Big plays put Tulane in early hole in 31-6 loss to Rutgers

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PISCATAWAY, New Jersey — Tulane dared Rutgers to beat it with the pass and Gary Nova did.

Nova threw three of his four touchdown passes to high school teammate Leonte Carroo and became Rutgers' all-time career leader in touchdown passes in a 31-6 victory Saturday. The Scarlet Knights scored a touchdown on their first three drives, all of which were touchdown passes by Nova.

"Secondary, we got to play better. Me, everyone. Those three plays, they cannot happen," Green Wave safety Sam Scofield said. "I thought we did a decent job stopping the run, but we can't let those big plays happen."

Nova hit Carroo on scoring passes of three and 25 yards on the Scarlet Knights' first two possessions, and added the third one late on a 6-yard toss in the fourth quarter. He combined with Andrew Turzilli on a 93-yard scoring pass as Rutgers jumped to a 21-0 lead on its first three drives.

The game was Rutgers' first since starting halfback Paul James was lost for the season with a knee injury, forcing Desmon Peoples and Justin Goodwin to carry the load.

"The way they played defense, they load the box. They are committed to stopping the run and they're going to create one-on-ones," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. "We needed to it make some plays in the passing game to loosen them up a little bit."

Sherman Badie scored on an 86-yard run for Tulane (1-4), which lost starting quarterback Tanner Lee to an undisclosed shoulder injury in the first half.

"We knew we needed a big play and I felt it was time for someone to set the tempo and I listen to my coach, I was playing small and waiting for the play to come open," said Badie, who finished with 108 yards on 12 carries. "And it popped open for me."

Badie scored with 5:08 left in the second quarter after cutting a run to the outside and beating the Rutgers defense down the sideline. Andrew DiRocco hit the upright on the extra point and missed a 36-yard field goal late in the half that would have cut the deficit to 21-9 It's been a season of struggles for DiRocco, who is one-of-five on field goals and missed two extra points.

"You got a true freshman coming in and he's trying to kick. I think he got a little bit nervous and he's a little bit stage fright," coach Curtis Johnson said. "This kid comes in and he kicks one extra point and he doesn't make that and he hits the goal pole on another one. "We just got to get him practicing and get him doing better."

Nova was spectacular in the first half, hitting all nine of his passes for 195 yards. He capped a 10-play, 53-yard opening drive with a deftly thrown corner route to Carroo, who finished with seven catches for 140 yards.

The two former Don Bosco Prep products hooked up on consecutive completions of 46 and 25 yards in negotiating 80 yards in three plays for a 14-0 lead with 2:02 left in the first quarter. The last touchdown pass capped another 80-yard drive.

"He's a good receiver," said cornerback Lorenzo Doss, who had Tulane's lone interception. "He's fast, he's got good size. He's very difficult (to cover)."

The 93-yard touchdown play came on a third-and-4 on which Nova (14 of 21 for 291 yards and one interception) had two open receivers. He hit Turzilli over the middle at the Rutgers 23 and the fifth-year senior transfer from Kansas ran the rest of the way untouched.

Kyle Federico added a 32-yard field goal for Rutgers in the third quarter. Nova closed out the scoring with his 10th touchdown pass of the season.

Tulane enters their bye week before opening up their inaugural season in the American Athletic Conference.

"I think it's a good thing, especially going into conference play," Sam Scofield said of the bye. "We need to regroup, have a good week of practice and get ready for UConn."

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