PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Chris Laviano found Leonte Carroo on three touchdown passes in Rutgers’ 28-point third quarter that broke open a tight game, sending the Scarlet Knights to a 63-13 win over Norfolk State in the season-opener for both teams on Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium.
The Spartans (0-1) scored on a pair of first-half touchdown passes from Greg Hankerson Jr. and trailed just 21-13 at the half inLatrell Scott‘s NSU coaching debut. But the Scarlet Knights’ Janarion Grant returned the second-half kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown, and Laviano threw TD passes of 55, 56 and 18 yards to Carroo as Rutgers pulled away.
The Spartans failed to get on the board in their three previous trips to Rutgers, but wasted little time in doing so on Saturday. NSU took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards in five plays, with Hankerson connecting with DeAndre Sangster on three straight pass plays. The third of those was a 16-yard TD pass that gave NSU a 7-0 lead.
The Scarlet Knights responded with an eight-play, 65-yard drive to tie the game. Hayden Rettig threw a 13-yard TD pass to Matt Flanagan to cap the drive with 9:00 left in the opening quarter, knotting the score.
Rutgers scored two touchdowns in a span of just more than three minutes of the second quarter. Rettig scored on a 5-yard run on a 4th-and-1 play with 7:37 left in the second quarter to finish a 60-yard drive. A sack backed NSU up deep into its own end on the ensuing drive, and a short punt set the Scarlet Knights up the Spartans’ 32. Two plays later, Josh Hicks scored on a 25-yard run with 4:20 remaining in the half for a 21-7 Rutgers lead.
But NSU answered with an eight-play, 78-yard drive to draw within one score at the half. Hankerson capped the drive with a 29-yard TD pass to senior tight end Torian Henderson with 1:37 left on the clock in the second quarter. The PAT missed, but NSU had drawn within 21-13 at the half.
The Spartans had the momentum heading into the half, but Rutgers seized it back on the second-half kickoff. Bo Lomax‘s second-half kickoff bounced around the 20-yard line. Rutgers returner Grant picked it up, avoided a pack of Spartans and outraced NSU to the end zone for an 80-yard touchdown.
Rutgers added to its lead on its first possession of the second half. Laviano and Carroo – two of five Scarlet Knights suspended for the first half – hooked up on a 55-yard TD pass to stretch the lead to 35-13 with 10:58 left in the third quarter. They also connected later in the quarter on a 56-yard bomb and an 18-yard catch-and-run as Rutgers led 49-13 after three quarters.
Hicks’ second TD run of the day, a 2-yarder, made it 56-13 and Justin Goodwin scored on a 3-yard run later to cap the scoring in the fourth quarter.
Rutgers outgained NSU 539-196.
Hankerson was sharp in his NSU debut. The Florida Atlantic transfer completed 18 of 28 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns. Sangster, who missed last season due to a broken leg, had a career high with 101 receiving yards and matched his career best with six receptions. Freshman Marcus Taylor caught three passes.
Deon King led the Spartan defense with 12 tackles.
Hicks ran for 118 yards and Carroo had 129 yards receiving for Rutgers.
The Spartans are back on the road, but much closer to home next Saturday as they meet Old Dominion for a 7 p.m. game at S.B. Ballard Stadium.
Originally posted on NSUSpartans.com | Used with Permission