Special Teams, Defense Push YSU Past the Sycamores

By Marc Weems

The last time quarterback Hunter Wells was officially named the starting quarterback of the Youngstown State University football team was the final game of 2015 at Indiana State. He was tasked with avenging last year’s loss to ISU on Saturday during YSU’s homecoming game.

The Penguins’ defense gave Wells some help as No. 14 YSU (6-2, 4-1 Missouri Valley Football Conference) defeated ISU (4-5, 2-4 MVFC) 13-10.

The defense struggled a bit before gaining their ground as they gave up 10 straight points to start the game.

“We still have a lot of stuff we need to work on,” YSU defensive end Avery Moss said. “It’s all about attention to detail; something that coach Bo [Pelini] preaches day in and day out.”

With 7:38 left in the first quarter, Indiana State University scored on a 23-yard field goal from kicker Jerry Nunez. That put the score at 3-0 in favor of ISU.

After Hunter Wells threw an interception to ISU linebacker Jameer Thurman, the Sycamores were able to extend their lead.

Indiana State quarterback Isaac Harker connected with wide receiver Robert Tonyan Jr. on a 9-yard touchdown

Kenny Bishop (7), defensive back for Youngstown State University, jumps in front of Clayton Smith (5), receiver for Indiana State University, to break up a pass down the field.
Kenny Bishop (7), defensive back for Youngstown State University, jumps in front of Clayton Smith (5), receiver for Indiana State University, to break up a pass down the field.

to put ISU up 10-0 with 2:50 left in the first quarter.

“Defensively we played very well and they threw some things at us,” YSU head coach Bo Pelini said about the early deficit. “I don’t think we played well early. We had some stuff we were a little sloppy on but we got better as the game went on.”

After a 41-yard run by running back Martin Ruiz, YSU kicker Zak Kennedy connected a 23-yard field goal through to cut the deficit to 10-3 in favor of Indiana State with 11:07.

Ruiz ran for 151 yards on 22 carries. He now had 17 career games of 100 yards and four career games of 150 yards.

With Indiana State making a long drive into YSU territory, YSU safety Jameel Smith intercepted Harker to keep them out of the end zone.

With an unsportsmanlike penalty on Indiana State to move YSU further, Zak Kennedy connected on a 31-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. Indiana State still led 10-6 at the end of the first half.

After a punt from each team, with 7:29 left in the third quarter, defensive tackle Donald Messier recovered a fumble in Indiana State territory on an Avery Moss strip sack.

A minute later in the quarter, Zak Kennedy’s 33-yard field goal attempt was blocked by ISU linebacker Justin Hornsby. Indiana State returned the ball to their 49-yard line but were unable to capitalize on that blocked field goal.

On YSU’s next possession, Zak Kennedy missed a 45-yard field goal with 14:48 left in the fourth quarter.

With 9:19 left in the fourth quarter, wide receiver Darien Townsend returned an Indiana State punt for a 79-yard touchdown to put the Penguins up 13-10.

Townsend spoke about his return and what it meant for the game.

“There was a lot of great blocks so I knew I was going to be out of there,” Townsend said. “Once I got past one dude in particular, I knew I would score.”

He also said that he had never returned a punt or kickoff that had as much meaning as that touchdown did.

The Penguins’ defense only allowed 226 total yards to Indiana State. This was the sixth time YSU has given up less than 250 total yards.

“We just came out and we were fighting,” safety Leroy Alexander said about the defense. “We were a little shaky in the beginning. In the second half, we came out swinging. We had to get our secondary involved in the run and we ended up making some good plays.”

Pelini said that not allowing teams to score even when they make nice drives comes from the team’s pride. He said that when teams get down into the red zone, they have to earn it those points.

YSU will travel to the Fargo Dome to play North Dakota State next week.

Box Score

ISU 10, YSU 13


First Quarter

3-0 ISU — Jerry Nunez 23-yard field goal. 7:38

10-0 ISU — Isaac Harker nine-yard touchdown pass to Robert Tonyan (Nunez extra point good). 2:50


Second Quarter

10-3 YSU — Zak Kennedy 23-yard field goal. 11:07

10-6 YSU — Zak Kennedy 31-yard field goal. 00:00


Fourth Quarter

13-10 YSU — Darien Townsend 79-yard punt return for touchdown (Kennedy extra point good). 9:19.


Stat Leaders

Passing_ISU, Isaac Harker 18-35-1-148-2. YSU, Hunter Wells 13-236-0-105-0.

Rushing_ISU, Roland Genesy 15-88-0. YSU, Martin Ruiz 22-151-0.

Receiving_ISU, Robert Tonyan 5-40-1. YSU, Damoun Patterson 3-30-0.

Sacks_YSU, Avery Moss 3.

Tackles_ISU, Jonas Griffith 9-9-0. YSU, LeRoy Alexander 11-8-3.


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