PISCATAWAY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — It wasn’t long ago that Chas Dodd was in a tight competition for Rutgers’ starting quarterback position, ultimately being relegated to backup duties behind Gary Nova shortly before last season.
Now, with growing concern about Nova’s availability from a concussion, Dodd is embracing a potential opportunity to start the Scarlet Knights’ biggest game of the season Saturday when they host Arkansas at High Point Solutions Stadium.
Nova, who has rebounded from an uneven sophomore campaign through the Scarlet Knights’ 2-1 start, practiced Tuesday morning in a limited role, according to coach Kyle Flood, who listed him as probable for the matchup against the 3-0 Razorbacks.
“I think it means he has a chance,” Flood said.
Nova enjoyed a career game in an upset triumph at Arkansas last season, passing for 397 yards and five touchdowns, and his absence would seemingly put more of a target on running back Paul James, who leads the nation with 493 rushing yards.
“He didn’t do a lot today, but we were pleased with what he did,” Flood said of Nova. “I don’t know if there’s any certainty at all. Those are decisions that I don’t make. The medical staff makes them, so they give me an idea of what they think he can do and then we try to do it. So we’ll see how he feels.”
Nova’s uncertain status means Dodd is preparing for an increased role after throwing for 45 yards on 4-of-9 passing in relief of Nova during last Saturday’s 28-10 win over Eastern Michigan.
“There’s a heightened sense of awareness (to be) ready knowing there’s a higher chance (of playing) this week,” Dodd said. “I’m going to be prepared if my number is called.”
Dodd is no stranger to big games, having started 15 of the 20 he played in during his first two seasons. Two years ago, the Lyman, S.C., product had his best season while sharing quarterback duties with Nova, completing 56.7 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
But after earning the starting nod in a Pinstripe Bowl triumph that capped a 9-4 campaign, Dodd lost an open competition with Nova and saw only a few snaps as a backup last season.
“I know, even as the backup, I am one play away from seeing the field so I have to be ready to go,” Dodd said. “I could still help us win games.”
With Nova sidelined after sustaining two direct hits to his head on the first series last Saturday, Rutgers attempted just 13 passes while handing the ball to James 21 times against Eastern Michigan. Dodd, who was admittedly rusty in his first significant action since the 2011 bowl game, concedes he will need to do more if he gets the nod against the SEC’s top-rated scoring defense.
“The things that (Dodd) does well in my opinion is (the) short-to-intermediate passing game,” said Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema, whose team has yielded just 38 points through its 3-0 start. “They have the nation’s leading rusher (and) they go play-action off (James). It’s a different package I think for (Dodd) but one they feel strong about.”
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