Louisville, Ky. – Gary Nova has been through this before, but the loss hurts just the same. Standing in his visitor locker room at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Nova took full responsibility for his four interceptions and eight sacks in a game of failed opportunities and a 24-10 loss.
The final installment of the Rutgers and Louisville rivalry ended in heartbreak for Rutgers just like last year, and Nova is yet again at the center of it.
“I think I am passed it,” Nova said. “Obviously today didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but [we] are strides ahead from last year. I’m not worried about [the interceptions]. I’m just moving on to the next game, and it’s my job to fix these things and get ready.”
True freshman corner Anthony Cioffi, a fourth quarter substitution after struggles by starter Nadir Barnwell, forced a fumble on a corner blitz to Teddy Bridgewater’s blindside that put Rutgers in position to tie the game.
The Scarlet Knights trailed by seven points with only 59 yards to go for a tie when everything fell apart. A Kaleb Johnson penalty put Rutgers in a 1st and 25 situation. The field position forced Nova to thread a needle on a window that was not there.
The drive ended with Nova’s fourth interception and the end of the game when Louisville responded with a touchdown.
“We were ready to win the game,” Nova said. “That’s what we were all thinking. The defense did a great job and that’s on me to lead the team down there and score and tie the game up.”
The Rutgers defense got even younger when fifth-year senior Lew Toler broke his arm in the first half. Losing Toler at cornerback, Rutgers used three freshmen and sophomore safety Tejay Johnson as its corners. Bridgewater was not on his A-game, but did enough to pick apart the defense.
Bridgewater finished with 310 passing yards and two touchdowns, saying he left at least 17 more points on the board with bad throws.
“[Inexperience] is an excuse,” Barnwell said on his performance. “I don’t think that had anything to do with it. The coaches prepared us well enough. We had a pretty well-done game plan. We just didn’t execute.”
Rutgers (4-2, 1-1) goes into its bye week with chances at a BCS bid likely gone. Unless No. 8 Louisville (6-0, 2-0) falls apart, the Scarlet Knights are out of the running.
“We had the ball down seven,” said head coach Kyle Flood. “On the road, in a hostile environment against a top-10 football team, I would take that any time. And I had complete confidence at that point that we were going to make the plays to win the game.”