By Will Clark
The Youngstown State University football team kicked off its home opener on Saturday against Robert Morris University. After coming up short against the University of Pittsburgh, YSU was ready to turn the season around at home.
Robert Morris (0-2) gave YSU all they could handle in the Penguins’ 21-14 overtime win.
The Colonials took an early 7-0 lead over the Penguins after a fumble by tailback Martin Ruiz. Robert Morris took advantage with a 41-yard touchdown run to start the game.
YSU (1-1) struggled throughout the first half. YSU quarterback Hunter Wells was only able to complete 5-20 passes for 63 yards. The YSU receivers had a hard time holding onto the ball, and kicker Zak Kennedy missed a field goal attempt. The rainy conditions could have played a role in the Penguins offensive woes.
“Our preparations for that wasn’t good. I don’t want to say the rain was the reason why we performed as we did, but I would say yeah,” receiver I’Tavious Harvin said.
The YSU defense kept the Penguins alive throughout the first half, forcing incomplete passes and creating pressure on Robert Morris quarterback Matthew Barr. The Colonials’ quarterback finished 2-11 for 16 yards passing including an interception by YSU free safety LeRoy Alexander in Robert Morris’ final drive of the half.
The Penguins put their first points on the board early in the second half when Ruiz scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, capping a 5-play 41-yard drive. Ruiz finished with 24 carries for 95 yards rushing.
For the second straight game the Penguins had trouble stopping the run. Robert Morris running back Rameses Owens ran for 152 yards and two touchdowns. His final touchdown gave the Colonials a 14-7 lead with 13:25 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter the Penguins were able to put together a 12-play 75-yard drive to tie the game after Wells was able to connect with tight end Shane Kuhn for a 1-yard touchdown.
In the only possession of overtime Wells was able to find Harvin on a 2-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to put the Penguins up 21-14.
“When I saw Hunter shake the defender, I was thinking to myself that I got to get open.” Harvin said. “When he threw it to me I was hoping that he did, I caught it and made a touchdown.”
The play was originally supposed to got to Kuhn, but after Wells broke a tackle by a Robert Morris defender, Harvin was able to open when the play started to fall apart.
“It was such a relief. It was like the world was on our shoulders and we knew we were playing Youngstown football again,” Harvin said.
The YSU defense made a stand during the final Robert Morris drive. Facing fourth down the Colonials need to score a touchdown to tie the game and force another overtime period, but YSU defensive end Derek Rivers came up with a sack to end the game.
“It was a blitz and the tight end went out, and it was a play that we had to make. It’s fourth down and three. We got to get them off the field,” Rivers said. “Tonight the defense showed up, the offense struggled a bit. It’s definitely going to get better. I promise you that.”