Youngstown State University needed to win a game in the worst way. South Dakota, the new kid on the block in the Missouri Valley Football Conference came in with a 1-7 record. When the two struggling teams faced off, the Penguins ended up ahead, 13-10, and halted a four-game losing streak.
The Penguins defense, for the most part, played a very solid game. The offense did enough to win.
“It was an ugly win, but obviously we will take it”, said Eric Wolford. “The defense played great. It starts up front. Going in, I had some concerns about their running game, but our front seven held them in check.”
Kurt Hess found Nate Adams (below) in the first quarter to give YSU a 6-0 lead. The normally reliable David Brown, the teams extra point specialist, hit the right goalpost to record his first miss in 35 attempts this season.
Adams released to the right pylon as Hess scrambled around before completing the easy three yard pitch and catch. The touchdown completed a drive that covered 84 yards in 15 plays. The catch would be the only one Adams would have in the game.
With less than a minute to play in the first half, the Penguins tried a trick play. Hess got the ball to Micheal Wheary who never crossed the line of scrimmage. Wheary cranked up a pass from about 12 yards and unloaded into a crowded end zone. The result was a red zone turnover with less than a minute to play in the half.
Youngstown State took the opening kickoff to start the second half and drove 75yards in nine plays. The big play in the drive was a 28-yard run by Jamaine Cook that got the ball to the one yard line. Cook would plunge in on the very next play and Brown would knock in the extra point to make it a 13-0 YSU lead.
South Dakota put together their most productive drive of the afternoon. Eric Wolford said earlier in the week that Coyote quarterback, Josh Vander Maten, was a threat with his arm and his feet. Vander Maten proved to be dangerous on the drive as he rushed for 39 yards on four carries and threw three completions for another twenty yards.
“The month of October was very difficult, we had to fight for 60 minutes to get a win”, said Wolford. “I have been places where guys miss classes, talk back, and have discipline issues. We aren’t having those issues here.”
The Penguins defense stiffened, however, and the Coyotes had to settle for a 37-yard field goal from Kevin Robb.
After the South Dakota field goal, Youngstown State mounted a drive that would kill a lot of clock. The YSU special teams blunder of the week was up next. Brown lined up for a 45-yard field goal. The field goal was blocked and South Dakota ended up with possession inside the Penguins 50.
What happened next encapsulated what has gone wrong for the Penguins in the last four weeks. The Coyotes used two plays to go 47 yards and make it a 13-10 game. On the short possession, Dale Peterman picked up a 15-yard penalty on a flea-flicker that Vander Maten ended up keeping with all of his receivers covered, for a modest ten yard gain. On the next play, Jasper Sanders gashed through several missed tackles for a 22-yard score.
Once YSU got the ball back with over ten minutes left in the game, they went back to the running game to grind the clock. After a couple of first downs, the Penguins punted. Nick Liste hit a nearly perfect punt that rolled into the right pylon for a touchback. Football truly is a game of inches.
South Dakota got the ball back and after picking up a first down, faced a fourth-and-eleven on their own 41 yard line. Aronde Stanton sealed the deal as he dragged Vander Maten down to force a change of possession.
“I tried to strip him, so my initial reaction was to just hold on”, said Stanton. “We have been getting better. This win gives us confidence to go into the next game. If we don’t win the rest of our games, we know we don’t have a chance.”
For the Penguins, Cook carried the ball 42 times for 203 yards, a season-high in yardage, and a career-high in attempts. The 42 carries were the fourth highest amount attempted in YSU history. Hess finished 11-17 for 133 yards.
“Hats off to the offensive line, they did a great job up front”, said Cook. “I feel fresher carrying the ball 42 times in a win than I would twenty times in a loss, I’m sure I will feel it tomorrow.”
“The coaches deserve all of the credit for putting a great game plan together”, said OT DJ Main. “We definitely executed the game plan better than we have. The offense struggled and the defense played great and kept us in the game, we executed when we had to.”
With the news that Indiana State was losing, there was a sudden renewal of hope for the Penguins. If they can win at Western Illinois next week, they face Indiana State at home on November 17. If they can win that game, both teams would have four losses and YSU would be selected over ISU because of the head-to-head logic.