By Dan Hiner
With the Youngstown State University football team facing a 38-31 hole, the Penguins lined up on a fourth down and two from inside the Southern Illinois University 10-yard line.
YSU quarterback Hunter Wells tossed the ball to running back Jody Webb, but instead of running to the right side of the defense and trying to pick a first down to continue the drive, Webb tried setting up to throw the ball. The defensive line started to collapse around him and Webb was forced to throw a desperate halfback pass to tight end Jacob Wood.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Penguins were able to strike first on a Wells’ pass to wide receiver Andrew Williams — capping a six-play, 66-yard drive — to take a 7-0 lead in the second quarter.
Southern Illinois (3-4, 2-2 Missouri Valley Football Conference) would tie the game at 7 less than a minute later after Salukis’ quarterback Mark Iannotti connected with Billy Reed for a 63-yard touchdown pass.
With 4:59 left in the first half, YSU backup quarterback Ricky Davis scored on a five-yard touchdown run to end a 12-play, 81-yard drive. The Penguins would take a 14-7 lead into halftime.
The Salukis would get back into the game when Kenny James intercepted Wells and returned the pick for a touchdown. YSU nose guard Steve Zaborsky blocked the ensuing point after attempt, and YSU maintained a 14-13 lead.
The next Penguin possession would stall and punter Nick Sheely’s would shank the kick. When all was said and done the ball traveled 12 yards, and Southern Illinois would take over at its 45-yard line.
Southern Illinois would capitalize on the field position, and Iannotti would score on a two-yard touchdown run to take the lead 20-14 with 8:42 left in the third quarter.
YSU (3-4, 1-3 Missouri Valley Football Conference) would take a 21-20 lead after Wells drove the team down the field and connected with wide receiver I’tavious Havin for a 7-yard touchdown. Wells would throw his third touchdown pass of the game to end the third quarter after hooking up with Williams again, this time for an 85-yard touchdown to take a 28-20 lead into the fourth quarter.
The pair of touchdown passes may have had the Penguin fans think YSU would pull out the victory, but the Salukis would come back. After the Penguins added three more points to take a 31-20 lead on a Zak Kennedy field goal, but Southern Illinois would make an 11-point comeback.
Daquan Isom would score a on a 75-yard touchdown pass from Iannotti. Shaq Findlater would convert on a two-point conversion to cut the Penguin lead to 31-28 with 5:10 left in the game.
The Penguin went three and out on their next drive—culminating a Sheely’s punt being partially blocked. Southern Illinois would take over at the YSU 47-yard line.
YSU’s defense would hold the Salukis to a field goal after making a goal line stand with six seconds left on the clock. The game would go into overtime, tied 31-31.
On the opening possession of overtime, Southern Illinois took a 38-31 lead on a third down pass from Iannotti that looked as if it was overthrown, but fell into the Israel Lamprakes along the right sideline for a 24-yard touchdown.
Webb’s pass would be the final possession of the game. And with the postseason aspirations already in doubt heading into Saturday’s game, the loss to the Salukis could have ended the Penguins’ playoff hopes.