NORFOLK, Va. – Tyler Clark scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 29 seconds left to lift Norfolk State to a dramatic 15-14 win over Morgan State in the 67th annual Fish Bowl Classic on Saturday evening at Dick Price Stadium.
The win snapped NSU’s six-game losing skid dating to last season and was the eighth consecutive victory for the Spartans (1-4, 1-0 MEAC) over the Bears (2-3, 1-1).
Clark’s TD run capped a 14-play, 49-yard drive that took up 4 minutes, 26 seconds. The march included three third-down conversions and a fourth-down conversion on Brendon Riddick’s 5-yard run inside the Bears’ 20-yard line.
NSU seemed in control for much of the night in this defensive slugfest. The Spartans entered the fourth quarter leading 9-0 on the strength of a career-high three Cameron Marouf field goals, two in the second quarter and one in the third. But the Bears got on the board on a 23-yard touchdown run by Orlando Johnson on the first play of the fourth quarter, which punctuated an 82-yard drive that included three 15-yard penalties against NSU.
After the Bears forced NSU to punt, MSU went to work again, driving 65 yards in nine plays, all runs. Herb Walker capped it with a 5-yard TD run that gave the Bears a 14-9 lead with 8:28 remaining.
Things looked bleak for NSU after the Spartans’ next drive stalled after four plays and ended in another punt. But after a key 51-yard punt by Dylan Shaddix moved MSU deep into its own end, the NSU defense came up big, forcing a three-and-out.
A 13-yard punt return by Eric Pittman gave the Spartans possession of their final drive at the Bears’ 49 with 4:55 left. After two sacks to start the drive, Terrance Ervin hit Isaac White for 17 yards on 3rd-and-15 to get NSU moving. Terry Polk had a 5-yard run on a 3rd-and-5 later in the possession to give NSU another first down, then Riddick burst up the middle for five yards on 4th-and-1 from the 18 on the next set of downs.
Two Bears penalties – a substitution infraction and a pass interference in the end zone – put NSU at the MSU 3. Clark ran for two yards on first down and then bulled into the end zone for the go-ahead score on second down.
MSU took over its last drive at its own 35. Bears’ quarterback Robert Council threw incomplete on four straight plays, including a pair of pass breakups by safety Brandon Walker.
Marouf was key for NSU, connecting on kicks of 43 and 26 yards in the second quarter and a 44-yarder in the third. He made two field goals in a game three times previously, but had never made two of over 40 yards in the same game. Shaddix averaged 44.2 yards on five punts to complete a solid day for NSU’s kickers.
Pittman led NSU with 16 carries for 81 yards in his second game in a Spartan uniform. Riddick rushed for 64 yards and Ervin had 48 for NSU, which ran for a season-best 238 yards.
Walker ran for 111 yards for the Bears, who ran for 204 yards. NSU forced Council into a 4-of-19 day for just 38 yards through the air.
Lynden Trail and Lamar Neal had eight tackles apiece to lead the Spartans. Trail added two QB hurries and fellow linebacker Deon King had three. George Riddick recorded a sack and a pass breakup and Walker broke up a career-best three passes for NSU.
The Spartans look to maintain their winning ways next Saturday when they face Savannah State in Savannah, Ga., at 2 p.m.