YOUNGSTOWN, OH (WYTV)-Junior tailback Jody Webb rushed for 107 yards on 16 carries and sophomore Hunter Wells passed for 240 yards and a touchdown, but the No. 7 Youngstown State football team dropped a 31-29 heartbreaker to fourth-ranked Illinois State on Saturday evening at Stambaugh Stadium.
The Penguins, who outgained the Redbirds, 447-367, fall to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and the Redbirds improve to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the MVFC.
The team’s combined for 31 fourth-quarter points after the YSU trailed 17-12 entering the final 15 minutes. The Guins grabbed a brief lead early in the period, but had to play catchup the final 12:21.
Down by eight in the final minute, Wells hit Martin Ruiz on a 13-yard touchdown pass with just 32 seconds left to get the Penguins within 31-29. YSU went for two and Wells dove head first into the end zone for a would-be game-tying two-point conversion. The play was called good, but instant replay overturned the call and the Guins were down two.
The Redbirds knocked an onside kick out-of-bounds and were able to run out the final 31 seconds to win the contest.
Trailing by 31-23 after a 19-yard touchdown rush by Marshaun Copirch with just 4:18 left, Webb reeled off a 54-yard kickoff return to the ISU 45 to start the comeback bid. To keep the drive alive, the Penguins converted a fourth-and-one at the ISU 14 when Shane Kuhn smashed ahead for three yards to the ISU 11.
After a two-yard loss, Wells hit Ruiz from 13-yards out to get the Penguins within 31-29.
Wells completed 18-of-27 passes with an interception and Ruiz ran for 84 yards on 18 carries and caught four passes for 77 yards and a touchdown.
For the third straight game, Kuhn scored two touchdowns, a pair of rushing touchdowns from three yards and one yard.
Defensively, LeRoy Alexander recorded a team-high 11 tackles.
Coprich rushed 23 times for 131 yards and a touchdown while QB Tre Roberson ran for 90 yards with a touchdown and passed for 130 yards and a touchdown.
Leading 24-23, the Redbirds faced a fourth-and-five at their own 39, but ran a fake punt and converted on a six-yard rush by Bryce Holm to the 45. A four-yard run by Coprich and an unsportsmanlike penalty on YSU set up the Redbirds at the YSU 36. Three plays later Coprich rushed 19 yards for a touchdown to put the Redbirds put 31-23 with 4:18 to go.
Kuhn’s second touchdown of the game and the ensuing two-point conversion pass from Wells to Jacob Wood gave the Penguins their first lead of the game, 20-17, with 13:37 left in the game. It marks the third straight game Kuhn has scored at least two touchdowns.
Redbirds struck quickly to regain the lead 24-20 on a 39-yard pass from Roberson to Warrum 12:12 mark of the fourth quarter.
YSU PK Zak Kennedy’s 49-yard field, a career long, cut the Redbird lead to 24-23 with 8:41 left in the game.
A 44-yard field by Sean Slattery pushed the Redbirds lead to 17-12 with 3:28 left in the third quarter.
The Redbirds took the game’s opening drive 64 yards to the YSU one but were stopped on both third and fourth down. On third-and-goal, Coprich was stuffed byTerrell Williams, and Jake Kolbe’s pass to Anthony Warrum was incomplete on fourth down.
The Penguins took over at their own one-yard line and pushed the ball out to the 19. On third-and-five Josh Burch picked off Wells and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown for a 7-0 lead with 5:24 left in the first.
Kuhn scored for the third straight game and capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive with a three-yard plunge, but Kennedy’s point-after attempt was blocked and Penguins trailed 7-6 after one-quarter.
After an exchange of punts, Roberson scampered 58 yards to give the Redbirds a 14-6 lead with 10:29 left in the second quarter.
The teams exchanged punts once again and the Penguins marched 58 yards to the ISU seven, but had to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Kennedy and cut the deficit to 14-9 at the half.
The Penguins host South Dakota State, Saturday, Oct. 17, in the annual Homecoming Game at 4 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.
COURTESY: YSU ATHLETICS