Again, USF faces Rutgers and a true freshman QB
Good morning from New Jersey -- kickoff is still about eight hours away here for USF-Rutgers, which gives me time to address a familiar storyline in tonight's game: USF facing another Rutgers true freshman quarterback.
Greg Schiano is sticking with true freshman Gary Nova, making it the third year in a row USF will face a rookie passer for the Scarlet Knights. The only opponent in the last five years to beat the Bulls with a true freshman quarterback was Rutgers here in 2009, when Tom Savage got the start in an easy 31-0 Rutgers win. (The last time before that game that a true freshman beat USF was West Virginia's Pat White in 2005.)
In that 2009 win, Savage outplayed USF's B.J. Daniels, then a redshirt freshman, with Savage going 15-for-30 for 194 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Daniels struggled, going 7-for-17 for 129 yards with two interceptions, rushing 16 times for 11 yards.
If Nova doesn't fare well, USF could see Chaz Dodd, the sophomore backup who started against the Bulls as a true freshman last year, in the Bulls' 28-27 win in Tampa. Dodd was sharp against the Bulls, going 19-for-22 for 139 yards without a touchdown or interception.
So in the last two games against Rutgers true freshman quarterbacks, USF has mustered only one interception -- the Bulls probably need to improve on that number if they want to end a three-game losing streak and get some positive momentum for the remaining four games.
Rutgers' season has largely followed Nova's success in avoiding turnovers -- in his first 76 passes this season, he had zero interceptions in the Scarlet Knight's 4-1 start. In the last three games, he's had seven interceptions in his last 102 passes, with two losses and a one-point win against Navy where Rutgers blocked a field goal in the fourth quarter to hold on.
One more note for today's game: Since joining the Big East in 2005, USF has had just five games where it has allowed 27 or more points and still won -- two of those five are the only two wins against Rutgers, a 45-31 win in 2005 and last year's 28-27 win. (The others, if you care, are Pittsburgh in '07, Kansas in '08 and Cincinnati last year).