PISCATAWAY, N.J. (November 2, 2013) –The Rutgers defense halted Temple on fourth and 1 with 1:50 remaining and junior quarterback Gary Nova (Elmwood Park, N.J.) responded, finding single coverage on sophomore wideout Leonte Carroo (Edison, N.J.) on a fourth and 10 from the 33-yard line to complete a comeback win Saturday afternoon at High Point Solutions Stadium.
Nova went 5-for-7 for 72 yards on RU’s game-winning drive, capped by Carroo’s second touchdown of the game with 35 seconds left in regulation to seal the victory. The Don Bosco products spearheaded the offensive attack in the win, as Nova was 27-for-38with 371 yards and three touchdowns and Carroo hauled in seven catches for 147 yards and two scores.
“It's an all or nothing play in terms of, yes, you either make the first down or the game is over,” said head coach Kyle Flood of the game-winning touchdown. “But it's not just an all-or-nothing play to Leonte; it just so happens he has had the one-on-one and we feel like he's going to win, and he has had separation in all three of those cases where he's caught it. Fortunate for us we can put him out there.”
The RU defense made the comeback possible, bearing down to stop a 7:04-minute Temple drive and return possession to the offense.
The Scarlet Knights faced a must-stop, fourth and 1 opportunity with 1:50 left on the clock andcame up big, as junior linebacker Kevin Snyder (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) and redshirt freshman linebacker Steve Longa (Saddle Brook, N.J.) combined for the fourth down stop.
The turnover on downs was the first for Temple in the game and came in a big spot, allowing Nova to guide the offense down field for the game-winning score.
“[We ran] an inside cross blitz that we run quite a bit, it's not unusual, and in that situation you have to stop them or the game is over,” Flood said. “We had the safety up tighter, but those guys did a nice job of penetrating and making the tackle.
“I thought Temple did a good job of running the ball in the fourth quarter. I thought we heldthem in check early in the game, but they did find a couple of runs in the fourth quarter, where they were moving it on us.”
Temple got the ball back with 28 seconds left on the clock, but the RU defense closed it out, as redshirt freshman Ruhann Peele (Linden, N.J.) forced and recovered a Ryan Aldermann fumble to end the contest. It was Peele’s first career game in the secondary as he moved to cornerback this week in practice.
Earlier in the quarter, Temple’s Kenneth Harper broke loose on a third and 2 from the RU 25-yard line, taking it the rest of the way for a touchdown and 20-16 Owls lead with 10:57 left on the clock. It was the longest rush of the game by either team, putting the pressure on RU to bounce back from a deficit.
A fumble by freshman running back Justin Goodwin (Summit, N.J.) on the subsequent possession allowed the Owls to retain possession on their own 17-yard line with 8:54 left in the contest. Temple would take thenext 7:04 minutes off the clock before the RU defense came up big on fourth and 1 from the RU 28-yard line.
After trailing 13-3 entering the halftime locker rooms, RU got to work fast to begin the secondhalf, scoring 13 unanswered points to take their first lead of the game.
A 34-yard touchdown grab by Carroo put the Scarlet Knights ahead, 16-13, with 14:03 left in the fourth quarter. Senior linebacker Jamal Merrell’s (Bear, Del.) second interception of the season set RU for the score, as one play was all Nova needed to get in the end zone and take the lead.
Nova’s first touchdown pass was caught by junior fullback Michael Burton (Long Valley, N.J.) – the second touchdown reception of his career – with 10:37 remaining in the third quarter. The drive took just three plays and 1:12 minutes and made it a 13-9 game after a missed extra point.
The Scarlet Knights’ only points of the first half came courtesy of a 30-yard field goal by sophomore Kyle Federico (Ponte Vedra, Fla.). The points made it a 6-3 game with 11:00 minutes left in the first quarter.
Rutgers heads into its second bye week of the season before returning to Piscataway on Saturday, Nov. 16 to take on Cincinnati. The Scarlet Knights defeated the Bearcats 10-3 last season at Nippert Stadium.
- First career start: CB Delon Stephenson, SS Johnathan Aiken
- Today’s game marked the 36th meeting between Rutgers and Temple. RU leads the all-time series 21-15. The ScarletKnights have only played three current FBS teams more: Syracuse (43), Army (43) and West Virginia (39).
- Rutgers won its third game this season when trailing in the fourth quarter or overtime (Arkansas, SMU).
- RU improved to 11-1 in the last two seasons when holding a team to 20 or less points.
- Rutgers is now 13-of-17 on fourth down conversions this season. Gary Nova’s game-winning 33-yard touchdown pass to Leonte Carroo came on 4th and 10.
- The offense has allowed just two sacks in the past two games.
- WR Leonte Carroo recorded career-highs with seven receptions and 147 yards in thegame. His two touchdowns bring his season total to nine, one short of the program single-season record. Carroo is tied for third in Rutgers single-season history with Mark Harrison (9, 2010), Tim Brown (9, 2009) and Bob Simms (9,1958). Brandon Coleman (10, 2012) and Marco Battaglia (10, 1995) hold the single-season record with 10 touchdown receptions.
- Eight of Carroo’s touchdowns have come in the fourth quarter or later in 2013. The game-winner was his second 33-yard score on fourth down in the fourth quarter this season.
- QB Gary Nova had a career-high 27 completions in the win, also netting a season-best 371yards (second best yardage of his career).
- Nova’s three passing touchdowns bring his career total to 50, nine shy of the program record. It was his fifth comeback win when trailing in the fourth quarter or overtime (2011: Syracuse, Navy; 2013: Arkansas, SMU, Temple) and first on a two-minute drill.
- Nova’s 371 passing yards are the eighth-best total in RU single-game history.
- Making his first career start, CB Delon Stephenson recorded his career interception on the first Temple drive of the game. He also had three tackles and two quarterback hurries in the game.
- Seeing his first career action on defense, CB Ruhann Peele picked up a sack on a blitz in the first quarter. He also forced and recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
- FB Michael Burton notched his second career receiving touchdown in the third quarter. His other score came against Army at Yankee Stadium Nov. 12, 2011.
- LB Jamal Merrell picked off his second pass of the season and third of his career. He also had nine tackles.
- LB Steve Longa and LB Kevin Snyder tied for the team lead with 12 tackles. Longa has now led the team in tackles in six games this season. Longa leads RU with 80 tackles in 2013, including one onfourth down late in the fourth quarter to setup the RU winning drive.