By Dan Hiner
Previous meeting told us Saturday’s game between the #10 Youngstown State University football team and the University of South Dakota was going to be close, but the Penguins had other ideas.
The Penguins were able to capitalize on turnovers and sustained long drives en route to a 31-3 victory over the Coyotes in the Missouri Valley Football Conference opener.
YSU [3-1, 1-0 MVFC] took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run — capping a 16-play, 80-yard drive on the first possession of the game. The Penguins were able to force two fumbles in the first quarter. YSU’s LeRoy Alexander was able to recover the first fumble at the YSU 38-yard line, and returned the ball to the South Dakota 12-yard line. The drive would end with a Zak Kennedy 33-yard field goal, giving the Penguins a 10-0 lead.
YSU quarterback Hunter Wells would lead the offense down the field again early in the second quarter. With 12:19 remaining in the quarter, Wells found Andrew Williams deep down the middle of the field for a 51-yard touchdown pass to give YSU a 17-0 lead.
South Dakota [2-2, 0-1 MVFC] had an opportunity to put points on the board late in the first half after Wells was picked off by Ryan Hillier with 4:23 left in the second quarter, but South Dakota would miss a 36-yard field goal with 1:53 left in the half.
With just under 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter, South Dakota’s Paul Anderson muffed a punt return at his two-yard line. YSU’s Kintrell Disher recovered the ball, and gave the Penguins the ball inside of the five-yard line. Martin Ruiz would punch the ball into the end zone after a two-yard touchdown run on the following play for a 24-0 lead.
The Coyotes would avoid the shutout after kicker Miles Bergner converted a 39-yard field goal to cut the YSU lead to 24-3 with 10:20 remaining in the game.
With 5:52 remaining, the Penguins would capitalize on a tipped pass that deflected off the helmet of defensive end Avery Moss and landed in the hands of cornerback Kenneth Durden at the Coyotes’ 40-yard line—the interception was returned to the South Dakota 15-yard line. Two plays later, Wells found tight end Shane Kuhn in the middle of the field for a 13-yard touchdown pass and a 31-3 lead.
Wells would finish the game with 15-26 for 158 yards passing and two touchdowns. Wells would also throw his first two interceptions of the season.
South Dakota was able to contain running backs Jody Webb and Ruiz, but the Penguins were still able to make an impact in the running game. Ruiz would finish with 86 yards on 28 attempts and two touchdowns. Webb carried the ball eight times for 41 yards.
The defense stepped up for the Penguins, recording a season-high four sacks against the Coyotes.
The win marks the first time YSU has held a conference opponent to three points or less in a contest since the Penguins defeated Indiana State University 28-0 on Sept. 26, 2009 — also the last time the Penguins shut out a conference opponent.
YSU will return to Stambaugh Stadium for back-to-back home games against Illinois State University and South Dakota State University. Kickoff against Illinois State is scheduled for Oct. 10 at 7 p.m.