- Kieran Darcy, ESPNNewYork.com
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PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers has a two-game losing streak, and perhaps a quarterback controversy too, on its hands.
The Scarlet Knights lost to the Tulane Green Wave on Saturday, 17-14, before 47,963 fans on Homecoming Weekend at Rutgers Stadium. It was the team's second straight defeat, after falling 17-13 at home to North Carolina last week. And it does not bode well for the team's upcoming Big East campaign.
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, who looked significantly more dejected after Saturday's game than he did after the UNC game, took responsibility for the loss.
"It's on me," Schiano said. "I was unable to get our team ready to go. Unable to get over a tough loss I guess against North Carolina. Unable to get our team to realize how hard this game would be. So that's the head coach. That falls on me."
Rutgers' defense, which was second in the country in points allowed per game behind only top-ranked Alabama coming into Saturday, wasn't the problem. The Scarlet Knights relinquished just 245 total yards to Tulane, including 37 yards rushing on 28 attempts. And both Tulane touchdown drives began in Rutgers territory, after 20- and 21-yard punts by Teddy Dellaganna.
But again, the Rutgers offense wasn't up to the task.
Quarterback Tom Savage, who suffered bruised ribs against the Tar Heels last Saturday, started against Tulane. His sophomore slump continued, as he was very ineffective before exiting in the second quarter with an injured hand. Savage completed just two of his five passes and was sacked three times. The only points the Scarlet Knights posted with Savage at the helm came on Mohamed Sanu's 91-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage.
Savage landed hard on his right throwing hand when being tackled on a run in the second quarter, and after being examined by the team trainers, he headed to the locker room. He was throwing on the sideline in the early stages of the second half and wanted to return to the field, but Schiano decided against it.
"I was able to get the ball there. It would have been ugly, but I could get the ball there," Savage said. "I told Coach, I said, 'Hey I can throw, I can play.' He asked me, 'To a full level?' And [I said] just, 'No, not 100 percent.'"
Schiano said after the game Savage could have come back in the game only "in a limited capacity."
"Very frustrating," Savage said of sitting on the sideline. "You just wanna be out there playing. ... Any competitor wants to go out there and play."
With Savage out, Chas Dodd took over under center. Dodd, a true freshman who had seen only limited action in two of Rutgers' first three games, played the rest of the way. And although his numbers -- 13-for-29 for 176 yards -- weren't spectacular, he was much more successful at moving the Scarlet Knights down the field.
"It was great," Dodd said. "Just to get out there and get to throw it around a little bit, it was a great opportunity."
Dodd threw the first touchdown pass of his career in the third quarter, a 10-yarder to Sanu. But he also threw his first interception, on Rutgers' final drive of the game near midfield, with a chance to tie or win the game.
"All along I've said that I have confidence in Chas," Schiano said. "I thought he went in there and played with poise. ... I think he handled himself very well for anybody, and especially well for a freshman going in there, his first real action. He'll continue to improve."
Who will start at quarterback Friday night at home against UConn, the team's first Big East game of the season, remains to be seen. Savage had his hand bandaged after the game, and Schiano said it will probably be "a day or two" before he knows whether Savage will be available.
If Savage is 100 percent healthy, he will most likely start. After all, although his stats on the season -- 35-for-68 for 399 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions -- aren't impressive, this is still a player who set the Big East's season record for a freshman with 2,211 passing yards, to go along with 14 TDs and only seven picks.
But thus far in 2010, Savage doesn't look like the same player he was a year ago. His accuracy has been off, and while he was in there against Tulane he also held onto the ball and ran with it on a surprising number of occasions.
That could be because his receivers aren't getting open, but it also could be because he's lost confidence in his arm.
Dodd proved that he can play at this level Saturday. So if Savage does start Friday and struggles early, don't be surprised if he gets a quick hook.
"Chas is a great quarterback. So if [playing him] gives the team the best opportunity to win, then you gotta do it," Savage said.
Savage was just talking about the second half of the Tulane game. But four games into this season, which Rutgers quarterback gives the Scarlet Knights the best chance to win is suddenly, shockingly, open to debate.
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