PISCATAWAY, N.J. (September 21, 2013) – Twenty-one unanswered points, sparked by a 58-yard punt return late in the third quarter by freshman Janarion Grant (Trilby, Fla.), propelled the Rutgers football team to a 28-24 victory over SEC foe Arkansas Saturday night at High Point Solutions Stadium.
Rutgers wraps up nonconference play at 3-1, while Arkansas also moves to 3-1.
Sophomore wide receiver Leonte Carroo (Edison, N.J.) hauled in a pair of fourth quarter touchdown catches from junior quarterback Gary Nova (Elmwood Park, N.J.) – his team-leading fourth and fifth this season – and the RU defense did the rest, forcing the Razorbacks into three fourth-quarter punts before icing the game.
“I can talk about our crowd today for probably an hour in terms of the energy that they brought to the game,” said head coach Kyle Flood. “They got in there at an earlier time I think than we usually do; staying even when the game seemed very hard at times, and as disruptive a crowd as we've had here probably since the 2006 Louisville game.
“It was deafening loud when they were on offense in that fourth quarter, and I can't thank them enough for that. That is what a home field advantage should be. It's what a home field advantage can do for a football team and it's one of the factors in the win today, there's no doubt about it.”
Sophomore tight end Tyler Kroft (Downington, Pa.) had a career day, hauling six catches for 133 yards and a touchdown. Kroft is the first RU player since Carroo in at Fresno State to post at least 100 yards receiving in a game.
The Rutgers defense passed in its biggest test of the season thus far, holding the Arkansas ground game to 101 yards on the day. The Razorbacks averaged 294.3 yards per game entering the matchup, as Alex Collins, the nation’s seventh-leading rusher entering the contest, ran 16 times for just 74 yards.
Junior linebacker Kevin Snyder (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) led the team with 10 tackles as sophomore linebacker Quentin Gause (Rochester, N.Y.) notched a team-high three tackles for loss (TFLs) in his first-career start.
After leaving the game against Eastern Michigan last week due to injury, Nova recovered in front of the RU faithful, going 8-for-14 with two touchdowns and 151 yards in the fourth quarter.
Nova and the Scarlet Knights offense connected on three passes of 25 yards or more on the squad’s 98-yard scoring drive with 9:55 remaining, capped by Carroo’s 33-yard score up the right sideline to make it 24-21 Arkansas.
Following a 47-yard punt return by Grant, Nova again led his team into the end zone, going 3-for-5 and hooking up with Carroo for his second touchdown of the game and fourth in the final quarter of action this season.
That gave Rutgers its first lead of the game with 5:18 remaining in regulation, and the defense responded by forcing Arkansas to punt the ball away on its next possession.
Sophomore running back Savon Huggins (Jackson, N.J.) did not give it back to the Razorbacks, rushing six times to eat the clock and secure RU’s first-ever home victory against and SEC opponent.
Grant turned the game around for RU late in the third quarter, as Arkansas’s Sam Irwin-Hill attempted a rugby-style punt to Grant at around midfield.
Grant received the ball and began his run in the right middle of the field, before cutting back left and breaking away for RU’s first punt return touchdown of the season. With the return score, Grant became the first RU player since Willie Foster in 2005 to record both a punt return and kickoff return touchdown in the same season.
Prior to Grant’s touchdown, Arkansas controlled momentum, scoring 14 unanswered points to take a 24-7 lead.
Running back Jonathan Williams received a pitch right with 8:38 to go in the third quarter before pulling up and tossing a 21-yard pass to Hunter Henry in the back right of the end zone.
The trick play gave RU its biggest deficit of the season and followed a 10-play, 75-yard Arkansas drive to begin the second half. That scoring drive was capped by a 17-yard touchdown pass to Javontee Herndon, putting Arkansas up, 17-7.
RU entered the locker rooms trailing 10-7 at halftime, despite outgaining Arkansas 208-103 in total offense. Nova connected with Kroft for a 15-yard touchdown pass –the second of his career – with 0:39 seconds remaining in the period to make it 10-7 Arkansas.
Arkansas jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter of action, knocking in a field goal with 1:51 remaining in the period and returning a Nova interception 26 yards for a touchdown on RU’s next possession.
The Scarlet Knights will enjoy a bye-week this week before getting back on the gridiron on Oct. 5 at SMU in Dallas, Texas. The Mustangs represent the first American Athletic Conference contest for RU this season.
- First Collegiate Start: CB Nadir Barnwell, LB Quentin Gause
- Today’s game marked the second meeting between Rutgers and Arkansas. The Razorbacks are the first SEC team to play the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway. Rutgers is now 2-0 all-time against Arkansas and 7-11-2 all-time against the SEC.
- Rutgers has won three consecutive games against SEC competition.
- Rutgers scored on a 98-yard drive in the fourth quarter, the longest drive by yardage this season.
- Rutgers now has three touchdowns on special teams this year (two kickoff returns, one punt return).
- Today’s win marked the biggest second-half comeback since beating Vanderbilt 37-34 on the road in 2004. RU was down 27-3 in the third quarter against Vandy before the come-from-behind victory.
- It marked the first time Rutgers has come back from a two-score deficit in the second half to win in regulation since the Vanderbilt victory in 2004.
- The last time RU rallied from a 17-point deficit was the victory over No. 3 Louisville in 2006 when the Scarlet Knights were down 25-7 in the second quarter and came back to defeat the Cardinals 28-25.
- RU ranked fifth against the run coming into the game and held the Razorbacks to 101 yards on the ground. UA was averaging 294.3 yards per game rushing (11th nationally). The Hogs averaged just 3.0 yards per carry against Rutgers. Entering the game Arkansas was averaging 5.5 yards per rush.
- The RU defense held Arkansas to 283 total yards, improving to 46-5 since 2000 when holding an opponent under 300 yards.
- Rutgers finished with 400 yards oftotal offense. It marked the third time in four games this season RU has eclipsed the 400-yard mark of total offense. Rutgers finished with just three games of 400 yards of total offense all of last season.
- Rutgers has 925 yards of total offense and has scored 63 points against the Razorbacks over the last two seasons.
- The crowd of 51,969 was the fifth-largest crowd in Rutgers history.
Largest Crowds at Rutgers
1. 53,737 vs. Cincinnati (9/7/09)
2. 52,798 vs. Louisville (11/29/12)
3. 52,534 vs. West Virginia (12/5/09)
4. 52,038 vs. North Carolina (9/25/10)
5. 51,969 vs. Arkansas (9/21/13)
- TE Tyler Kroft recorded a game-high six receptions for 133 yards to become the first RU tight end to go over 100 yards in a game since Clark Harris in the 2006 Texas Bowl against Kansas State. Kroft entered the game with eight career catches. In addition, he has notched a career-high 42-yard reception against Arkansas the last two seasons.
- WR Janarion Grant ran back a touchdown on a 58-yard punt return in the third quarter. He is the first Scarlet Knight to have a kickoff and punt return for a score in the same season since Willie Foster in 2005.
- Grant finished with four punt returns for 106 yards and the score. He is the first player in the 2000s for the Scarlet Knights to finish with over 100 punt return yards in a game.
- QB Gary Nova threw for 346 yards today and three touchdowns, bringing his total to 743 and eight scoring passes in thelast two years against Arkansas.
- WR Leonte Carroo caught two touchdowns in the fourth quarter bringing his total to four in the final period this season. Carroo finished with five receptions for 80 yards, including his 33-yard touchdown reception on 4th down and 12 in the fourth quarter.
- Sophomore RB Paul James entered the game as the nation’s leading rusher. The Glassboro native rushed 17 times for 80 yards before leaving the game with a lower leg injury.
- Sophomore OLB Quentin Gause finished with seven tackles and a career-best three tackles-for-loss in his first career start.
- Junior OLB Kevin Snyder led Rutgers with 10 tackles.
RUTGERS PLAYER QUOTES
QB | #10 | Gary Nova
On the 98-yard touchdown drive…
“On the 98-yard drive, I think the play to Brandon Coleman [stood out]. The catch that he made really set the drive off and I think we did a really great job. A guy like Quron Pratt, whenever his number is called he seems to catch the ball. He’s played a lot of positions today and threw a lot of key blocks in the run game and it was just a total team effort.”
On Tyler Kroft at tight end…
“I think [Tyler] Kroft is getting better every week. We knew that he was a good matchup on the inside linebackers and we tried to exploit that early, which we did. We dialed it up early in the game and he ran great routes and did everything.”
On scoring a touchdown right before halftime…
“[The touchdown before the half] was huge. Before we drove the ball we couldn’t just do whatever we wanted and we were killing ourselves. We knew that we really wanted to get on the board, even if it was a field goal. Luckily it was a touchdown and we were excited in the locker room and we knew we had set ourselves up with a chance to win.”
On his connection with WR Leonte Carroo…
“Obviously [Leonte Carroo and I] went to the same high school and I’ve known him since I was 14 years old. He’s one of my best friends. We didn’t execute early on in one-on-one coverage but we dialed it up later on.”
On if he has a special chemistry with Carroo…
“I think I have chemistry with all these guys but obviously me and Leonte have been through so much together and I definitely trust him. But it wasn’t just me dropping back and just throwing it to him it just happened to be a part of the read.”
LB | #45 | Kevin Snyder
On keeping the Arkansas run game in check…
“That’s the way we’re built. That’s one thing we pride ourselves on – stopping the run. We’ve built ourselves up physically to stop the run and it was just execution. We didn’t do anything special, we didn’t do any special blitzes or anything, we played our base defense and we got after it.”
On the play of Quentin Gause…
“I thought [Quentin Gause] played awesome, and every time he plays he plays well because he works so hard. He’s trying to learn all the time. Sometimes it doesn’t come as fast but he’s trying to learn all the time. Just being able to see him go out there and really fly around it’s a good thing.”
On regaining momentum in the second half…
“It was one of those things where they schemed us up a little bit [to start the second half]. We had a couple missed tackles and a couple missed assignments but it was one of those things we were saying to each other ‘we’re not worn down, we’re OK.’ There was no panic, we were fine and we just had to get back in the swing of it again.”
WR | #4 | Leonte Carroo
On his expanded role today…
“The last two games I think I had one catch in two games. My coaches and Gary just wanted to grant me with a touchdown. For the last two games I’ve just been blocking and I haven’t been complaining or anything like that. I’ve just been blocking, getting the running game going and when I came to the sideline my coaches were like ‘hey, [Paul James] has been holding us down for the last two games and now this win is going to have to come from one of you guys in the wide receiver corps.’ I looked at him and I told him ‘I’m going to win this game for us.’”
On the passing game…
“If you really love football and you just go out there and you play, you never know what’s going to happen. We didn’t know what type of coverages Eastern Michigan or Norfolk State were going to play and it kind of stopped our passing game. But you just have to go out there and play and open up the running game. Tonight we didn’t get the running game going as well as we did in the last two games so it was only bound for the wide receiver corps to step up.”
WR/Returner | #1 | Janarion Grant
On his touchdown return…
“I was back there and ready to take the punt. They did a roll punt and they kicked it and as it was in the air I saw where I was and where I was going to be able to field the ball. I saw most of their guys going wide left and on my right there was just nothing but green grass and that’s when I took it to my advantage and scored a touchdown.”
On how he thinks he helped the team…
“I think [my punt returns] helped us out. We had great field advantage and we were able to run the clock down, get in the end zone and come out with a victory.”
LB | #50 | Quentin Gause
On the change in momentum…
“After any touchdown it gets the defense hyped and ready to get back onto the field to perform and stop the run like we did tonight.”
On what he was focused on for the game…
“All I thought about was stopping the run. They have some great backs on their team and I think they’re in the top-10 right now in the SEC. That’s where my focus was for this week.”
On how he prepared for Arkansas…
“I prepared hard this week. Jamal Merrell, you know me and him prepared for the event. I just came out today and kept my intensity at one level and my focus at the same level too. We just go out there and play football and have fun and great results happen.”
On the win…
“It was great [playing Arkansas]. Watching them on film, the tight end and the fullback, they were tossing people around. Tonight I got my hands on them and tossed them. It talked a lot about our defense and how we play and our d-line, we played our butts off tonight. It was just amazing.”
TE | #86 | Tyler Kroft
On his timing with QB Gary Nova…
“I’m definitely building a good rapport with Gary. Gary and I are really good friends up here. We’re good off the field and Gary’s been throwing to me a lot on the field so I guess it’s just coming to fruition in the games.”
On his overall thoughts on the game…
“I’m still taking it all in right now, it’s kind of surreal. They threw the ball to me a lot tonight and I’m still just trying to take it all in.”