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SAVANNAH, Ga. – Needing a career game to become Norfolk State’s all-time leading rusher, DeAngelo Branche (Norfolk, Va.) delivered the game of his life. The senior running back logged a career-high 41 carries for a personal-best 233 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead the Spartans (6-5) to their fourth straight win, 42-6 over Savannah State on Saturday afternoon in the finale for both at Memorial Stadium.

Branche ends his career with 3,678 yards after running for 1,330 this year, the second-most in a season in school history behind Angelo Todd’s 1,467-yard year in 1998.

Branche came in needing 215 yards to surpass all-time leading rusher LaRue Harrington’s 3,659 yards. Branche appeared in good shape to reach the record, needing only 28 yards entering the final quarter. But he was almost a victim of his own team’s high-powered offense, which gained a season-high 579 yards of total offense. Chris Walley (Tallahassee, Fla.) threw a screen pass to Reggie Garrett (Chesapeake, Va.), who broke a tackle and streaked up the sideline for a 76-yard touchdown pass to put NSU ahead 42-3 with 9:32 left. It was the longest play of the year for the Spartans.

After a 35-yard Derek Williams field goal brought SSU within 42-6, the Spartans got the ball back and Branche gained nine yards on four carries, but was stopped just shy of a first down on a 4th-and-1 at the Spartans’ 36 with 5:05 left. He was nine yards short of the record.

SSU got the ball back and used up much of the clock, attempting to run the game out. But NSU linebacker Trent Porter (Dendron, Va.) stuffed Antonio Proctor for a loss of three yards on 4th-and-1 from the NSU 17 with 2:36 left, turning the ball back over to the Spartans and giving Branche one more shot.

Branche burst around left end for a seven-yard gain on first down, then got the record in typical Branche fashion. He took the handoff from Walley and pushed forward behind the left side of his line for a four-yard gain and a first down. He went on to carry three more times for 16 yards, running out the clock.

Branche carried 18 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. He scored on a 1-yard run to cap the Spartans’ first drive of the game. NSU cashed in on its second possession as well, as Walley hit Garrett for a 4-yard touchdown pass and a 14-0 NSU lead with 6:39 left in the first quarter.

Branche’s 4-yard TD run with 3:41 left in first half was the only scoring of the second quarter, and sent the Spartans into the half leading 21-0.

Branche’s 34-yard TD run – his second-longest of the season – capped NSU’s first drive of the second half,

extending the lead to 28-0.

With Branche taking a well-deserved rest, Takeem Hedgeman (Charlottesville, Va.) plunged into the end zone on a 4-yard run to finish a seven-play, 55-yard drive on the second play of the fourth quarter.

Garrett had a career-high 173 yards receiving – NSU’s first receiver to surpass 100 yards in a game this season – and tied his career best with eight catches.

Branche wasn’t the only Spartan to set a record Saturday. Walley completed 19 of 23 passes for 270 yards Saturday and finished the season with a 61.4 percent completion percentage. That broke the previous record held by Aaron Sparrow, who completed 58.2 percent in 1995.

The win gives the Spartans their first back-to-back winning seasons in the Division I era. It also gives the NSU senior class 26 wins in the last four years, making them the winningest senior class since the 1985 group had 25.

SSU ends the year with a 1-10 record.


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