Trailing 12-7 with 1:53 remaining, Hankerson engineered a nine play, 76-yard drive capped off by a 6-yard scoring strike to DeAndre Sangster with 41 seconds left.
Isaac White finished with nine catches for 145 yards and a touchdown while Sangster added 98 yards and a score for the Spartans (2-3, 2-0 MEAC).
Howard (0-5, 0-3 MEAC) led 5-0 at halftime and extended its lead to 12-0 midway through the third on a Donnel Pleasant 6-yard touchdown run. Norfolk State took control from there however, putting its first points on the board when Hankerson found White on a 49-yard touchdown pass late in the third, setting up the dramatic final period.
Pleasant led Howard with 87 yards rushing and one score.