With all the off-the-field stuff making headlines at Rutgers, the last thing the Scarlet Knights need is another controversy.
But is there an on-field controversy brewing for the Knights in the form of a yet-to-be-resolved quarterback battle?
The Knights played well — very well — in their 63-13 demolition of FCS opponent Norfolk State on Saturday. The offense was downright unstoppable at times. And that can be said about its state under both Hayden Rettig and Chris Laviano, as both quarterbacks played and played well in the season-opening victory.
Laviano was suspended for the first half, one of five Knights sitting out for missing curfew. That meant Rettig got the start, and he did well, completing nine of his 11 passing attempts for 110 yards and a touchdown. He also had a rushing touchdown.
But once Laviano’s suspension was up, Rettig was out and Laviano was in. And Laviano did very well, too, needing just four passing attempts — all completions — to throw for 138 yards and three touchdowns. That’s thanks, in large part, to star wide receiver Leonte Carroo, who also had a suspension expire at halftime. Carroo caught all three of those touchdown tosses and had himself a day in only a half.
To be fair, Carroo told reporters after the game that his success would have been the same had Rettig been throwing him the ball.
A blowout win had help becoming a blowout win from more than just the passing game. Rutgers running backs rushed in for three additional touchdowns, and Janarion Grant returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown, as well. The Knights gained 539 yards of total offense.
But as we head into Week 2, is there now a quarterback controversy in Piscataway?
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“It wasn't a matter of pulling Rettig. I thought Hayden played well in the first half and we had an opportunity to get a live evaluation in a game environment on both quarterbacks, and I wanted to do that,” Flood said after the game. “We're still gathering information. I'm really pleased with the way both those guys are playing. They are certainly not making it easy on me. Both played at a high level, and we'll go back and we'll watch the film and decide here what direction we're going to go as we move forward.”
There’s enough controversies going on without this one, of course. Flood is under investigation by the university for potentially breaking a school rule and contacting a professor about a player’s grades. And five players — including Nadir Barnwell, the one at the center of the Flood investigation — were arrested Thursday, charged with a variety of crimes and dismissed from the program shortly before Saturday’s kickoff.
But those things have less to do with football than this one, and it’s an interesting in that it wasn’t resolved during the preseason. It’s possible that neither guy separated themselves in Flood’s eyes, or it’s possible Laviano won the job and couldn’t start because of the suspension.
After the game Saturday, Flood talked about how great an opportunity it was to evaluate both QBs in a game setting, something that sounds like the situation had never been finalized.
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A home game against Washington State comes next weekend, and it will be interesting to see which quarterback gets the nod or if both play again. If Flood was hoping for some separation in Week 1, though, it seems both played well enough to deserve another shot.
“In all my years, I don't know if I remember a situation like this where both quarterbacks were both doing a really nice job and playing at a high level and the decision part of this has become a much longer process than I anticipated,” Flood said. “When I said seven to 10 days in the offseason, I believed it would be seven to 10 days and somebody would separate themselves and we would have a starting quarterback and we would go forward. This is a little bit of unchartered water for me.
“But what I don't want to do is just make a decision to make a decision or just choose one quarterback because that's what I've done in the past and that's what I've been more comfortable with. What I want to do is whatever is best for this football team to be 1-0 each week, so I think I'm going to have to be open to that as we go through the season.”