s such a great leader. He’s our captain for a reason.”
Rutgers trailed 24-7 midway through the third quarter when the special teams unit came through with its play of the day. True freshman Janarion Grant returned a directional punt for 58 yards to score his second touchdown as a Scarlet Knight.
Rutgers then responded with multiple drive-stopping plays defensively. Arkansas entered with two of the top seven rushers in the country and left with just 101 yards on 34 attempts.
“I think it starts up front,” Flood said. “You have to win up front. … You need to make plays in the backfield. … Without looking at the film, we probably played a pretty good game up front with our defensive line.”
Carroo and Nova rekindled their game-one magic and ended the game in electric fashion. Flood gambled on a 4th and 12 when Nova found Carroo down the right sidelines for a 33-yard touchdown. Then the momentum was all Rutgers, and ended with a second Nova to Carroo touchdown for the win.
Arkansas starter Brandon Allen did not dress and backup quarterback A.J. Derby could not get the better of the Rutgers defense. The Razorbacks were held to 283 total yards from scrimmage and never bounced back when Rutgers figured out its turnover problems.
Nova was full-go despite a concussion seven days ago. After a shaky start, largely in thanks to a lack of pass protection, he finished with another strong performance and win over Arkansas.
Nova committed three turnovers and took five sacks before finishing with 246 passing yards and three touchdowns.
“[Nova] hung in there and really toughed it out,” Flood said. “It does not surprise me. Gary’s greatest attribute is his competitive fire. It does not surprise me that he could come through a game like that.”
Running back Paul James ran for 80 yards on 17 attempts before leaving with a leg injury in the third quarter.