By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Aug. 6, 2014) – When Gary Nova picked up in preseason camp where he left off during a solid spring, a relatively easy decision for Rutgers coach Kyle Flood became the equivalent of an extra point kick.
So Flood ended one of the least suspenseful decisions he has had in his three years on the job by officially naming Nova his starting quarterback tonight for the Aug. 28 opener against Washington State.
It will mark the third straight opener Nova, a senior, will start for the Scarlet Knights.
“I’m excited about all of the progress he’s made in the last couple of months here since (offensive coordinator Ralph) Friedgen has come on board,” Flood said following the evening practice of Rutgers’ first double session of the summer. “We’re excited about what he can do for our football team. Now we’ve got to really get down to the business of settling the No. 2. I’m hopeful by the end of the day on Monday that we can make a decision on that.”
Though Nova’s experience (28 career starts) dwarfed that of competitors Chris Laviano and Mike Bimonte (0 combined snaps taken), Flood allowed the quarterback battle to play itself out from the spring through the first six practices.
Nova effectively ended the competition with an impressive preseason camp start.
“Right now we’re at practice seven,” he said. “I wanted to see where guys would be after the summer program because you’re allowed to watch some things but the football you’re not allowed to watch. There’s a lot of stuff we don’t get to see that we’re doing over the summer and I wanted to see Mike and Chris and Gary and I wanted to see how far they’ve come.
“I think Gary did what I wanted him to do. He was a better quarterback when he came back day one than he was practice 15 in the spring game and I think that was a good start.”
The decision on whether Bimonte or Laviano will serve as Nova’s backup will be made following Monday’s first full scrimmage of the summer.
“It’s either guy’s job to win,” he said. “We’ve got to take what they’ve done already and combine it with what will happen the rest of this week and then on Monday we’ve got a scrimmage. It’s a full scrimmage, 12 noon, and we’re going to treat it just like a game day. It’ll be a great opportunity for those guys to showcase themselves."
Nova enters the season No. 5 on the school’s career passing chart with 6,407 yards and his 51 career touchdowns are well within reach of Mike Teel’s mark of 59.
Flood said he was “excited to get (running back) Desmon Peoples back in the next day or two,” from a lower body injury.
“I think that will happen,” Flood added. “I think the running backs are performing very well right now. But after seeing what he did in the spring he’s a guy who can help us on offense.”
Even though Andre Patton didn’t have a major impact at wide receiver as a true freshman last year he did just enough on offense and special teams to establish a foundation for a bigger sophomore season. “It’s always exciting to come in as a freshman and play right away,” Patton said. “My role was just to come in and help, whether it was on special teams or as a wide receiver. So it was a great experience.
“I feel like this year I’m more prepared because of it, coming off the summer workouts, doing 7 on 7s, just knowing my assignments and the concepts better. Mentally, there’s a big difference. Awareness is up there, too. Last year I really didn’t know what to expect. Having that experience last year and carrying it into this year has made a big difference.”
The 6-4, 200-pound Patton, the No. 1 recruit out of the state of Delaware as a high school senior, finished with three catches for 49 yards and a touchdown in 2013, appearing in 11 games while starting two.
He is the latest in a line of top-notch players from Delaware who have recently found their way to Piscataway, joining the likes of Jamal and Jamil Merrell, Duron Harmon, Desmond Wynn and Lew Toler.
“It’s a little weird being the only one this year,” he said. “It’s up to me to keep carrying that Delaware line on at Rutgers.”
Running back Paul James isn’t concerned about entering this season as a known, established commodity after exploding onto the scene last year by rushing for 881 yards and nine touchdowns in nine games.
“There’s no difference for me,” he said. “I still have goals I have to get to as a team and whatever I personally set. It’s not really about whether people know about you or not because at the end of the day that doesn’t really matter to what your team goals are and what your personal goals are.
“We’re trying to fulfill being a team that wins a Big Ten championship. I’m just focused on doing what I can for the team to get to that goal.”