YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV)- The No. 19 Youngstown State football team built a 17-point halftime advantage and scored a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to knock off Missouri Valley Football Conference foe and 14th-ranked Southern Illinois, 26-14, at Stambaugh Stadium Saturday evening.
The Penguins improve to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the MVFC while the Salukis fall to 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the MVFC.
The Penguins outgained the Salukis, 465-224, and the defensive unit forced two turnovers and allowed just 75 yards rushing.
Freshman quarterback Hunter Wells passed for 269 yards on 21-of-28 passing with a touchdown and connected with seven different receivers.
Junior Andrew Williams caught a career-high eight receptions for a career-best 96 yards, and junior Andre Stubbs caught five passes for a career-high 84 yards.
Sophomore Martin Ruiz led the Penguins rushing attack with 109 yards on 28 carries while classmate Jody Webb rushed for 91 yards on 11 carries and had two touchdowns.
A key factor to the Penguins success was their efficiency on third down. The Penguins converted 12-of-17 times on third down while the defense held SIU to just 3-of-11 on third down conversions.
The Penguins also kept the SIU defense on the field most of the game winning the time of possession battle, 37:33 to 22:27.
The Penguins secondary also picked off SIU quarterback Mark Iannotti twice, which led to 10 YSU points while the Salukis could not capitalize on two Penguins miscues.
The Penguins jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead but the Salukis scored two third quarter touchdowns to get within six, 20-14.
Webb’s 9-yard touchdown scamper with 8:31 left in game proved to be a game sealer.
Down 17-0, SIU took the opening drive of the second half 80-yards in just four plays to cut the YSU lead to 17-7 with 13:20 left in the third. Iannotti connected with Tay Willis on a 62-yard scoring strike for the Salukis first score.
After Wells was picked off by SIU’s Keith Suggs at the SIU 30 on YSU’s first possession of the second half, the Penguins defense forced a third-and-14 situation and Donald D’Alesio intercepted an Iannotti pass at the YSU 42.
The Penguins capitalized on the turnover when Cejudo converted a career-long 42-yard field goal with 7:33 left in the third to give YSU a 20-7 lead.
The Salukis answered with an 80-yard, 14-play drive that resulted in two-yard touchdown pass from Iannotti to MyCole Pruitt to get within six, 20-14, with 1:53 left in the third.
Webb scored his second touchdown of the game to put the Penguins up 26-14, with 8:31 left. The Penguins two-point conversion attempt failed.
The Penguins controlled both sides of the ball in the first half holding a time of possession advantage of 19:15 to 10:45. The Penguins outgained the Salukis, 219-69, rushed for 101 yards and passed for 118. The defense allowed just 51 yards rushing and 18 through the air. The Penguins also ran 38 plays to SIU’s 24.
Early in the second quarter, safety Tre’ Moore picked off SIU’s Iannotti at the YSU 45 and returned it to the SIU 42 with 13:51 left.
The Penguins marched to the SIU 23 and Wells hit Webb on a four-yard pass, but the Salukis declined an illegal formation penalty that would have pushed the Penguins back to the 28.
Instead, on the next play, Webb scampered in from 19 yards out to push the Penguins lead to 17-0 with 10:38 left in the second quarter.
Penguins took the opening drive 85-yards in 14 plays in 7:53 to take 7-0 lead with 7:07 left after a nine-yard touchdown pass to Jelani Berassa from Wells.
The Penguins converted four third downs to prolong the drive, including a 10-yard completion to Berassa on third and six, a 14-yard gain on third and 10, and Wells’ touchdown pass to Berassa.
Cejudo added a 27-yard field goal with 1:34 left in the first quarter to give the Penguins a 10-0 lead. The Penguins chewed up more than four minutes on the clock on their second drive.
The Penguins visit No. 16 South Dakota State, Saturday, Oct. 25, at 3 p.m. in Brookings, S.D.
COURTESY: YSU SPORTS INFORMATION