Rutgers 21, Navy 20
It looks like Greg Schiano is going to live with true freshman quarterback Gary Nova and hope that the Scarlet Knights defense can make up for the mistakes.
Nova threw two second-half touchdown passes and Brandon Jones made up for a foolish fourth-quarter interception by the freshman - blocking a go-ahead 34-yard field goal attempt by Jon Teague with 4:43 to play to lead Rutgers to a 21-20 victory over struggling Navy on Saturday.
The victory was the fourth straight for the Scarlet Knights (5-1), who are off to their best start since winning their opening nine games in 2006.
Nova has played a big part. He rallied Rutgers to an overtime win at Syracuse and then threw two TDs in a victory over Pittsburgh last week.
Despite his heroics on Saturday, there were times he looked like a freshman. He gave Navy (2-4) a touchdown with a second-quarter interception and nearly the game with his pick late in the fourth quarter.
''You are going to live with some growing pains, but not at all costs,'' said Schiano, who benched sophomore Chas Dodd for Nova. ''We have another good quarterback on the roster and (offensive coordinator) Frank (Cignetti) and I talk all the time about it. Sometimes you make some decisions on your gut and you go with it.''
Nova came up big in rallying Rutgers. He threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Quron Pratt late in the third quarter to close the gap to 17-14 and hit Tim Wright with a go-ahead 20-yard TD pass early in the fourth quarter.
Nova admitted this wasn't one of his better games despite finishing 23 of 31 for a career-best 271 yards.
''I really don't care,'' he said. ''The win is all that matters in the end. We did it for each other. We played hard and we got the win.''
Jawan Jamison rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown and Jones had a big game, intercepting a pass to thwart Navy's first drive, keeping a ball alive in the third quarter on a huge Patrick Kivlehan interception and then blocking the field goal attempt, coming off the right side of the Rutgers' line.
He had just missed a block on a field goal by Teague 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.''
It marked the third straight game that Teague had a kick blocked and this one sent the Mids to their fourth straight loss, their longest losing skid since 2002, when they lost 10 in a row.
''It's tough when we're in close games like this,'' said Navy quarterback Kriss Proctor, who scored on a 54-yard run in the second quarter and finished 5 of 12 for 106 yards. ''We just continue to shoot ourselves in the foot, but we can't point fingers at each other. There are so many different things that happened in this game that we can look back to that if we did this or we did that we could have won the game. We have to look ourselves in the mirror and point that finger at ourselves and see what we can do.''
Chris Ferguson scored the other Navy TD on a 16-yard interception return early in the second quarter.
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.
''I'm heartbroken,'' Ferguson said. ''I feel like we put in a lot of time all week and we knew what they were going to do. They did exactly what we knew they were going to do. Certain times we made plays, but at the same time, sometimes we weren't where we were supposed to be and it hurt us.''
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.
Rutgers' defense, which came into the game tied nationally for getting the most turnovers, limited the Mids to 162 yards rushing, well off their 366-yard average, which led the nation.
Down 17-7 midway through the third quarter, Rutgers caught a break when Kivlehan intercepted a Proctor pass that twice bounced off the hands of Navy receiver Brandon Turner and off the leg of Jones before the senior caught it for his first career pick.
Nova needed just six plays to cover the 52 yards, hitting Pratt on third-and-4.
After holding Navy without a first down on its next series, Rutgers went 66 yards in eight plays. Nova's TD to Wright came on a third-down play with the pass just over the hands of linebacker Matt Warrick.
Navy turned two huge first-half plays into touchdowns in taking a 14-7 lead.
Ferguson, who forced a fumble near the goal line to end Rutgers' second drive, intercepted an ill-advised pass by Nova midway through the second quarter and trotted into the end zone to tie the game at 7.
The pick came just two plays after linebacker Steve Beauharnais and safety David Rowe stopped Proctor for a 2-yard loss on a fourth-and-goal from inside the 1.
Proctor gave Navy the lead with 4:00 left in the half with his 54-yard run on an option keeper. The score came just two plays after Nova couldn't connect with a wide-open Mark Harrison and the Scarlet Knights failed to convert a fourth-and-4 from the Mids 32.
Jamison had given Rutgers a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter on a 1-yard run.