PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Brandon Jones blocked a go-ahead 34-yard field goal attempt by Jon Teague with 4:43 to play and Rutgers won its fourth straight game, a 21-20 victory over struggling Navy on Saturday.
Freshman Gary Nova threw two touchdown passes and Jawan Jamison rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown as the Scarlet Knights (5-1) continued their best start since 2006 by sending Navy (2-4) to its fourth straight loss, the Mids’ longest losing skid since 2002.
Nova threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Quron Pratt late in the third quarter and a go-ahead 20-yarder to Tim Wright early in the fourth quarter in rallying the Scarlet Knights from a 17-7 second-half deficit.
Navy’s Chris Ferguson scored on a 16-yard interception return and quarterback Kriss Proctor scampered almost untouched on a 54-yard touchdown run in the first half. Teague kicked a 41-yard field goal to get the Mids within a point with 7:52 to play, and an interception and return to the Scarlet Knights 23 by linebacker Caleb King had Navy in position to take the lead. But Jones came untouched off the right end to block the kick.
Navy got the ball back at its 23-yard line with 24 seconds to play after Rutgers botched a field goal attempt, but the Mids never threatened.
Nova finished 23 of 31 for a career-best 271 yards. He also played like a freshman at times, throwing the pick-six and then making another bad toss to give Navy a chance to win the game late.
Rutgers’ defense, which came into the game tied nationally for getting the most turnovers, picked off two more passes — Jones got one — to push its total to 24. The unit also limited the Mids to 162 yards rushing, well off their 366-yard average, which led the nation.
Proctor was 5 of 12 passing for 106 yards for Navy on a windy day which limited passing on one end of the field. Alexander Teich led Navy with 69 yards on 18 carries.
Down 17-7 midway through the third quarter, Rutgers caught a break when Patrick Kivlehan intercepted a Proctor pass that twice bounced off the hands of Navy receiver Brandon Turner and off the leg of Jones before the senior caught it for his first career pick.
Nova needed just six plays to cover the 52 yards, hitting Pratt on third-and-4.
After holding Navy without a first down on its next series, Rutgers went 66 yards in eight plays. Nova hit fullback Joe Martinek for 16 on the first play and 15 to Jamison on the second down against a Navy defense that rebounded well after giving up 63 points last week. His touchdown pass to Wright came on a third-down play on which he got great protection and was able to get his pass just over the hands of linebacker Matt Warrick to Wright in the middle of the end zone.
Navy turned two huge first-half plays into touchdowns in taking a 14-7 lead.
Ferguson, who forced a fumble near the goal line to end Rutgers’ second drive, intercepted an ill-advised pass by Nova midway through the second quarter and trotted into the end zone to tie the game at 7.
The pick came just two plays after linebacker Steve Beauharnais and safety David Rowe stopped Proctor for a 2-yard loss on a fourth-and-goal from inside the 1.
Proctor gave Navy the lead with 4:00 left in the half with a 54-yard run on an option keeper. The score came just two plays after Nova couldn’t connect with a wide-open Mark Harrison and the Scarlet Knights failed to convert a fourth-and-4 from the Mids 32.
Jamison had given Rutgers a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter on a 1-yard run.