DURHAM, N.C. – The Norfolk State football team dropped a road matchup at North Carolina Central 38-24 on Saturday afternoon at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium, despite a valiant comeback effort.
The Spartans (2-7, 0-3 MEAC) totaled 372 yards of offense, but couldn’t overcome the red-hot Eagles (8-1, 3-0), ranked No. 9 in the FCS Coaches Poll coming into Saturday’s bout.
The Spartans found some success on their opening drive, starting with a short completion from Otto Kuhns to Tavian Morris on the first play from scrimmage. Kuhns found Elyjah Mitchell for a third-and-long conversion moments later, inserting NSU into enemy territory.
Kuhns took a big hit on a read option play moments later and was very slow to get up. The injury ended his afternoon, bringing in redshirt sophomore Ruben Lee II as the signal caller.
Lee’s first pass of the day fell incomplete near the end zone, bringing on Grandin Willcox for a long field goal attempt. Willcox continued his strong sophomore campaign, knocking the kick through the uprights from 48 yards.
The Eagles showed why they’ve developed a reputation for one of the most potent offenses in the nation, averaging 36.3 points per game coming into Saturday. Davius Richard marched the unit down the field on its first offensive possession, eventually setting up Latrell Collier for a short touchdown rush.
After Norfolk State went three-and-out, Richard needed just one play to take advantage of the short field, throwing a 38-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith. Another NSU possession without a first down gave the Eagles another strong starting field position, resulting in a 31-yard touchdown pass from Richard to Miles Campbell in the second quarter.
North Carolina Central’s Christian Smith got to Lee for a strip sack on the Spartans’ next play from scrimmage, giving the Eagles the ball inside the red zone. Richard rushed in for his third offensive score of the day, pushing NCCU ahead 28-3.
Redshirt junior quarterback Cameron Sapp checked into the ball game for the Spartans and made an immediate impact, rushing for a first down before tossing a 23-yard touchdown pass to Ikeem Wright, trimming the deficit to 28-10 at halftime.
Norfolk State kept the foot on the gas pedal in the third quarter, forcing an immediate three-and-out from the Eagles. Linebacker Robert Rhem came up with back-to-back huge plays, breaking up a pass on second down and making a powerful tackle on third down.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on NCCU got the Spartans moving offensively, before Mohamed Nyangamukenga willed the team forward with several strong rushes.
Kevon King found space on his next rush to get the Spartans in the red zone, eventually punching the ball in himself on fourth-and-goal for the touchdown.
The Spartans’ energy continued to rise as they pulled within two possessions. The team exploded with enthusiasm when AJ Richardson forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff.
Norfolk State didn’t need long to capitalize on the takeaway, as Sapp found King near the sideline. The sophomore running back ran untouched into the end zone, his fourth score of the last two weeks.
After trailing 28-3 in the second quarter, Norfolk State scored 21 consecutive points, narrowing NCCU’s advantage to 28-24 in the third quarter.
The Eagles offense wouldn’t remain stagnant much longer, however. Richard and Collier led an eight-play, 72-yard touchdown drive at the next opportunity.
Norfolk State kept making progress on drives but couldn’t finalize any more scores in the fourth quarter. North Carolina Central held on in the final minutes, tacking on a field goal late, for its 10th consecutive home victory.
Checking The Box Score
- Norfolk State amassed 372 yards of total offense on Saturday, while North Carolina Central tallied 320
- Norfolk State recorded 236 yards through the air and 136 on the ground
- Cameron Sapp completed 14-of-30 passes for 192 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception
- Sapp led NSU on the ground as well with 79 yards on 16 carries
- Otto Kuhns completed all three of his pass attempts for 44 yards
- Kevon King recorded 43 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown, while also catching a touchdown pass
- Tavian Morris led the NSU receiving corps with six receptions for 69 yards
- Xavier Graham posted a team-best eight tackles on Saturday, including two tackles for loss
News & Notes
- Norfolk State dropped to 2-7 with the loss, 0-3 in the MEAC
- NSU scored 21 consecutive points after trailing 28-3 in the second quarter
- Kevon King caught and ran for a touchdown against NCCU, after catching one touchdown and rushing for two more against MSU last week. He was the first NSU player to rush for and catch a touchdown in the same game since the 2021 season last week, and has now achieved the feat in back-to-back weeks
- Norfolk State produced one takeaway on Saturday. Through nine games, the NSU defense has recovered 11 fumbles and recorded six interceptions
Norfolk State now heads to Dover, Del. for a meeting with Delaware State (1-8, 0-3 MEAC) at Alumni Stadium next Saturday. Kickoff is slated for 12 p.m.
Source: Norfolk State Athletics