Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova reflects on first true game, at Syracuse
PISCATAWAY — After 41 career regular season games, Gary Nova's final one in a Rutgers uniform is only four days away.
Like most quarterbacks, Nova has a compartmentalized memory of individual plays, series and games. I asked him Monday about Oct. 1, 2011, when he emerged on the big stage for the first time at Syracuse.
"It was real fast," Nova said of the Carrier Dome, the site of Rutgers' Big East debut that season. "There was an interception we got on defense and I was celebrating with the team.
Then all of a sudden I hear, 'Gary, you're in.' I ran, got my helmet and I remember the first play was a deep pass. I felt like they blitzed everybody. I got hit and it was a welcome to college football moment."
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Replacing Chas Dodd, Nova finished 14-for-24 for 122 yards and a touchdown. Rutgers trailed, 13-3, before Mohamed Sanu's TD grab with 2:09 left forced overtime.
"It was weird because all game they had been doing a good job of covering Mo," said Nova, who fit the throw into a tight, 3-yard window. "On that play they had a breakdown and he was uncovered, wide open down the middle of the field. I really just had to put it on him. The guy reacted late and tried to get in front of him."
The win broke a six-game losing streak in the Big East from 2010, when Eric LeGrand's career-ending injury cast a pall on the rest of the season. It also sparked an intimate moment from coach Greg Schiano.
"Everybody was just excited, especially with the way we won the game," Nova said. "Coach Schiano was pretty emotional in the locker room. For me, it being my first real game action, it was great — especially with it being Syracuse and there was a little rivalry there. It was an overall great feeling."