Spartans fall on the road to Tigers

SAVANNAH, Ga. - Savannah State quarterback T.J. Bell accounted for 308 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, and the Tigers capitalized on three Norfolk State turnovers in a 31-14 SSU win on Saturday evening at T.A. Wright Stadium. The win was just the second-ever for the Tigers (3-4, 3-2 MEAC) over NSU (2-7, 1-5), and first since 2004. Bell ran for a game-high 149 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries. He also passed for 159 yards and three touchdowns.

NSU quarterback Greg Hankerson passed for 199 yards and ran for 40 more, moving him into third place in school history in total offense (4,361 yards). The Spartans moved the ball well early, but committed a pair of turnovers on its first two drives, both of which occurred in SSU territory. Hankerson was intercepted by David Crowley at the SSU 12 on the first drive of the game. When the Spartans got the ball back, they drove to the Tigers' 33, only to lose possession when running back Gerard Johnson was stripped of the ball.

SSU took advantage of the second turnover by scoring the game's first points on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Bell to Jeremiah Harris with 1:19 left in the first quarter. The play capped a seven-play, 67-yard drive following Juwuan Tolbert's fumble recovery. Bell doubled the Tigers' lead with 7:40 left in the second quarter with a 6-yard scoring run that made it 14-0.

NSU got on the board on Cameron Marouf's 31-yard field goal with 3:59 left in the second quarter. The Spartans appeared poised to cut further into the lead before halftime, but Hankerson was intercepted again by Crowley, this time at the goal line, to keep the Tigers' lead at 14-3 entering the intermission. The theme continued into the second half. NSU took its first drive of the third quarter and reached the Tigers' 27. But on 4th-and-5, Hankerson was sacked by Marquis Smith to end NSU's threat.

SSU again took advantage, driving 67 yards in 13 plays. Bell found Cantrell Frazier for a 13-yard TD pass to extend the lead to 21-3. The teams exchanged field goals in the fourth, with Marouf hitting a 37-yard field goal at the 12:50 mark to break the school's career record with his 34th field goal. But SSU's John Barron hit a 38-yarder with 6:25 left to give SSU a 24-6 lead.

The Spartans drew within 10 on Johnson's first rushing touchdown of the year, a 17-yarder with 4:53 remaining. Hankerson's two-point conversion pass to Marcus Taylor cut NSU's deficit to 24-14. But the Tigers sealed their win on their next possession. Bell, who had a 62-yard run on the drive, capped it with a 13-yard TD pass to Tino Smith with 3:16 left to play. SSU ran for 240 yards as a team, with Bell accounting for more than half of that total. Johnson led NSU with 53 yards rushing on 12 carries. He also had a team-high four receptions, good for 39 yards.


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