Piscataway, N.J. — Seconds after Gary Nova broke his record for career touchdown passes at Rutgers, graduate assistant coach Mike Teel walked over to the senior, congratulated him and then told him to start throwing some more.
Nova threw three of his four touchdown passes to high school teammate Leonte Carroo and pushed his career total to 61 in leading Rutgers to a 31-6 victory over Tulane on Saturday.
Teel can appreciate what Nova has done and been through. Both had their ups and downs with the Scarlet Knights before getting their names in the record book.
"As a quarterback you have to be like that," said Teel, who works with the receivers for coach Kyle Flood. "You have to persevere and have a lot of mental toughness to fight through a lot of hard times, and he's done just that. Today shows how mentally tough he has been."
Nova, who lost his starting job last season, hit Carroo on scoring passes of 3 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.
Nova had combined with Andrew Turzilli on the record-breaker early in the second quarter. It was a 93-yard pass play that allowed Rutgers to jump to a 21-0 lead on its first three drives.
"Last week with Navy we knew we had to run the ball a little bit more," said Carroo, who finished with seven receptions for 140 yards. "This week, with the coverages they were playing, we knew it was going to be a big game for the receivers."
The record was somewhat an all-in-the-family mark. Nova, Carroo and Teel, who threw 59 TDs for the Scarlet Knights, all played at Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey.
"When it is all said and done, it will be something to look back and be very proud of," said Nova, who finished 14-of-21 for 291 yards and an interception.
Rutgers (4-1) is two wins shy of being eligible for a postseason bowl in its first season in the Big Ten Conference, but things get tough with Michigan, No. 22 Ohio State, No. 21 Nebraska and No. 19 Wisconsin on tap over the next five weeks.
Sherman Badie scored on an 86-yard run for Tulane (1-4), which lost starting quarterback Tanner Lee to a shoulder injury in the first half. The Green Wave also gambled stuffing the box to stop the run and Nova and his receivers made them pay.
"We made some mistakes," Tulane coach Curtis Johnson said. "We played some kids that we probably right now probably shouldn't be playing, but we had some early on mistakes and some penalties and some mishaps early on."
The win might have been costly. Safety Johnathan Aiken, who was starting for the injured Delon Stephenson, was disqualified for targeting Green Wave backup quarterback Devin Powell on a third-quarter tackle. He will not be eligible to play in the first half against Michigan next weekend.
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.
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.
The 93-yard touchdown play came on a third-and-4 on which Nova had two open receivers. He hit Turzilli over the middle at the Rutgers 23 and the fifth-year senior who transferred from Kansas ran the rest of the way untouched.
"I had a dig," Turzilli said of the play that tied the second-longest touchdown pass in school history. "The play was designed to go to Leonte in the corner, but I had one-on-one coverage and Gary threw me a good ball and I turned on the jets."
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.
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.