Nova passes for 2 TDs and Rutgers beats Navy 21-20
The kicking game has been killing Navy in recent weeks, and it cost them again against Rutgers.
Jon Teague had a go-ahead 34-yard field goal attempt blocked by Brandon Jones with 4:43 to play and Navy dropped its fourth straight game with a 21-20 setback to streaking Rutgers (5-1) on Saturday.
The losing streak is the longest for the Mids (2-4) since dropping 10 in a row in 2002, and it sent Rutgers to its fourth straight win.
It also marked the third straight game that Teague has had a kick blocked. He had a long extra point in overtime blocked by Air Force two games ago in a 35-34 loss and a short field goal attempt on the opening drive that got Southern Miss returned for a TD in rolling in a 63-35 win last week.
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo doesn't know if the kicking woes are being caused by the blocking or bad kicks, although both might be the problem.
''We have been jimmy-rigging our protection and changing things, trying to do different things,'' Niumatalolo said. ''We have to go back to work. We have to get it fixed. Those were two games that were critical. In last week's game, who knows what happens if they don't block it and score to start the game. Obviously, that's a huge concern. We have to go back to work and try to get better at it.''
Teague, who minutes earlier kicked a 41-yard field goal to get Navy within a point, vowed to fix the problem.
''It's just hard when it comes down to the last one these last few times,'' he said. ''We've got to keep fighting and keep bouncing back.''
Jones, who thwarted an early Navy drive with an interception and helped start the Rutgers' comeback from a 10-point deficit by keeping an eventual interception alive while on the ground, said he nearly blocked Teague's field goal minutes earlier.
''I told coach I was going to get the next one,'' Jones said. ''I just gave it everything I had and just tried to get the block and it worked out.''
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano felt his team had a chance to get a block this week.
''I thought Brandon Jones did it exactly as he was coached, extended his body - sacrificed his body,'' Schiano said. ''That was a heck of an effort.''
Rutgers freshman Gary Nova threw two touchdown passes and Jawan Jamison rushed for 101 yards for the Scarlet Knights, who are off to their best start since winning their first nine in 2006.
''I am really proud of our football team,'' Schiano said. ''That was a buzz saw we ran into today. Their back was against the wall and those are our nation's elite as far as fight and mission. I knew what we were going to get today - there was no doubt in my mind what we were walking into.''
Nova threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Quron Pratt late in the third quarter and a go-ahead 20-yarder to Tim Wright early in the fourth quarter in rallying the Scarlet Knights from a 17-7 second-half deficit.
Navy's Chris Ferguson scored on a 16-yard interception return and quarterback Kriss Proctor scampered almost untouched on a 54-yard touchdown run in the first half. Teague kicked a 41-yard field goal to get the Mids within a point with 7:52 to play, and an interception and return to the Scarlet Knights 23 by linebacker Caleb King had Navy in position to take the lead. But Jones came untouched off the right end to block the kick.
Navy got the ball back at its 23-yard line with 24 seconds to play after Rutgers botched a field goal attempt, but the Mids never threatened.
Nova finished 23 of 31 for a career-best 271 yards. He also played like a freshman at times, throwing the pick-six and then making another bad toss to give Navy a chance to win the game late.
Rutgers' defense, which came into the game tied nationally for getting the most turnovers, picked off two more passes - Jones got one - to push its total to 24. The unit also limited the Mids to 162 yards rushing, well off their 366-yard average, which led the nation.
Proctor was 5 of 12 passing for 106 yards for Navy on a windy day which limited passing on one end of the field. Alexander Teich led Navy with 69 yards on 18 carries.
''We've got to fight,'' Teich said. ''We've got to show up on Monday and that's what we'll do, show up on Monday ready to work. I've got a lot of faith in everybody in that locker room. (There are) a lot of seniors on this team. We've been a part of a lot of winning seasons and we're not about to let that ship turn upside down.''