With apologies to Dave's loyal readership, he's asked me to cover for him this week in writing about Norfolk State's last game. Busy with "job stuff," he says. "Swamped," even.*
First things first, take a look at Tim's more global look at the Spartans, published yesterday:
The Spartans are 0-3 on the season with all games coming against FCS competition. In fact, the Norfolk State offense was shut down for seven quarters and change between their two field goals to open the season in a 10-6 loss to Maine and their first-quarter touchdown against FCS #16 William and Mary in a game that ultimately went to the Tribe 29-14. In between the Spartans were shut out by Liberty.
Norfolk State's Week Three loss to the Tribe was clearly its best game of the young season. Given that William and Mary scored 29 straight points on touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams, and also managed a safety in addition to two field goals, 'best game of the season' isn't such a good thing.
As Tim pointed out, the Spartan defense is the strength of this team. It held William and Mary to just 13 points on offense, and also used a first-quarter interception from cornerback D'Metrius Williams to key a 60 yard touchdown drive that would give the Spartans the lead eight minutes into the game.
A series of Norfolk State miscues over the next 40 minutes would hand the game to W&M and put it out of reach for the green and gold.
First, offense: Immediately following Norfolk State's touchdown, Tre McBride got behind the defense and tied the game with a 55-yard touchdown reception. Then, defense: Looking to regain the lead, NSU handed it to William and Mary when a Markice Street drop found its way to Jared Velasquez and a 39-yard touchdown return.
And that was just the first quarter. In the second, the Tribe added field goals of 31 and 36 yards by John Carpenter and got safety recorded by linebacker Airek Green. Norfolk State used a seven-play drive to try to flip momentum in the third quarter, but when the drive stalled they were forced to attempt a 44-yard field goal.
Third, Special Teams: DeAndre Houston-Carson blocked the attempt for William and Mary. Ivan Tagoe picked it up at the line of scrimmage and too it 66 yards for a touchdown. The PAT gave the Tribe a 29-7 edge with 7:08 left in the third quarter.
The Spartans played their best football looking to spark a comeback in the fourth quarter. Sound familiar? Lynden Trail, the Florida transfer, blocked a punt in the fourth quarter that turned into a four-play, 29-yard touchdown drive capped by freshman Terry Polk's first career touchdown. Down two possessions, though, Norfolk State had their chances to inch closer, but did nothing with them. A fourth-and-two at the opposing 32 was turned over on downs with a little more than four minutes left, and the Spartans fumbled and lost the next W&M punt to completely hand the game away.
Once again, the parts of this game that should be most notable for Bulls fans is the relative strength of NSU's offense and defense. Saturday at UB Stadium will pit strength against strength, as UB has scored 21 points in each of their first three games for the first time since 1997, and Norfolk State held the #16 team in their subdivision to just 37 yards in the second half. On the flip side, even with an overwhelming time of possession advantage, NSU couldn't do very much with the ball to kickstart a comeback.