The Rutgers Scarlet Knights certainly weren’t expected to win over the Louisville Cardinals, but I’m sure they would have loved to have a few plays back from their 24-10 loss. Most of those plays were in the passing game, as usually solid Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova was anything but solid, as he threw four interceptions in the loss. He averaged just 5.6 yards per attempt, which is a far cry from the solid 7.7 yards per attempt that he has overall this season (even including last night’s debacle). ESPN TQBR certainly did not rate Nova favorably, as he received a rating of just 10.3
But Nova didn’t have much help either. In the postgame press conference, Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood seemed to blame the offensive line’s inability to block more than Nova, though he did state that Nova could have done a better job on some throws, “It’s hard to talk about Gary’s play without talking about the protection. I think there’s going to be, no question, some decisions Gary would like to have back again – sometimes to maybe take the ball and take the sack. But, we certainly took enough of them just looking at it – eight sacks in the game and he probably could have taken two or three others without putting the ball in jeopardy. The biggest issue we have right now is protecting him better. Again, I want to credit Louisville. They have some great players up front and did a nice job pressuring us. But, eight sacks is not acceptable and we’ve got to do a much better job.”
Then there was Rutgers’s running game. Normally excellent on the ground this season, the Scarlet Knights clearly missed star RB Paul James last night, and Justin Goodwin had an off game. He and Savon Huggins combined for just 60 yards on 17 carries, but they were also negatively impacted by the struggles up front.
Flood said of the running game and the correlation between the running game’s struggles and Nova’s struggles, “I think it always has an effect on it (the game). We didn’t run the ball early. I thought we ran the ball better in the third quarter. When you don’t run the ball early and you end up in a hole, now you’ve got to throw it a little bit more to try and get back into the game. If you’re lacking both a run game and big plays in the passing game it becomes hard to score points. You know we fought, we scrapped, and we played good defense in the second half in terms of turning the ball over. Even though they drove the field on us a little bit we were able to turn them over a couple times. But in the end the margin of error is just too small. It’s not enough.”