By Dan Hiner
On Sunday, members of the Youngstown State University football team said the Penguins needed to finish strong if they wanted to make a run in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
YSU (9-3) started the playoffs strong after it beat Samford University 28-24 on Saturday night.
“[Getting a playoff win] feels great, I can tell you that,” YSU running back Jody Webb said. “This week, everyone’s been saying how it feels different. But it’s a great feeling, it’s a great different feeling. None of us have been here. For all the guys in the program, this is our first time. We’re trying to make it happen.”
The Penguins entered halftime with a 10-7 lead, but YSU scored 14 points in the first 10 minutes of the third quarter to extend the lead.
Webb added two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. Webb finished with a
career-high 174 yards rushing and contributed 32 yards receiving.
“It’s just about finishing. At this point, everyone’s tired,” Webb said. “It’s a long season, and at this point, it’s about who wants it more. In order for us to get where we want to go, we got to finish.”
Samford (7-5) moved the ball well through the air, but Samford head coach Chris Hatcher said the biggest issue was dealing with the YSU defensive line.
The Bulldogs ran the ball 17 times for 24 yards rushing. 11 of Samford’s 17 rushing attempts came from quarterback Devlin Hodges.
Hodges was forced to carry the Bulldog offense. Hodges completed 33 of 51 passes for 372 yards passing, but the YSU defense started to generate pressure as the game progressed.
YSU recorded three sacks and seven quarterback hurries, the team’s second most hurry total of the season.
YSU defensive end Derek Rivers said it was “a blessing” to play a playoff game at home during his senior season after failing to make the tournament in previous seasons.
“It meant a lot. Every win from here…it meant a lot. To go undefeated [at home] in our final season, it’s nice,” Rivers said.
YSU head coach Bo Pelini said the team played well on Saturday and has shown improvement throughout the season. Pelini said he’s proud of the way the team played and wants to see the same type of execution heading into the next round.
“I liked the way our guys played — it was a complete effort,” Pelini said. “I’ll be the first one to say, like every guy in there — we haven’t played our best football yet, which is a good thing. We got to keep practicing, preparing and getting better each week because that’s what we’re gonna need to do as we go through this tournament.”
SU 24, YSU 38
7-0 YSU — Shane Kuhn one-yard touchdown run (Kennedy extra point good.) 4:37
7-7 SU — Devlin Hodges 19-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin McKnight (Everett extra point good). 1:57
10-7 YSU — Zak Kennedy 25-yard field goal. 0:03
17-7 YSU — Tevin McCaster one-yard touchdown run (Kennedy extra point good). 13:03
24-7 YSU — Martin Ruiz one-yard touchdown run (Kennedy extra point good). 5:41
31-7 YSU — Jody Webb six-yard touchdown run (Kennedy extra point good). 12:13
31-10 SU — Reece Everett 20-yard field goal.
38-10 YSU — Jody Webb 62-yard touchdown run (Kennedy extra point good). 9:49
38-17 SU — Devlin Hodges 34-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin McKnight (Everett extra point good). 6:42
38-24 SU — Devlin Hodges four-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin McKnight (Everett extra point good). 0:28
Passing_SU, Devlin Hodges 33-51-3-372-0. YSU, Hunter Wells 8-12-0-142-0.
Rushing_SU, Devlin Hodges 11-15-0. YSU, Jody Webb 27-174-2.
Receiving_SU, Karel Hamilton 11-147-0. YSU, Alvin Bailey 3-34-0.
Sacks_SU, Tonne Osaigbovo 1, Ahmad Gooden 1. YSU, Jaylin Kelly 1, Derek Rivers 1, Joshmere Dawson 1.
Tackles_SU, Jamerson Blount 9-8-1. YSU, David Rivers 8-8-0.