PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- For much of last night’s game against South Florida, freshman quarterback Gary Nova was on the field and sophomore Chas Dodd, the guy Nova replaced five starts ago, was on the bench for Rutgers. For much of the night, Nova struggled and Dodd waited.
“I just wasn’t playing well. Simple as that,” said Nova, who had been plagued by turnovers for three weeks.
Dodd, meanwhile, explained what he did during his time on the sidelines.
“Just taking as many mental reps as I can when I’m not in,” he said.
Finally, with the game and bowl eligibility still within reach, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano made the move -- he took out Nova and inserted Dodd. And for one night, Piscataway doubled as Hollywood.
Dodd directed a brilliant game-tying drive that culminated in a 34-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Coleman with 1:08 left in regulation, and, after South Florida missed a potential game-winning field goal as time expired, Rutgers won, 20-17, in overtime.
The winning points came from San San Te’s foot as he kicked a 37-yard field goal that ended the Scarlet Knights’ two-game losing streak and extended the Bulls’ own skid to four.
“I’ve been saying all along we have two good quarterbacks,” Schiano said. “Chas has prepared these weeks that he has not played.”
That was a good thing, because Rutgers (6-3, 3-2 Big East) had looked awful for quite some time. After their scoreless second half last week in a loss to West Virginia, the Knights made it two straight pointless halves by falling behind 10-0 to South Florida (4-4, 0-4). They fell even further back, 17-3, after the Bulls’ Demetris Murray scored from 4 yards out with 7:38 left.
Rutgers needed a change of momentum -- and before Dodd got his chance at heroics, they got that shift with 7:25 to go when sophomore Jeremy Deering returned the kickoff after Murray’s score 98 yards for a touchdown. That big burst play tied for the third longest kickoff return in Rutgers’ history.
“We definitely needed that,” Deering said.
Next came the quarterback switch.
Eventually Rutgers got the ball at its own 20, trailing 17-10, with 3:23 left. Dodd (11-of-17, 125 yards) took over and went 9-for-10 on the game-tying drive. Dodd connected with standout receiver Mohamed Sanu for seven receptions and 60 yards on the drive, including a miraculous 11-yard catch on fourth-and-9. Sanu was on the ground when he made the catch.
“I kind of caught it at first, but it slipped out and went up in the air,” said Sanu, who finished with 11 catches for 113 yards. “I was laying on my back and caught it.”
The drive ended with the fade route pass to Coleman.
“A perfect ball,” Coleman said.
“We ran a similar play a couple plays before and I knew I had a matchup out there with him,” said Dodd.
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