Carroo catches 3 TDs as Rutgers overcomes distractions
Piscataway, N.J. — For a couple of hours, Kyle Flood and Rutgers were able to get away from the distractions of an academic investigation involving the coach and the dismissal of five arrested players by playing a football game, and playing it well.
Leonte Carroo caught three third-quarter touchdown passes after sitting out a first-half suspension and set a school record as Rutgers blocked out the cloud that has descended on the football program with a 63-13 win over Norfolk State on Saturday.
“It’s been fine because everyone’s been focused on the game,” Carroo said. “That’s all we were focused on today. Just being 1-0 each and every week and now that we got this win we’re just going to celebrate the win.” .
The win wasn’t without issues. The five players who were arrested on Thursday for actions that Flood described as “unacceptable” were dismissed from the team minutes before the opening kickoff.
Even winning had a price. Quarterback Hayden Rettig and Chris Laviano, who like Carroo was suspended for the first half for a curfew violation, both played well. It left Flood with a quarterback controversy that must before decided before next Saturday’s game here against Washington State.
Flood said he will evaluate the videotape and pick a starter by Tuesday.
Carroo caught touchdown passes of 55, 56 and 18 yards from Laviano in a 28-point third quarter that broke the game open. He now has a career school-record 22 touchdown receptions.
“I am sure when he came out in the second half he was highly motivated,” Flood said. “One of the things that makes Leonte the player he is, is that he loves to compete. When he doesn’t get an opportunity to compete in the first half, you can pretty much assure yourself he’ll be ready to go in the second.”
Janarion Grant ignited the second-half by returning the opening kickoff 80 yards.
Rettig threw a touchdown and ran for another in the first half to give the Scarlet Knights a 21-13 lead, but Flood opted to switch to Laviano, and it worked.
It just added another problem for Rutgers, a quarterback controversy in addition to the investigation and the player dismissals, which happened 10 minutes before the opening kickoff.
Greg Hankerson threw touchdown passes of 16 yards to DeAndre Sangster and 29 yards to Torian Henderson for Norfolk State, which could not win in its first game under new coach Latrell Scott.
“We have to learn that 30 minutes of football just doesn’t cut it,” Scott said.
The game must have seemed a breather for the football program which has been under the microscope since Aug. 25 when stories emerged that Flood was under investigation for possible violation of school and NCAA rules for asking a teacher about a grade receiver by cornerback Nadir Barnwell, one of the dismissed players.
That investigation has not been resolved, and there was some question whether Flood would be allowed to coach the season opener. He did, leading the team on to the field with little or no crowd reaction.
The situation got messier when five players were arrested on Thursday and charged with aggravated assault, riot and conspiracy to commit a riot for a fight in April that left a man with a broken jaw and a couple of home invasions.
The players were suspended from the team on Thursday. They were suspended from the university on an interim basis on Friday and then dismissed from the team on Saturday.
Kicked off the team with Barnwell were fellow defensive backs Dre Boggs, Ruhann Peele and Delon Stephenson and fullback Razohnn Gross. Barnwell, Boggs and Stephenson were slated to be starters.
“I thought this team became galvanized,” Flood said. “I am proud of them. Those young men down in the locker room did an excellent job this week of focusing on the task at hand.”