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With Gary Nova hurt, Chris Laviano may get his first start at quarterback for Rutgers

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PISCATAWAY, New Jersey — Facing a potential first start, Rutgers redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Laviano is trying not to change.

With senior Gary Nova listed as questionable on Monday's injury report after suffering a right knee injury on Saturday against No. 17 Nebraska, Laviano is next up for Rutgers (5-3, 1-3 Big Ten) when it plays host to Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1) on Saturday.

"Whether I'm the backup or the starter, my approach is the same every week," Laviano said. "I'm a pretty level-headed person, so anything different, I don't let it affect me too much."

While coach Kyle Flood said he got a "positive" report from Nova's initial tests on Sunday, Nova was still on crutches. Flood said he would meet with Rutgers' medical staff Monday afternoon to get an idea about Nova's status for the week. Rutgers' next injury report isn't released until Thursday afternoon.

If Nova — who has 36 career starts — can't give it a go on Saturday, Flood is confident in his backup quarterback.

"I think what we saw last week was that Chris will be prepared. I don't have any doubt in my mind that he'll be prepared to play if called upon," Flood said. "And then when you go out there, you've got to protect the football. That's the first thing you have to do. You've got to manage the offense, and then you've got to be a great decision maker. I thought he had a good start and some valuable experience last week doing that."

The half Laviano played in Nova's absence was the first significant game action of his young career. The Glen Head, New York native was 4 of 7 for 49 yards. He also ran for 54 yards on five carries, including a 46-yard run, an added dimension to his game.

PHOTO: Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano (5) looks to pass in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014. Nebraska won 42-24. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano (5) looks to pass in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014. Nebraska won 42-24. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

"It was pretty much wide open the couple times I ran the ball, but I can definitely run the ball," Laviano said.

More importantly, Laviano got meaningful snaps.

After redshirting last season, Laviano won the backup quarterback job in training camp over redshirt junior Mike Bimonte. However, prior to Nebraska, Laviano only saw time in mop-up duty against Howard and No. 13 Ohio State.

"It was real football. It was my first action at real competitive football, so it felt great," Laviano said. "I was ready and hopefully can do a little bit more this week."

And he may have to.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder could make his first collegiate start after starting for four years at quarterback at Holy Trinity High School for coach Tony Mascia. While it would be nearly two years between starts, Laviano feels his time on the practice field has prepared him for this moment.

"Going against our first team defense - whether it's a scrimmage or a practice - is probably more beneficial than starting high school football game," Laviano said. "So I'm definitely well prepared at this point."

Still, Laviano won't be wishing away the time until Saturday.

"I'll take every day one day at a time. My focus is on preparing for Wisconsin, so every day is pretty much the same with one goal in mind and that's being 1-0," Laviano said. "Whether I'm the back up or whether I play Saturday, my preparation's the same."

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