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Scarlet Knights nip Sinking Navy, 21-20;
Early Q4 TD pass and blocked FG seal win for Rutgers
New Brunswick, NJ : The Birthplace of College
Football - A 20-yard TD pass from Rutgers' Gary Nova to Tim Wright early in the
final period gave the Rutgers Scarlet Knights a 21-17 lead over visiting Navy
(2-4) before a Naval Academy FG by Jon Teague followed by a block on
another Navy FG try left Rutgers (5-1)
Rutgers began its first drive from the 40 compliments of a kickoff out of bounds and on the first play from scrimmage a pass by RU's Gary Nova (23 for 31, 271, 2 INT, 2 TD) was dropped by LB Matt Warrick. The ensuing drive resulted in a missed 52-yard FG by San San Te - off the mark but long enough aided by the gusting wind at his back in newly named High Point Solutions Stadium. Navy's first drive was turned back by DB Brandon Jones's interception. The Knights threatened to score on its next drive, but a fumble by "super frosh" Savon Huggins at the Navy two resulted in a recovery by Navy's DE Wes Henderson. It was a break for the Mids whose defense tended to give up many yards throughout the game in most third and long situations. The period ended with neither team scoring . The quarter was dragged out as the result of five timeouts due to injuries on both sides.
Within the first minute of the second, RU capped off a 60-yard drive on a one-yard run by Jawan Jamison ( 22 for 101 yards, 1 TD) to take a 7-0 lead with Te's PAT. The Mids drove from their own 27 on their next possession to a fourth-and-one at the one-inch line, but RU LB Steve Beauharnais dropped Navy QB Kris Proctor for a three-yard loss on the play and the Knights took the ball back over on downs. Navy capitalized on the field position however as S Chris Ferguson picked off a tipped pass and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown. Jon Teague knotted up the score with a PAT, 7-7. The next Knight possession failed to convert on a fourth and four at Navy's 32. From there the Mids started their drive and Proctor ( (15 for 39 rushing yards, 5 of 12 passing, 106 yards, 2 INTs) burst through the line over left tackle on the option and scurried 46 yards for a TD and a 14-7 lead. That's how the score remained as time expired in the first half.
The message evidently got through to Rutgers since the last time we saw the two teams meet at The Birthplace as the Naval Academy was cheered by the 47,138 in attendance for its service to our country - a much better show of support than when the Mids were soundly booed when they entered Rutgers Stadium in 2007 before RU's 41-27 win. The Scarlet Knight mascot charged over the turf in front of the team as it ran on to the field, the first time I ever remember seeing the steed allowed to run out on the playing surface. RU's men and women's basketball teams were introduced. Their practices recently began for the upcoming season. Guest Game Analyst and RU fan Frank Scarpa and I promised one another that we would finally go see a b-ball game at "The RAC" this year. I like new Head Coach Mike Rice and what he's doing with that program. It was homecoming at RU. The alumni band played along with the Scarlet Knight band. Homecoming does not seem as festive here as at others. The parking lots are not only so widespread and separated, but so is the school itself divided over five different campuses in the area. The size in population and the expanse in area does not seem to add to the unity that other large universities tend to have.
Navy, very uncharacteristic of their triple-option offense, completed two passes on third downs on its next drive resulting in first downs to get Teague into position to kick a 45-yard FG to go up, 17-7. The passing attempts were a credit to RU's capability to shut down the option, especially to the outside which eventually cut down the inside running game. The Scarlet Knight defense held Navy to 162 rushing yards - 204 below their average. Proctor seemed to favor pitching out more than looking to keep the ball himself throughout the game, and he played right into the Knight defense. If this game would be close, like the 24-21 loss we watched at South Carolina previously, Navy would be at a disadvantage because of their lack of a true passing threat to compete late in the game. Later in the period, RU DB Patrick Kivlehan intercepted a ball lying atop the Navy receiver lying on the ground for a play initially called a fumble that had to go under review. The turnover resulted in a 52-yard scoring drive on a 10-yard TD pass from Nova to Quron Pratt open on the right side of the end zone to close the gap, 17-14. Seated in the north end zone, we watched the score take place on the opposite end where Rutgers students sit and form "R" and "U" in red shirts among white shirts in the student section. GGA Laurie commented, " The "R" is fading fast, but the "U" isn't too bad. " The R looked like a blurry "X". The R and U defense on the field were not fading though. They held Navy to three and out for no yards on its next possession starting from the 20, and they took the punt to start from their 32 before the third stanza ended.
In the fourth, the Rutgers offense converted a first down on a third and five to the Navy 20 to Mohamed Sanu (10 catches for 100 yards). From there, Nova threw over coverage right in below us in section 116 to the back of the end zone where Tim Wright made a diving reception for the score. RU took a 21-17 lead. Navy reverted to trickery on its next series to overcome its inability to run the option. A 37-yard option pass from FB Alexander Teich to Proctor for 37 yards got Navy down to RU's 39. Navy moved the ball until Proctor got sacked by DE Manny Abreu for an 11-yard loss. Navy settled for a 39-yard FG by Teague to bring the Mids within one, 22-21, with 7:48 left to play. Rutgers next drive ended early with an INT by LB Caleb King to put Navy in great field position with a first down at RU's 23. USNA gained six yards before bringing Teague in for another attempt from the right hash mark, but this time Brandon Jones rushed in from the right of the RU defense to block it, and Kasheem Greene recovered it on the 30. Navy held RU in check to put them in a third and eight situation at USNA's 49, but on the next play, Nova connected with Pratt wide open along the right sideline to keep the drive alive and maintain possession to control the clock. With :30 left, Te was called in to extend the lead with a 41-yard attempt, but it was Navy's turn to block a field goal. With twenty-four ticks remaining, Proctor completed a 12 yard pass before an incompletion and a sack. His lack of arm strength for a long ball could not amount any threat for last minute passes deep into the end zone. Rutgers finished with a one-point win to post a 5-1 record. Navy fell to 2-4, now on a four game losing streak with its second coming by a one-point margin.
Navy's defense yields too many big gains in third and long situations. RU took advantage. Navy's O can run the option effectively for about three quarters until a decent defense starts to understand the rhythm of the triple option. If the other team keeps it close on offense, Navy has very little chance to overcome a close margin late in the game. In a tight game, the Mids cannot score quickly. Both teams are average. Navy might not make it to a bowl this year. RU, with a 2-0 record to be tied for first in the Big East with wins over conference defectors Syracuse and Pitt, does not say much for the quality of Big East football once again. The Knights play next Friday night at 2-4,0-1 Louisville. Navy heads back to Annapolis and we will follow to watch them host 2-4 East Carolina. The Mids will look to right their ship against the Pirates to work their way to a least six wins to get to the Military Bowl in D.C. on December 28.
Extra points: Like most college campuses, Rutgers has some major expansion under way. Near the RAC, a new business school and other building are under construction. Tuitions continue to build new infrastructure on many campuses while the housing and construction industries continue to struggle otherwise.
The colonial cannon crew looks sharp and at the ready inside High Point Solutions Stadium' enclosed structure. They don't get to fire their cannon too often though.
The stadium restroom facilities are few and far between on the north end of the 100 level. When one shut down due to maintenance needs, its a long walk to find another according to GGA Frank Scarpa.