Spartans offense goes cold against Howard, loses fourth consecutive game 33-28

Norfolk, Va. - Trailing by 15 points early after one quarter, Howard scored 27 unanswered points and held off a late Norfolk State charge in a 33-28 Bison victory on Saturday afternoon at Dick Price Stadium.

The loss was the fourth in a row for the Spartans (1-4, 0-2 MEAC), while Howard (1-4, 1-2) broke a seven-game losing streak dating to last October.

The Spartans jumped out to a 21-6 lead after the first quarter thanks to an impressive offensive display. Greg Hankerson accounted for all three NSU scores in the period, throwing touchdown passes of 64 yards to Marcus Taylor and 59 to George Wahee and also scoring on a 9-yard TD run in the opening period. Howard's only score came courtesy of an 8-yard blocked punt return for touchdown by Ibrahim Conte. NSU outgained the Bison 200-27 in the quarter.

But Howard controlled the middle quarters. Kyle Anthony scored on an 11-yard TD pass from Kalen Johnson to cut Howard's lead to 21-12 entering the half. In the third quarter, Anthony Philyaw and Da'Vaun Johnson both scored on 1-yard TD runs, capping drives of 71 and 72 yards, respectively, to give the Bison a 25-21 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Howard completed the scoring spree and went ahead by two scores on Anthony's second TD catch of the day, an 8-yarder from Johnson with 9:46 left in the game that made it 33-21.

The Spartans went right down the field, but Hankerson was intercepted by Julian Blair near the Bison goal line to end a scoring chance for NSU. After forcing the Bison to punt again, the Spartans drove 92 yards in 18 plays to make it a one-possession game. Hankerson capped the drive with a 3-yard TD run, bringing the Spartans within 33-28 with 1:57 left.

NSU used its last two timeouts to try and force a Howard punt. But a Spartan penalty on fourth down gave the Bison a first down, and Howard ran out the clock.

The Spartans outgained Howard 474-296 thanks to a career day from Hankerson. He posted his first career 300-yard passing game, completing 25-of-35 passes for a career-high 366 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for two scores, giving him four rushing touchdowns on the season. The 366 passing yards are the most by a Spartan quarterback since Nico Flores passed for 387 on Sept. 15, 2012 - coincidentally, in the last meeting between the Spartans and Howard at Dick Price Stadium.

Gerard Johnson rushed for a team-high 55 yards on eight carries. Four Spartans caught at least four passes. James Church had six catches for 69 yards. Wahee had career highs of four receptions for 97 yards, while Taylor caught four for 78 and a score. Johnson also had four catches, for 49 yards.

Philyaw had 22 carries for 115 yards and a score for the Bison. Johnson was 18-of-27 for 150 yards and two TDs.

The Spartans have a short week to get ready for defending MEAC champion North Carolina A&T. NSU travels to Greensboro, N.C., for a 7:30 p.m. Thursday night game against the Aggies that will be broadcast live on ESPNU.