With Gary Nova nursing an injured ankle, Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano saw some of his most meaningful action last season when he played the final 20 minutes of a 37-0 shutout against Wisconsin.
His statistics — 17 yards on 2-for-12 passing — were subpar, but Laviano hopes to use that experience as an aid to his preparation as the Scarlet Knights game-plan for Saturday’s 12 noon kickoff at Wisconsin.
“I was thrown into it, and to be honest I didn’t prepare the way I needed to,” said Laviano, who is set to make his seventh career start. “Now, I’m doing a lot better job preparing. It’s going to be a totally different experience for me. When I dive into it this week I’ll feel more familiar (with Wisconsin’s defense). It’ll definitely help me this week because it’s the same defense.”
The Big Ten’s most accurate passer at 67.2 percent, Laviano figures to be tested against a Wisconsin defense that ranks second in the conference in fewest points allowed (11.2) and is yielding 182.6 yards through the air.
“From what I’ve seen so far, they play really fast and they’re talented in the secondary,” Laviano said. “I remember them from last year. They had a very unique way of blitzing and dropping guys into coverage and that’s vaguely what I remember. They’re playing pretty good right now. They’re a pretty tough defense.”
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Even though he struggled to the tune of 117 yards on 10-for-20 passing, Laviano said he believes he’s getting settled into the starting role as the Scarlet Knights (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten) head toward the defining stretch of the season.
“Throughout the course of the last six games I have been getting more comfortable just by game-planning and knowing how to practice the right way,” said Laviano, who has thrown for 1,505 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions on 125-for-186 passing overall. “I’ve obviously made mistakes. I definitely know I’m getting better at different kinds of stuff, and it’s allowing me to play more comfortable.”
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Laviano, whose 148.9 passing efficiency rating ranks second best in the Big Ten, received a vote of confidence Monday from Rutgers coach Kyle Flood, who clearly doesn’t want the third-year sophomore looking over his shoulder with strong-armed backup Hayden Rettig waiting in the wings.
“Although the last game was not his best performance, I think if we look at the season, he’s gotten better and better,” Flood said, “and I’m pleased with how he’s progressing and that’s how we’ll move forward.”