ORANGEBURG, S.C. — Quarterback Otto Kuhns accounted for all six Norfolk State touchdowns on Saturday, leading the Spartans (2-9, 2-3 MEAC) to a thrilling 42-38 victory at South Carolina State (3-8, 1-4) in the final game of the season.
Kuhns kept it himself on an option read late in the fourth quarter, rushing 15 yards for what would be the game-winning touchdown.
Kuhns, who threw for 242 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 35 yards and one score, cemented himself in the Norfolk State history books with his performance. His five passing touchdowns tied NSU’s Division I single-game record, while he joined Juwan Carter as the only Spartans in the past 20 years to record six total touchdowns in a game.
Da’Quan Felton also put together a career showing for the Spartans. The wideout caught nine passes for 163 yards, scoring three touchdowns.
All of his trips to the end zone came in the first half, tying NSU’s single-game record and becoming just the seventh player in program history to catch three touchdown passes in a game.
Norfolk State’s 42 points were the most it has recorded the entire season, but it was the defense that made the most important play of the game. With South Carolina State on the Spartans’ two-yard line and under ten seconds remaining, the NSU defensive line forced the Bulldogs’ quarterback out of the pocket, before Jayden Smith broke up the ensuing pass as time expired.
Norfolk State’s defense put the offense in great position early in the game, tackling the SCSU punter after a botched snap at the Bulldogs’ 28-yard line.
NSU only needed two plays to get on the board from there, as Collis Pride made an acrobatic catch over multiple defenders and trotted into the end zone.
South Carolina State responded quickly with a pair of touchdowns on back-to-back possessions, before Kuhns found Felton for the tying touchdown. The senior wideout showed off his strength with a stiff arm that sent the opposing defender to the turf, displaying his speed the rest of the way for a 55-yard score.
The next time Norfolk State reached the red zone, Kuhns knew who to target once again, lobbing one up to Felton who made the tough touchdown grab look easy.
The pair’s last end zone connection came in the half’s closing seconds after R.J. Coles got Norfolk State the ball back on an interception, with Felton beating his defender on a sharp route and Kuhns delivering the dart that tied the game at 28.
Both defenses tightened up in the third quarter. A Norfolk State fumble led South Carolina State to retake the lead a few plays later on a deep touchdown pass, the only score of the period by either squad.
SCSU drilled a field goal to earn a 38-28 advantage in the fourth quarter, a two-possession gap. NSU responded quickly though, as Jaylen White put the Spartans in ideal position with a 39-yard kickoff return.
With the Spartans facing 3rd and 13 later in the drive, Kuhns used his feet to create time before slinging a 30-yard touchdown throw on the run to Ikeem Wright.
The Spartan defense got a stop on the next possession, giving the ball back to the offense for a prime opportunity. Jordin Lennon broke free for a 57-yard rush that put NSU in the red zone, before Kuhns gave the Spartans a 42-38 lead on a 15-yard touchdown run
With the Bulldogs needing a touchdown in the final minutes, Tyler Long got to the quarterback for his second sack of the day, putting SCSU far back from a first down.
A 32-yard completion on the next play eventually set up a fresh set of downs, a spike stopping the clock with the Bulldogs pounding on NSU’s door.
But NSU defense came up clutch when it most needed to, forcing two incompletions on the final two plays of the game, securing the Spartans’ second victory of the season.