July 22, 2018 | ° F

Nova enters last home opener ranked second all-time with 53 pass touchdowns, fourth with 6,688 yards

Photo by Tian Li |

Head coach Kyle Flood said that this year’s version of Gary Nova is different than in the past. Flood said the ups and downs Nova went through the last two seasons as the starting quarterback have strengthened him as a football player entering his senior season.

It is difficult to find a position that controls so much in the course of a sporting event — and is so vital to the team — more than the position of quarterback in football. On that same end, it is hard to find a position more popular than the leader of the offense.

The role of a quarterback is so unique that it is aptly used as an adjective to describe other positions in sports.

When describing the captain and play-caller on defense, an overused cliché will call them the quarterback of the defense. In baseball, the centerfielder is sometimes called the quarterback of the outfield.

Metaphors aside, there is no position in football that transitions from praise to scrutiny on a seemingly year-by-year, game-by-game and play-by-play basis than the quarterback position.

Photo: Tian Li

Senior Gary Nova will play the last home opener of his career Saturday against Howard. Nova is set to start his 30th career game at quarterback for the Knights.

When you think about Rutgers football during the past four seasons, the successes and failures all seem to fall on one guy: senior quarterback Gary Nova.

There is a reason why Nova became only the second two-time captain in Scarlet Knights history, and there is a reason he will earn his 30th career start tomorrow against Howard.

But, there is also a reason why Nova had his starting job taken by former Knight Chas Dodd during the final three games last season.

As Nova prepares for his final home opener of his career, it is tough to argue his significance all-time as a Rutgers quarterback — ranking fourth in yards (6,688) and second with 53 passing touchdowns. 

Nova admits his last home opener hasn’t hit him yet and probably won’t until he comes out of the tunnel for the first time of the season.

“It hasn’t hit me yet, but it probably will when I run out of the tunnel,” Nova said. “I haven’t really thought about that too much. But I’ll have to put those emotions aside and be ready to play.”

There is perhaps no better word to describe the fans relationship with Nova than conflicted.

All fans were on their feet at High Point Solutions Stadium when Nova connected with alumnus wide receiver Brandon Coleman on an 85-yard touchdown pass against Louisville on Nov. 29, 2012. 

Those same fans were dubbing the quarterback Gary ‘Turn’ Nova after throwing two interceptions in the fourth quarter of that same game, ultimately losing, 20-17, against the Cardinals. 

But for head coach Kyle Flood, the roller coaster experiences Nova gained since he came to Rutgers has only made him stronger. Any success Nova finds is a testament to his hard work, Flood said.

“I think this year’s version of Gary is different than in the past. I think the things he has gone through the past two years have strengthened him,” Flood said via teleconference following the victory against Washington State. “When you work really hard, and then you have a game like we did where it’s an emotional game where we come from behind to win the game ... the emotional outpouring that you see from him at the end of it is a result of all the hard work that went into the last three years of his career.”

Nova started the season against the Cougars completing 16-of-27 passes for 281 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Senior fullback Michael Burton said Nova demonstrated his leadership and played effectively against WSU, just as the Knights prepare to enter their inaugural season in the Big Ten.

“I thought he had a great performance,” Burton said of Nova. “He was consistent and he really commanded the huddle. Being out there he was a great leader and did a great job.”

When looking back on Nova’s time in Piscataway, fans might remember that the Knights finished the 2012 campaign as co-Big East Champions with Nova under center. They also might remember him throwing six interceptions against Kent State on homecoming that same year.

But when this season is over, fans will remember Nova as one of the top statistical quarterbacks in Rutgers history.

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TylerKaralewich and @TargumSports on Twitter.

Tyler Karalewich

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