From urgent care to the field: How NSU found itself in a peculiar quarterback situation

Norfolk State went through a bizarre quarterback situation during its 38-24 loss to North Carolina Central on Saturday.

When speaking during his weekly media availability on Tuesday, coach Dawson Odums said before the game that starting quarterback Otto Kuhns did not participate in warmups due to an illness.

“We got there and we go to warmups, and Otto was there in the locker room,” Odums said. “We didn’t even let him come out for the warmups. We said, “Man, just try to get yourself together, try to get some fluids.”

Ultimately, Kuhns felt he could push through his sickness and Odums allowed him to play.

Kuhns started on fire and was 3 for 3 for 44 passing yards on the Spartans’ first drive. Two plays after he completed his third pass, Kuhns was hit hard and left the game with a shoulder injury.

Florida A&M transfer Cameron Sapp was listed as the backup quarterback on the Spartans’ depth chart, and under normal circumstances, would have gone into the game to replace Kuhns.

But Sapp was also under the weather, Odums said, so much so that he wasn’t even available on Friday and his parents took him to an urgent care facility on Saturday. That left Hinds Community College transfer Ruben “Deuce” Lee to replace Kuhns after his injury.

Lee helped lead the offense to a field goal to finish the drive, but didn’t have much luck after that. He finished the game 0 for 3 through the air with minus-4 rushing yards and a fumble.

With Lee struggling, Odums said offensive coordinator Ray Pickering decided to put Sapp in at quarterback. Odums said he didn’t even know that Sapp, who didn’t go through pre-game warmups either, was back on the field.

“I talked to Coach Pick (and said), ‘Pick, what are we gonna do?’ and (Pickering) said, ‘We’re gonna give Sapp a shot.’” Odums said. “I said, ‘He’s here?’ and (Pickering) said, ‘Yeah, we’re gonna give him a shot, (Sapp) said he can go,’.”

Sapp entered the game with just under 10 minutes remaining until halftime and helped the Spartans score 21 unanswered points to bring the contest to within one score just as the third quarter was ending.

“We put him in (and) I think the light bulb went off,” Odums said. “You could see him light up, you could see the talent, you could see the arm strength, you could see the mobility. I really think it gave us an edge because he played with the leadership that you got to have at that position to put people on your back and say just follow me. All I could do was tell him how proud I was of him because I know it took a lot of him.”

Despite not seeing significant playing time at all thus far in his college career, Sapp shined and finished the game 14 for 30 through the air for 198 yards and two touchdowns. He also led the Spartans in rushing with 79 yards on 16 carries. The lone blemish was an interception he threw with a minute left.

Even though Sapp’s flu game of sorts didn’t end in a win, Odums said Sapp and Kuhns earned the utmost respect of their teammates for the fight they showed in the loss.

“(Sapp) left it all on the field just like a lot of them did,” Odums said. “We knew he was under the weather, but (we’re) just proud of the way really both of those guys tried to go out and fight. Even Otto tried to get cleared and come back in the game. So it tells you that winning is important to these guys.”

Odums said Kuhns had a doctor’s appointment Monday and is questionable to play in NSU’s upcoming matchup Saturday at Delaware State. If Kuhns can’t play, Odums said Sapp will be the starting quarterback against the Hornets.

If Sapp does start under center, Odums said the way Sapp was prepared on Saturday gives him confidence he’ll be able to get the job done again.

Michael Sauls,, (757) 803-5774