NORFOLK, Va. (NSU Athletics) - Juwan Carter passed for a career-high 318 yards and accounted for four touchdowns, and the Norfolk State defense scored twice on its own to lead the Spartans to a convincing 54-28 win over Delaware State in the MEAC opener for both schools on Saturday at Dick Price Stadium.
Carter threw touchdowns to three different receivers and also ran for another score for the Spartans (3-1, 1-0 MEAC), who are off to their first 3-1 start since the 2011 season. Brandon Savage returned an interception 80 yards for a TD and Nigel Chavis returned a fumble 23 yards for another score as part of a four-takeaway night for the NSU defense.
Marcus Taylor (120 receiving yards) and Isaiah Winstead (89) both made eight catches and caught a TD pass. Justin Smith also notched career highs of four receptions, 91 receiving yards and caught his first career scoring pass.
After the NSU defense forced a turnover on downs on the Hornets' opening drive, the Spartans drove 72 yards in eight plays for the game's first score, a 6-yard TD run by Aaron Savage. That was the first of three straight drives in which NSU scored a touchdown. Carter found paydirt on a 10-yard run just more than a minute into the second quarter to give NSU a 13-0 lead. Taylor's 67-yard punt return set up the Spartans' next TD, a 7-yard pass from Carter to Winstead that increased the lead to 20-0 with 10:27 left in the half.
DSU drove into NSU territory on the ensuing possession. But Brandon Savage corralled an errant pass by the Hornets' Keenan Black and weaved his way to an 80-yard interception return for a TD that sent NSU into the half with a 27-0 lead.
In the first two quarters, the Spartans forced DSU into two turnovers-on-downs and recovered a fumble in addition to Brandon Savage's interception. It was more of the same in the third quarter. On DSU's opening drive, linebacker Tyre Givers-Wilson sacked Black and forced a fumble which Chavis scooped up and returned 23 yards for another TD and a 34-0 NSU advantage.
The Hornets got on the board with two kickoff return touchdowns in the third quarter, a 93-yarder by Kwannah Kollie and a 95-yarder by Brycen Alleyne. But the Spartans scored after both DSU touchdowns, on a 51-yard TD pass from Carter to Taylor and a 3-yard TD run by Gerald Hulett to take a 47-14 lead into the fourth period.
NSU capped its highest-scoring night in 13 years midway through the final period when Carter found Smith on a 5-yard TD pass. The play was set up by a 45-yard hookup between the same two players, where Smith made an acrobatic leaping grab between defenders to convert a 3rd-and-21.
The Hornets scored twice in the closing minutes on TD passes of 18 and 16 yards from Black to Trey Gross.
The 54 points NSU scored are its most since scoring 58 in a win at Savannah State on Oct. 1, 2005. The Spartans also finished Saturday with 430 yards of total offense, their most since posting 474 against Howard on Oct. 1, 2016. The Spartans also have back-to-back 400-yard games for the first time since 2011.
Carter completed 22 of 31 passes for 318 yards, eclipsing his previous career high of 292 passing yards he posted last year against DSU. He also led the Spartans with 37 rushing yards for a career-high 355 yards of total offense.
Defensively, Chavis, Nhyre' Quinerly and Walter Brantley all recovered fumbles in addition to Savage's first career interception.
NSU's 26-point margin of victory was its largest against a MEAC opponent since a 30-0 win over Morgan State on Nov. 10, 2012.
The Spartans visit Florida A&M (3-2, 2-0 MEAC) in a key conference matchup next Saturday at 4 p.m. in Tallahassee, Fla.