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Rapid Reax: RU rallies to defeat Arkansas, 28-24

Gary Nova comes up big in the fourth to send the Razorbacks home with their first loss of the season.

Rich Schultz

Once again, Rutgers-Arkansas serves up some late game drama, filled with some Gary Nova heroics. Just a spectacular game with one of the best crowds I've seen in awhile; even Kyle Flood could barely contain himself in the postgame interview. Here are some quick points from the game:

  • The rushing game wasn't as productive against an SEC-quality defense, and I put most of that on the RU offensive line. In fact, the pass protection struggled a bit with the Razorbacks defensive line as well, sacking Gary Nova a handful of times. The final stat line will show Rutgers only rushed for 54 yards, but take away Nova's sack yardage and it's 101.
  • Paul James left the game injured, came back in, then aggravated the injury again. He limped gingerly off the field in the fourth, so we must wait in anticipation for his injury report. Remember, James is somewhat injury prone, so just hope it's not too bad. He finished with 17 carries for 80 yards (4.7 YPR), which is pretty decent against a BCS-level team. Also, Ron Prince seemed to rely more on the passing game, even early on when Rutgers wasn't playing from behind. It makes sense to go with the pass late for the rally, but from the beginning it seemed that it would be Gary's day.
  • Nova had a weird day, but a good day. 22 for 43, 346 yards, and 3 TDs is definitely a great line, but he also had several errant throws that reminded fans of old Gary. He recovered well in the second half, especially in the fourth, making superb throws to Carroo and Kroft on the 98-yard TD drive. You have to commend his toughness as well, as the junior signal-caller took some nasty hits from the Arkansas defense. You can see that Nova has a winner's mentality, never giving up on the win. Going forward, there's no question that he is the leader of this team.
  • This game was an incredible learning experience for the defense. You could literally see the young guns growing before your eyes as they fought to keep Rutgers in the game. Outside of a couple of trick plays, the defense did it's job, especially against the two Arkansas backs, Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. Each has rushed for over 100 yards in every game this year, and RU held them to 88 yards total (101 rush yards allowed to the team). AJ Derby isn't good, but it is still a great confidence boost going forward.
  • Special teams has always been strong at Rutgers, but it's special in a different way this year. Quron Pratt and Janarion Grant are electrifying returners who can flip momentum like a switch. In fact, you might want to give the game ball to Grant, who ignited the comeback with his 58 yard punt return in the second half.
  • Amazing crowd at HPS, so beautiful seeing the blackout-filled stadium on the Worldwide Leader.
Look for the full recap tomorrow.