NORFOLK, Va. (NSUSpartans.com) – Shaquan Davis caught three touchdown passes, two in the decisive fourth quarter, as South Carolina finished an unbeaten conference season with a 31-21 win over Norfolk State on Saturday afternoon at Dick Price Stadium.
The Spartans (6-5, 2-3 MEAC), who trailed 10-7 at the half, took a 14-10 lead on a 38-yard TD pass from Juwan Carter to Da’Quan Felton early in the third quarter. But SCSU (6-5, 5-0) outscored the Spartans 21-7 in the final period to hand NSU its third straight loss to end the season.
Carter completed 17-of-28 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns in his final game for the Spartans, who honored 12 seniors prior to the game.
After a scoreless first quarter, Gavyn Zimmerman kicked a 25-yard field goal to cap an 87-yard SCSU drive for the first points of the game with 4:11 left in the half. The drive followed a goal-line stand for the Bulldog defense.
But NSU answered quickly with a six-play, 61-yard drive that Carter capped with an 18-yard TD pass to Lex Henry with 1:22 left in the period. But the Bulldogs scored right before the half on a 21-yard TD pass from Corey Fields to Davis just seven seconds prior to the intermission.
A 34-yard kickoff return by J.J. Davis on the third-quarter opening kickoff gave NSU good field position to start the period. Four plays later, Carter avoided the oncoming rush and found Felton over the middle for a 38-yard TD pass to give NSU a 14-10 lead with 12:57 remaining in the third.
SCSU reclaimed the lead on a 14-yard TD strike from Fields to Davis with 13:24 left in the game. After NSU was held three-and-out on the next possession, Ryan Richter’s punt was deflected by Xayvion Knox and traveled just 15 yards, setting up the Bulldogs at the NSU 35. Five plays later, Davis hauled in a 20-yard TD catch from Fields to give the Bulldogs a 24-14 edge.
The Spartans cut their deficit to 24-21 on a 5-yard TD run by Davis with 5:48 left. But the Bulldogs wouldn’t be denied, holding the ball for the next 5:04 before Kendrell Flowers scored on a 1-yard run on 4th-and goal with 39 seconds remaining to account for the final score.
Flowers ran 32 times for 172 yards for the Bulldogs, who clinched the outright MEAC title and will represent the MEAC in the Celebration Bowl next month. Fields was 21-of-34 for 250 yards, and Davis made nine catches for 141 yards.
Carter led NSU with 45 rushing yards to finish his final collegiate game with 285 yards of total offense. He concluded his career as NSU’s all-time leader with 9,271 passing yards and 10,248 yards of total offense.
Senior Justin Smith made six catches for 86 yards in his final game and moved into seventh in NSU history in career receiving yards (1,741). Fellow senior Marcque Ellington made three receptions for 42 yards. Felton also hauled in three passes for 64 yards.
Linebacker Tyler Long led NSU’s defense with a season-high 12 tackles. Senior end De’Shaan Dixon had nine and one tackle for loss. Brandon Savage also had nine tackles and intercepted a pass.
Despite the three losses to end the season – which came by a combined 14 points – the Spartans still notched the program’s first official winning season since 2007 thanks in part to a six-game winning streak in the middle of the season, which was the program’s longest since 1984.