PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Halfway through a disastrous Homecoming loss for Rutgers, starting quarterback Gary Nova hit rock bottom. Nova’s third interception, leading to boos from the 52,200-person Homecoming crowd, put head coach Kyle Flood in a position Rutgers rarely sees.
Flood pulled Nova for performance reasons.
Rutgers stuck by Nova in last year’s ugly Homecoming game, and again in the Russell Athletic Bowl, but his three interceptions in 15 pass attempts in the 49-14 loss to Houston was the tipping point.
“I think Gary has got to make better decisions,” Flood said. “We’ve got a lot invested in him as the starting quarterback. We’re counting on him to make quality decisions. I don’t think today was his best day making decisions, and I think he knows that. I thought it was in his best interest, and everybody’s to watch for a little bit.”
Nova took the criticism and questioning in the locker room like someone that has seen similar situations. Instead of making excuses, Nova blamed his own decision-making and asserted that he would improve.
Flood did not voice the same ardent support for his starting quarterback that he did in the past, making the Temple game week an evaluation point between Nova and backup Chas Dodd.
“That’s coach Flood’s decision,” Nova said. “I’m going to go out and work my hardest during the week. I’m going to meet with my guys, and go over the film, and try to get better. If he makes that decision, that’s him and I’ll support Chas. If not, I’ll be the guy to win games for him.”
The Rutgers (4-3, 1-2) defense had a chance to bail out Nova as it did multiple times in 2012, but only added to the misery. Two true freshman starters at cornerback, and a series of mismatches against the spread, set up the worst defensive performance since giving up 69 to Cincinnati in 2010.
“It hurts and it motivates us a little bit,” said middle linebacker Steve Longa. “We just have to play better football. We just have to go back tomorrow and fix that and watch a lot of film, and see how we can adjust and stop that from happening in the future.”
In a youth on youth battle, Houston’s true freshman quarterback and sophomore receiver won by a wide margin.
Quarterback John O’Korn had a career day with 364 yards and five touchdowns. Former five star receiver Deontay Greenberry did as well.
Greenberry finished with 168 yards and three touchdowns, including a two picturesque touchdowns – one over Anthony Cioffi, the other over Nadir Barnwell.
As Barnwell put it, that was not the way Rutgers defenses are supposed to play.
“That hurts,” he said. “That hurts, especially for our seniors. They had to go through that on their last Homecoming. We definitely, especially as a Rutgers defense, definitely didn’t do what we had to do.”