NORFOLK, Va. – Norfolk State rebounded from a seven-point halftime deficit by outscoring Hampton 17-0 in the second half to take a 24-14 win in the 53rd annual Battle of the Bay on Saturday afternoon at Dick Price Stadium.
The win is the first in the NSU tenure of first-year Spartans’ head coach Latrell Scott and came in the team’s home opener after three straight road games against Division I FBS competition. The victory also gives the Spartans (1-3, 1-0 MEAC) their first two-game win streak against the Pirates (2-2, 1-1 MEAC) since 1990-91.
Gerard Johnson ran 20 times for 119 yards and a touchdown, his first 100-yard game as a Spartan. Quarterback Greg Hankerson Jr. passed for 176 yards and another score, and the Spartans scored 14 points off four Hampton turnovers.
Hampton had the 14-7 lead and the momentum heading into the second half after scoring a pair of second-quarter touchdowns. But NSU played its best quarter of the season in the third period, outscoring the Pirates 17-0. NSU took the second-half kickoff and drove 69 yards in 13 plays, capping the drive on Cameron Marouf’s 24-yard field goal to draw within 14-10.
NSU forced a Hampton three-and-out on the next possession, then drove for the go-ahead score. Hankerson found Isaac White for a 12-yard TD pass with 3:16 left in the third quarter to give the Spartans a 17-14 lead. The big play on the drive was Hankerson’s 3rd-and-7 completion for 37 yards to White where Hankerson eluded at least four Pirate pass-rushers and hurled a deep ball into the wind to White, who caught the ball on his knees.
The Spartans wasted little time in adding to their lead. NSU cornerback D’Metrius Williams intercepted Hampton quarterback David Watford on 3rd-and-21 on the Pirates’ next possession, setting the Spartans up at the HU 38. Johnson dashed around the right end for 32 yards on the next play. Two plays later, freshman Quintreil Chung bulled his way into the end zone from 2 yards out, increasing the Spartans’ advantage to 24-14 with 1:09 remaining in the quarter.
The NSU defense closed it out from there with a strong effort in the fourth quarter. The Spartans had two fourth-down stops and forced two turnovers in the fourth quarter. NSU linebacker Kyle Archie intercepted Watford with 2:10 remaining, and the Spartans sealed the win when Lamonte Clark sacked Watford, forced a fumble and Spartan linebacker James Byers recovered it with 1:14 left.
The Spartans took a 7-0 lead with 5:03 left in the first quarter when Johnson scored on a 23-yard TD run. The score was set up by a Deon King interception, which the senior linebacker returned to the Pirates 23.
Hampton seized control in the second quarter with two long scoring drives. Christopher Dukes’ 7-yard TD run capped a 14-play, 90-yard drive with 7:03 left in the second quarter that knotted the score at 7-all. Watford then hit Rayshad Riddick with a 10-yard TD pass with 53 seconds left before halftime, capping a 12-play, 80-yard march to give HU a 14-7 lead going into the half.
Watford completed 21-of-44 passes for 180 yards and three interceptions for the Pirates.
White (67 receiving yards) and DeAndre Sangster (34) led NSU with three receptions apiece.
Safety Leroy Parker had a team-high 11 tackles, one for loss, for the Spartans. King tallied 10 tackles, one interception, half a tackle for loss and two quarterback hurries. Williams had a strong game in the secondary with six tackles, three pass breakups and an interception.
The Spartans are back on the road next week for a 1 p.m. game at Howard University in Washington, D.C.