Rutgers offense sputters in second half versus Penn State
When senior quarterback Gary Nova dropped back to pass in the first half of Saturday night’s game, it seemed like he had all the time in the world.
And for the most part, Nova took advantage of it, except for two interceptions that didn’t appear to be his fault.
While cliché, it was a tale of two halves for the Rutgers football team’s offense in its anticipated Big Ten opener against Penn State.
Nova passed for 125 yards on eight completions in the first half but ended the game throwing a season-low 192 yards. Nova also threw three more interceptions in the second half, bringing his total to five for the game.
Those three interceptions were bad throws, poor decisions or the result of him taking a chance with the coverage.
Head coach Kyle Flood said the Nittany Lions didn’t change anything up in the second half defensively.
“They have an excellent defensive lineman, number 98 [defensive tackle Anthony Zettel], and a good defensive line in general,” Flood said. “But, number 98 — we couldn’t handle him in the second half. When you look at the lack of production on offense, it won’t be the only place to look, but it’s probably the place to start. That kid’s a good football player, and we didn’t do enough to control him, so he controlled the second half of that game.”
The Scarlet Knights proved again Saturday why they have one of the best special team’s units in the country.
Redshirt freshman Kemoko Turay blocked a field goal for the second straight week and junior wide receiver Leonte Carroo followed it with a blocked punt.
The multi-block game is the second in a row for the Rutgers special teams unit and marks the team’s 39th blocked kick since 2009, which leads the nation.
Carroo, who solidified his spot as the team’s top receiver, is not on many special teams plays, but the punt return formation was designed for him to make a play.
“It was a designed block for me,” Carroo said. “I executed — I listened to all of my coaching points and used my techniques to block the punt.”
In an effort to boost its mediocre running attack, Penn State implemented the wildcat formation and achieved varied success in its second game Sept. 6 against Akron.
Coupled with other running plays, the Nittany Lions were able to rush for 79 yards using the wildcat from the 1:52 mark in the third quarter onward against the Zips.
Against Rutgers, Penn State ran the wildcat formation only three times, gaining one rushing yard and a wildly errant throw on an end around to sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
Whether the Lions felt the formation wasn’t effective enough against the Knights defense’ to run more than three plays is unclear. But senior linebacker Kevin Snyder said Rutgers prepared for all facets of the Lions’ attack.
“We prepared for them in phases. That was one of the phases we prepared for them in,” Snyder said. “Our coaches did a great job of getting the game plan in and the checks in for what we needed to do when they came out in wildcat. It was a game plan thing, and we came out and adjusted.”
The fan attendance against Penn State was a record 53,774, the highest in school and High Point Solutions Stadium history.
Flood said early in the week that a strong showing from the fans would impact the game and how well Penn State does.
Flood was appreciative of the showing, especially from the students.
“Let me start by thanking our fans, our student section,” Flood said postgame. “I thought the game day environment here today was as good as any in the country. And I think what we’re going to find out here at Rutgers is as the teams from Big Ten continue to come in, it will be like that on a weekly basis.”
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