Chris Laviano returns to High Point for first time since booing incident
When Chris Ash took the reigns of the football program at Rutgers, Chris Laviano was tasked with winning the starting quarterback job — again.
Laviano was back to square one this season with a new head coach, offensive coordinator and offensive system after winning job leading up to last season and starting every game for the Scarlet Knights in 2015.
The Holy Trinity product battled mainly with fellow junior Hayden Rettig during spring camp and came out of the summer in competition with graduate transfer Zach Allen during training camp.
Laviano separated himself enough from the other quarterbacks for Ash to name him as the No. 1 quarterback in the week leading up to the season opener.
But while Laviano prevailed in a quarterback battle for the second time, the erratic play that defined his first full season as a starter continued to persist in No. 14 Washington's 48-13 shellacking of the Knights in the first game of the season.
Laviano was 24-for-40 through the air, but gained just 168 yards across those 24 completions. Most notably, the 6-foot-2 quarterback also coughed up the ball two times, once on an interception and again fumbling on a quarterback scramble.
He nearly turned it over a third time on a lost fumble deep in Rutgers own territory, but the play was nullified due to a defensive penalty.
"There were goods and there were bads," Ash said. "The number one thing negative on Chris is he did not have good ball security. He put the ball in harm's way, and he needs to get that fixed ... We talked a lot about that in the decision making process to name Chris the starter. Chris has earned the right to be the starter here based on what he's done from spring and summer and through training camp, but he needs to protect the football ... He's got to get used to running the football and how to protect the ball when he is running."
Chris Laviano was originally recruited to Rutgers to quarterback a pro-style offense, which he ran last year for the Knights. Now playing in a spread offense that incorporates its fair share of read-options, Laviano has to take off on designed scrambles if the weak-side defensive end is overplaying the run.
That's a sizable adjustment for a quarterback that not only lacks blazing speed but hasn't been asked to partake in many designed runs during his time at the collegiate level.
But Laviano's not allowing for his lack of experience in the offense to be an excuse for not being more secure with the football.
"There's no excuse for not taking care of the ball — it's like the most important thing," Laviano said. "So it's kinda like you either do or you don't. And that's gonna get better."
On Saturday, Laviano will attempt to quarterback Rutgers to its first win of the season when it hosts Howard in a noon matchup at High Point Solutions Stadium on the Big Ten Network. It will be the Knights' first game on their home turf since last season's finale, when Rutgers squandered a 21-point lead late in the first half en route to a 45-41 loss to Maryland.
In the fourth quarter of that game, Laviano was replaced by Hayden Rettig after suffering an injury. Rettig was in for one play before Laviano returned to the field, being met by "boos" from the home crowd. Laviano responded to the fans disapproval by waving his arms up-and-down, encouraging the crowd to be boo him more.
After the game, Laviano posted a picture of himself, former head coach Kyle Flood and former offensive coordinator Ben McDaniels on Instagram where he took a shot at the naysaying fans with the caption, "We're here to stay and don't give a **** about u ... Players, coaches, I love em all #findanotherteam."
It was an ugly end to a frustrating season for both Chris Laviano and Rutgers fans. Now the junior quarterback has no idea how he'll be received when the offense takes for the first time on Saturday.
But he doesn't seem too worried.
"I don't know. I can't really control that," Laviano said when asked how he thought the fan reaction of him will be Saturday. "All I can control is how we play, how this offense plays and how this team handles themselves."