It took Norfolk State 14 years to put itself in a position to win a
championship. It took the Spartans five minutes to clinch it.
Norfolk State defeated
47-14 Saturday thanks to a 17-point scoring flurry in the first five minutes of the second half.
The win clinches the school's first MEAC championship and earns the Spartans an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. It is the school's first FCS playoff appearance.
"I feel great for them," Norfolk State coach Pete Adrian said. "They'll go down in history for the first MEAC title, and that's a great thing."
Norfolk State led 20-14 at halftime. It looked as though Norfolk State would run away with the game early on, but the Spartans had two drives stall out in the red zone in the first half.
Norfolk State (9-2, 7-1 MEAC) struck quickly after the break, though.
Running back Randy Maynes scored on the first play from scrimmage in the quarter, a 56-yard run off right tackle that Maynes cut back for a touchdown. A defensive stop, a 28-yard field goal from kicker Ryan Estep and a Morgan State (5-5, 4-3) fumble on the ensuing kickoff quickly followed.
When quarterback Chris Walley fell in the end zone on a 1-yard quarterback sneak with 10:34 left in the third quarter, the game was all but over.
"We went into half time knowing that, we got the ball back, we had to score and get the momentum back to our side" Norfolk State wide receiver Kelvin Lewis said. "Because it kind of shifted before halftime."
In the first half, Norfolk State's offense looked nothing like the one that put up 45 points against Savannah State in the previous week.
The Spartans started fast, scoring when Walley hit Lewis on a 60-yard go-route to tie the score at 7 in the first quarter. It was Lewis' first touchdown on the season.
For Lewis, it was especially nerve wracking because the Morgan State corner fell down on the play, leaving him yards of open real estate.
"That's the hardest catch for any receiver," Lewis said. "Hardest throw for a quarterback too, when you have somebody wide open."
Defensively, Norfolk State was victimized by a couple big plays by the Morgan State offense in the first half.
But defensive linemen Joey Christine and Josh Turner slowed the Bears' attack in the second half with a consistent pass rush and gap containment.
"It was knowing that when they had double set back and the tight ends, that we had to stay firm on the run too," Turner said. "That was what the difference was. They weren't able to run in the third and fourth quarters."
By the fourth quarter, all that was left was the Gatorade bath. Adrian, who started coaching at Norfolk State seven years ago, started ordering players to douse the coaching staff.
"They got me last week, so I told them to go get the other coaches," Adrian said. "I was really hiding away from them. I told them to dump that water out, so they started getting all the other guys."
Norfolk State is off next week and will learn after that who it will face in the first round of the playoffs.
It is Adrian's sixth time in the playoffs. But it is the first for his players, and the school, making it all the more special.