Through 11 drives, Norfolk State’s first-team offense had seven touchdowns and four turnovers.
Truly, the only thing stopping the Spartans was themselves.
Norfolk State (1-2) blasted Elizabeth City State 63-26 in the Spartans’ first home game in two years on Saturday at Dick Price Stadium.
The Spartans set school records for points scored in the school’s Division I era and yards gained (675, Division I and II combined) in a single game.
“For the most part I thought we played inspired football,” first-year coach Dawson Odums said. “I think we’re ahead of schedule but we got a lot of work to do.”
Juwan Carter completed 23 of 30 passes for 353 yards and five touchdowns. and J.J Davis, a Cincinnati transfer, rushed for 121 yards on eight carries and two touchdowns.
“We’re not going into games to set records but just focusing on the offense as a whole,” Carter said. “We had four turnovers. Those were little mistakes we could’ve fixed before.”
The Spartans defense, which faced a two-game gauntlet against Toledo and Wake Forest, found their footing against the Division II Vikings, holding them to 140 yards through three quarters. Seventy-one of those yards came on one play when Brandon Joyner fooled NSU defensive back Devon Allen on a double move for a touchdown.
It certainly proved to be an outlier.
The defensive line led by De’Shaan Dixon (Western Branch) and Chris Myers constantly pushed through to pressure quarterback Kevin Caldwell.
“All week our coach told us to attack the ball, attack the QB,” Myers said, “so that’s what was on our mind. Attacking, attacking, attacking.”
Spreading the love
Carter completed passes to 10 different receivers, including Justin Smith and Marcque Ellington for two touchdowns apiece.
Smith had more than 105 yards receiving on four catches and a touchdown in the first half alone. The redshirt senior and Richmond native previously made noise for high-flying, acrobatic catches but he’s become a better route runner and Carter’s most dependable target.
Former Churchland standout Da’Quan Felton also made several highlight-reel catches and Da’Kendall James (Portsmouth Christian) showcased big-play ability.
Pressure helps set school record
Norfolk State set up camp in ECSU’s backfield, recording eight sacks and 13 tackles for loss. The eight sacks ties a school Division I-era record.
Myers and Sage Beuchert-Irvine had two sacks apiece but the entire defensive line got involved as Norfolk State held ECSU to a school-record minus-49 yards rushing.
“I like the defense,” Myers said. “It’s been coming along. Everybody’s been clicking.”
Running back by committee
Norfolk State continued to deploy a running-back-by-committee approach with J.J. Davis, Rayquan Smith, Kevin Johnson and Cameryn Brent splitting carries.
Johnson had a two-yard TD run, Smith contributed a couple runs over 10 yards and Davis showcased power and speed in helping the Spartans score a last-minute touchdown in the first half. He added a 72-yard score in the second half.
“Even though we’re splitting reps and we’re not necessarily getting as many touches as we all want, when one of us comes out we ask the other one what they see so that the next one can succeed when they go in,” Davis said.
Work to do
For all the offensive magic on display Saturday, NSU left points on the field. Four turnovers derailed drives in the first half — all occurring on the ECSU side of the field.
Carter lost two fumbles, Da’Kendall James lost one and a fourth turnover came when Carter’s backward pass to Johnson bounced off his hands for an ECSU recovery.
“The negatives are gonna always stand out more than the positives,” Odums said. “That’s carelessness. That’s unfortunate and that’s a lot of Elizabeth City. They found a way to get that ball out and we gotta do a much better job to get where we wanna go if we’re gonna try to be a contender.”
Norfolk State will travel to St. Francis (Pa.) for a non-conference game at noon Saturday.
Ray Nimmo, 757-446-2364, [email protected]