By Drae Smith
YSU Football Sideline Reporter on 570 WKBN / iHeartRadio
YSU Football Reporter for Rookery Radio
The #15 Youngstown State football team was able to outlast South Dakota in their Missouri Valley Football Conference opener, winning by a final score of 30-20 this past Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium.
On the opening drive of the game, South Dakota quarterback Chris Streveler was stripped by YSU defensive end Avery Moss who then recovered the fumble and returned it to the USD 45-yard line. The Penguins would convert the turnover into points when tailback Martin Ruiz scored from one-yard out to make it 7-0. South Dakota kicker Miles Bergner then cut the YSU lead to 7-3 after a 45-yard field goal with just over eight minutes left in the first quarter. YSU kicker Zak Kennedy answered with a 26-yard field goal of his own to make it 10-3 with just under four minutes remaining in the first period.
Martin Ruiz would find the end-zone again on an eight-yard scoring run early in the second quarter to push YSU’s lead to 17-3. Zak Kennedy concluded the first-half scoring with a 28-yard field goal to put the Penguins ahead 20-3 at halftime. The YSU lead could have been much larger at the intermission if not for two turnovers in the red-zone. First, tailback Jody Webb fumbled a handoff which was recovered by South Dakota and then the YSU offense was stopped on fourth-and-goal at the USD one-yard line. The score would remain 20-3 until late in the third quarter when Miles Bergner connected on a 29-yard field which cut the YSU advantage to 20-6.
Early in the fourth quarter, Zak Kennedy converted his third field goal of the day to extend YSU’s lead to 23-6. The Coyotes would score their first touchdown of the game with just over five minutes left when Streveler found Riley Donovan for a 1-yard passing score which cut the YSU lead to 23-13. The Penguins then put the game out of reach when Avery Moss tipped a Streveler pass which was intercepted and returned 21 yards for a touchdown by safety Jalyn Powell to make it 30-13. The Coyotes added a late score when Streveler found Alonge Brooks for a 23-yard touchdown pass, producing the final score of 30-20.
YSU QB Ricky Davis returned to action after missing the team’s last game with a concussion, he completed 15 of 23 passes for 281 yards and threw his first two interceptions of the season. Davis also led the team in rushing, carrying the ball 21 times for 66 yards. Martin Ruiz added 65 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 19 attempts. Ruiz has now moved into fifth place on the YSU all-time rushing list with 3,520 career rushing yards. Wide receiver Damoun Patterson led the Penguins with 86 receiving yards on two receptions while Darien Townsend added four catches for 56 yards. The YSU offense moved the ball consistently all afternoon and collected 450 yards of total offense but was plagued by the four turnovers.
The YSU defense was impressive once again, holding a talented USD offense to just 254 total yards and 4 of 17 on third downs. They were also able to hold dual-threat QB Chris Streveler to just 17 rushing yards on 13 carries. Streveler was eighth in the nation with an average of 115.7 rushing yards per game coming into the contest. The unit was led by Avery Moss who collected seven total tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Linebacker Armand Dellovade had seven total tackles of his own while safety Jameel Smith and defensive tackle Savon Smith each recorded six. Defensive end Derek Rivers added five total tackles and two sacks while Jameel Smith and Jalyn Powell each had an interception.
With the win, Youngstown State moves to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in conference play. South Dakota falls to 1-3 and 0-1 in the MVFC. Even after a victory, YSU Head Coach Bo Pelini was not thrilled with the way his team played. When asked about the performance, he said, “Not what I was looking for. We made too many mistakes, I don't take a whole heck of a lot of positives out of this football game.” He also added, “We didn't play up to our standards in any phase of the game.” Expectations are high for this experienced Youngstown State squad and Pelini knows his team will have to play much better in the weeks ahead if they want to compete for a playoff spot.
The Penguins will now face a very difficult three game stretch against perennial playoff contenders. YSU will travel to #23 Illinois State this week, return home to play #11 Northern Iowa and then head back on the road to face #12 South Dakota State. Kickoff this Saturday for YSU vs. Illinois State in Normal, IL is scheduled for 3pm EST.