PISCATAWAY, N.J. — After getting blown out three consecutive games and dropping to 5-4, Rutgers coach Kyle Flood had a message for his football team.
Do it for Drew.
The rallying cry was meant for fifth-year senior Andrew Turzilli. The wide receiver transferred from Kansas as a graduate student, making him eligible to play without sitting out for a season. In his four years at Kansas, the Jayhawks went 9-39.
With a three-win season as the highlight, Turzilli never went to a bowl.
He’s going to one now as Rutgers (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten) gets set to face North Carolina (6-6, 4-4 ACC) in the Quick Lane Bowl on Dec. 26 at Ford Field in Detroit.
“It still hasn’t hit me yet just because we haven’t gotten there yet. We haven’t been to downtown Detroit, still practicing and stuff like that,” Turzilli said. “But again, just having that extra month to practice — if I was at my other school, again, I’d be done. Just grateful to have the opportunity.”
In the bowl-clinching game against Indiana, Turzilli, who has a career-high 313 yards receiving and three touchdowns season, sustained a lower body injury. He has returned to practice after missing the final two games and is expected to play in the bowl game.
Turzilli is just one part of a deep corps of receivers that includes Leonte Carroo and Andre Patton.
Patton, a sophomore, was listed as the starter alongside Carroo during training camp. However, an upper-body injury sidelined him for the first month of the season. It took him three games back from injury to get his first catch of the season.
“I felt I had to catch up a lot,” Patton said. “Especially when I came back after a month of not doing anything and trying to get back into it, it was hard, but a couple weeks into it I kind of felt my mojo again.”
Still, Patton was lacking that breakout performance. It came in the fine game of the regular season.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder, he caught a career high eight catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns to help Rutgers rally from a 25-point deficit to defeat Maryland.
“I honestly didn’t know when the time was going to come,” Patton said. “I was just patient and it happened to be in the last game.”
While it was a long-time coming, Patton’s quarterback always knew the skill was there.
“Just a lot of athleticism. I think he was Mr. Basketball in the state of Delaware or something like that, so just a freak athlete,” Gary Nova said. “And I think once he starts to get it mentally, which he’s starting to, he really has the talent to take off.”
For now, he’s added another legitimate threat to Rutgers’ passing attack. Carroo is the focal point. He had 53 catches for 1,043 yards and 10 touchdowns.
While it’s no secret Nova’s high school teammate Carroo is his favorite weapon, he’s always looking for more.
“You can never have enough weapons out there,” Nova said. “So the more guys you get playing well … With our full group of receivers we got some pretty good guys that can makes some plays.”