Tests continue to come in all different forms this season for sophomore quarterback Gary Nova. His latest test lies 600 miles away from Piscataway as the Scarlet Knights will square off against Cincinnati inside Nippert Stadium Saturday at noon.
It will be Rutgers' fifth road contest of the season and thus far, the Scarlet Knights have passed each of its previous four road tests.
Nova has gotten better win each road game he has played this year. He started off a bit shaky against Tulane but rebounded to put together some impressive numbers away from Piscataway.
In four road games, Nova has completed 76-of-124 passes for 1,064 yards to go along with 11 TDs and 3 INTs.
"I love playing on the road. I kind of like it playing more than at home actually, no disrespect to our fans," Nova said. "I like playing away, I like being the underdog. I like everybody chanting and screaming at you, saying all this stuff. I get a kick out of it. Throwing a touchdown pass in Arkansas and having 70,000 people not say a word was pretty cool. It's a special feeling."
Rutgers may need another solid road performance from Nova on Saturday, especially with starting running back Jawan Jamison's health still in question.
"I think when you go on the road late in the year against a good football team like Cincinnati, you need a quarterback in the huddle who has tremendous composure, tremendous confidence in himself and the people around him," said head coach Kyle Flood. "I think Gary has that. And I think what that allows him to do is play within himself and play within the system."
Nova led Rutgers to a win last week against Army, but the prior game was Nova's worst of his career as he threw for six interceptions in a 35-23 loss to Kent State.
"I think I got away from my fundamentals just a little bit," Nova said. "I've been stressing my fundamentals more and more every day at practice, trying to get better and just going back to the basics."
Still only 19 years of age, Nova has seen quite a bit through his young college career. He has put together and 11-3 record as a starter and seems to have enjoyed every minute of that ride.
"Playing quarterback isn't easy, if it was everybody would do it. But I love it," Nova said. "I love the ups and downs. Throwing six picks or six touchdowns, I love every part of it. That's why it doesn't shake my confidence up. I know stuff like that is going to happen sometimes. You just have to keep going."
Nova also mentioned that he is not using his poor performance against Kent State as motivation moving forward through the rest of the season.
"I don't think I use it as motivation. After it happened I was disappointed but I didn't hang my head on it," Nova said. "I knew we had a bye week and I just wanted to get better and watch as much film as I could going into Army. And I just wanna finish out these three games really strong."
Now, more than three quarters of the way through his sophomore season, Nova appears to be more veteran than teenager. Playing quarterback at national power Don Bosco helped his maturation, but nothing could have helped more than the trials he has faced over the past two seasons as Rutgers' starting quarterback.
"I think playing at Bosco helped but there is nothing like playing Division 1 college football. The overall mindset that I had to play at that level in high school helped me here but there's nothing like playing this type of football in front of these type of crowds and facing the adversity you're going to face here."