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September 22, 2013

Nova continues his reign over Arkansas

There is no doubt when Arkansas fans look back on their team's two-year series with Rutgers, Gary Nova is a name that will haunt them. Last year, Nova's five touchdowns led Rutgers to a 35-26 victory over the Razorbacks in Fayetteville.

Yesterday, in Piscataway, he may have one-upped himself.

Nova led a fourth quarter rally that helped Rutgers to turn a 24-7 deficit into a 28-24 victory. After Rutgers pulled to within 24-14, Nova engineered a pair of touchdown drives in which he completed 6-of-9 passes for 123 yards and threw two touchdowns.

"It's a great win. I think it's the way we won. We kept believing the whole time on the sidelines, everybody was positive and when we had the chance, we took advantage of it," Nova said after the game. "I think we all want to get better and clean up some things in the game but in the fourth quarter when it was on the line, we stepped up and made plays."

The biggest play of that comeback sequence came on a 4th and 12 from the Arkansas 33-yard line with 10 minutes to play in regulation. Nova dropped back and lofted a perfect pass into the arms of wide receiver Leonte Carroo as he crossed the goal line.

"Coach dialed up a play and we didn't execute earlier on. It was one-on-one coverage," said Nova, who finished 22-of-43 for 346 yards and 3 touchdowns. "We dialed it up later on and Leonte just happened to be there. I put it out there and he went and got it."

Carroo has quickly become Rutgers' go-to-receiver this year with big catches in yesterday's game as well as the season opener against Fresno State. Nova's long-standing relationship with Carroo dating back to their high school days as teammates at Don Bosco has definitely helped the two become RU's most potent combination this season.

"I think I have great chemistry with all these guys but me and Leonte have been through so much together that I definitely trust him," Nova said.

Throughout yesterday's game, Nova also showed a great deal of toughness in the face of a relentless Arkansas pass rush. Nova was sacked five times but hung in and made some big-time throws down the stretch in critical situations.

Coincidentally, there was no guarantee earlier in the week that Nova would even play due to the fact that a couple blows to the head last weekend against Eastern Michigan limited him to only one offensive series in that game.

"Gary's greatest attribute is his competitive fire, and it does not surprise me that he can come through a game like that and perform like that in the fourth quarter," Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood said after the game.

In the visitor's locker room, Nova's performance left an all too familiar feeling for the Razorbacks. Although it was the second straight year Arkansas was victimized by Nova, it the first time for first-year head coach Brett Bielema.

"I can see why they like him. He converted when it mattered," Bielema said of Nova. "Some of those deep digs were thrown pretty well and the timing of those routes is what you get when you have an experienced quarterback. You can tell he's been working with those receivers all through summer and fall camp."


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