PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Giovanni Rescigno beat the odds to become Rutgers' starting quarterback.
When spring practice opened under first-year coach Chris Ash, Rescigno was third behind incumbent Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig, who started the season opener last year and was the backup the rest of the way. The addition of TCU transfer Zach Allen and highly touted freshman Tylin Oden in the summer beefed up the competition.
Oden was viewed as the quarterback of the future given his dual-threat ability in offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer's power-spread offense.
Article continues below ...
However, Rescigno kept his name in the mix. And when Ash benched Laviano during a 24-7 loss to Illinois after completing 48.3 percent of his passes for 748 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions this season, he turned to Rescigno to lead Rutgers' (2-6, 0-5 Big Ten) offense.
What caught the eye of the coaches was Rescigno's play as the scout team quarterback before a game against Illinois. By mimicking dual-threat quarterback Chayce Crouch, Rescigno displayed his ability to run the football, a key in Mehringer's offense.
''That's something I've always loved to do – is run the football – and it was a great time to go all out and give the defense a great look. I think I did a pretty good job,'' Rescigno said.
''But I took that as an opportunity where�coach Ash gets to watch me run the ball, which, I think, worked out for me pretty well,'' he added. ''I actually thought it was a blessing that I got the chance to do that.''
After coming in in relief for Laviano against Illinois, Rescigno got his first collegiate start at Minnesota.
''Me and Coach Ash had talked about it earlier (saying), `You know what, this kid's got some things to him,' but I don't know if he had the reps or the experience to fulfill all of his potential,'' Mehringer said. ''I think it was at that moment where coach Ash said, `Hey, this kid has a chance,' and he's done a nice job for us.''
The redshirt sophomore sparked a struggling Scarlet Knights' offense. Out of 128 FBS teams, Rutgers ranks 126th in total offense (307.6 yards per game), 124th in scoring offense (18.5 points per game), 122nd in passing offense (138.8 yards per game) and 72 in rushing offense (168.9 yards per game).
With Rescigno starting, Rutgers had its best offensive performance in a Big Ten game this season. The Scarlet Knights had 150 rushing yards and 222 passing yards for 372 total yards. They had 22 first downs and went 10 for 19 on third downs in a 34-32 loss at Minnesota before last week's bye. Rescigno went 22 of 38 for 220 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
''The transition to the starting quarterback has been great,'' Rescigno said. ''The guys have been really good to me. They made me feel comfortable. I think that showed in the game. I played really comfortable and I wasn't nervous at all and that has a lot to do with the team and how they handled it and I just kept them motivated going into practice.''
Rescigno spent the bye week healing his tweaked hamstring in preparation for his second career start when Rutgers hosts Indiana on Saturday. He's been meeting with Mehringer to see how he can improve and put Rutgers in the best position to pick up the first Big Ten win in over a year.
''There's definitely things I need to work on and fix,'' Rescigno said. ''And I'm going to keep working on that going forward so we can get some wins.''
More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org