Rutgers Nova throws for career-best 404, 3 TDs
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Gary Nova threw for a career-best 404 yards and three touchdowns and Rutgers added to slumping Michigan’s woes with a 26-24 victory on Saturday night.
Nova found Andrew Turzilli on scoring passes of 80 and 14 yards and hit John Tsimis with a 7-yarder as the Scarlet Knights (5-1, 1-1) won their first Big Ten Conference game and sent Michigan (2-4, 0-2) to its third straight loss.
The 2-4 start is the worst for Michigan since it opened 2-7 in 2008 under Rich Rodriguez. The setback also capped a troublesome week for coach Brady Hoke, who was under the microscope for failing to remove sophomore quarterback Shane Morris last weekend after a hit to the head.
Michigan had a chance to win but a wind-aided 56-yard field goal by Matt Wile was blocked by Kemoke Turay with 3:01 to go.
Rutgers ran out the clock after the block — Rutgers’ nation-leading 40th since 2009 — and the sellout crowd of 53,327 waited until Michigan walked off the field before they ran to join players in a celebration that featured them singing the school alma mater.
The Scarlet Knights are now one win away from being bowl eligible in their first season in the Big Ten, a year nearly everyone picked them to finish at the bottom of the pack.
Nova finished 22 of 39 and did not throw an interception, which has been his downfall in his four seasons. Kyle Federico added two field goals.
Devin Gardner started in place of Morris for Michigan and played well. He was 13 of 22 for 178 yards and ran for touchdowns of 4 and 19 yards, the last one getting Michigan within two points with 9:17 to play.
The Wolverines were driving for a go-ahead score late when Amara Darboh dropped a third-down pass at the Rutgers 30 that would have given the Wolverines a first down.
Michigan went for the long field goal and Turay jumped high to block it.
Rutgers led 19-17 at the half, with the 7-yarder to Tsimis, capping a 10-play, 59-yard drive and put it in front for good.
Michigan came into the game with the nation’s ninth best defense, yielding an average of 283.4 yards in five games.
Nova passed for 282 yards in the first half, hitting Turzilli on an 80-yard catch and run on a deep post pattern and Tsimis on a 7-yard touchdown pass with 22 seconds left in the half.
The last throw was impressive because Michigan defensive end Frank Clark had a clean shot at sacking Nova and missed and that set up the scoring pass.
Turzilli got his second TD catch early in the fourth quarter, converting a first-and-goal from the Michigan 24.
Michigan had taken a 17-12 second-quarter lead late in the second quarter after easily stopping Rutgers’ a fourth-down fake punt from its own 45.
De’Veon Smith capped the short drive with a 1-yard run after a 28-yard pass from Gardner to Jehu Chesson gave the Wolverines at first and goal.
Gardner also scored on a 4-yard run and Matt Wile kicked a 39-yard field goal for Michigan in the first half.
Federico had field goals of 35 and 45 yards for Rutgers on its first two possessions.