DURHAM, N.C. -- Arthur Goforth couldn't find much room to move in North Carolina Central's offense, so he took another route to make an impact and curtail Hampton's comeback.
Goforth returned a fourth-quarter kickoff for a 90-yard touchdown in the Eagles' 37-20 victory in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference football Thursday night at O'Kelly-Riddick Stadium.
"A big spark. It just changed the morale of the team and gave us a boost," Goforth said. "I think my blockers did a great job."
Goforth, a senior running back, managed only 14 rushing yards on 13 carries, and he was replaced on offense. Still, his role on special teams proved huge.
"We always talk about making plays," North Carolina Central coach Henry Frazier III said. "Plays just don't happen. He's our guy."
Buoyed by a 20-point, first-half spree in slightly more than six minutes, North Carolina Central (5-2, 4-0 MEAC) became the first team in the league to reach the five-win mark. The Eagles, who were playing at home for the first time since their Sept. 1 season opener, have their first four-game winning streak since 2007.
Hampton (1-5, 1-3) was denied consecutive victories. The Pirates' losses have all come by double-figure margins.
North Carolina Central ended an eight-game losing streak in the series, securing a victory against Hampton for the first time since 1983.
Hampton closed the Eagles' lead to 23-20 on Jeremiah Schwartz's 38-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Schwartz ran down the left sideline even though it appeared he was pinned in. Quarterback Jaylian Williamson ran in for a two-point conversion, pulling the Pirates within a field goal of the Eagles with 9:21 remaining.
Goforth ran the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown.
"They try to kick it away from me a lot of times," Goforth said.
Hampton coach Don Rose said his team never had a chance to enjoy the momentum swing.
"We had everything going," he said. "That kickoff return took the wind out of us."
Instead of regrouping again, Hampton was thwarted by a sack and then an interception by redshirt freshman safety Ryan Smith. The Eagles sealed it with Gary Douglas' 21-yard catch-and-run pass play from Jordan Reid.
Schwartz gained 90 of his game-high 129 rushing yards in the fourth quarter. He had 20 carries.
Hampton committed four turnovers.
"You can't do that," Rose said. "All three (in the first half) they converted into (points). I knew we were going to settle down."
North Carolina Central led 20-3 at halftime despite limited success on offense.
Geovonie Irvine's 28-yard punt return to the Hampton 8 set up Oleg Parent's 20-yard field goal for the first points of the second half.
Hampton bounced back on Jorrian Washington's big kickoff return and Schwartz's 1-yard, fourth-down touchdown run with 2:06 to play in the third quarter.
A Hampton possession early in the fourth quarter went awry, and Taurean Durham missed a field goal from 36 yards out. Moments later, the Pirates picked up a safety to pull within 23-12 on a North Carolina Central botched snap that went out of the end zone with 10:02 remaining.
The best run of the first half came from North Carolina Central linebacker Tazmon Foster, who rambled 80 yards for a touchdown with an interception of a second-quarter Travis Champion pass. Foster shed a couple of would-be tackles on his way to the end zone after stepping in front of the intended receiver.
It ruined a solid possession for the Pirates, who reached the North Carolina Central 25, aided by a fourth-and-1 pickup, before Foster's interception.
It was Foster's second touchdown in three games. He returned a fumble for a score against South Carolina State.
The Eagles converted again following a turnover when a third-and-1 snap went over Champion's head and, after a wild scramble for the ball, North Carolina Central had possession at the Hampton 17-yard line -- 37 yards from the line of scrimmage.
Andre Clarke's 1-yard, fourth-down run pushed North Carolina Central to a 13-3 advantage. Clarke has scored at least one touchdown in every game this season.
On the next play from scrimmage, Hampton receiver Andre Griffin fumbled after a hit by Matt Willison. Foster recovered at the Pirates' 30-yard line.
The Eagles wasted no time in making Hampton pay. On the first play after the turnover, Irvine was open as he entered the end zone with a pass from Reid.
"That was the difference in the ballgame," Frazier said. "We turned them into touchdowns."
Hampton struck first on Durham's 41-yard field goal midway through the first quarter after the Pirates quashed a North Carolina Central possession in Hampton territory.
North Carolina Central came up scoreless on two trips inside Hampton territory in the first half. The Eagles posted 115 yards of total offense in the first half.
The Pirates turned to Williamson, a freshman quarterback who played in only one previous game, late in the second quarter. However, the half ended with Hampton at the 2-yard line after Williamson failed to get the message to spike the ball to stop the clock.
"We just felt it was time for a change," Rose said. "But he's young."
Williamson and Champion both finished 11-for-16 passing with an interception apiece.
Reid completed 11 of 22 passes for 193 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.