By Drae Smith
YSU Football Reporter for Rookery Radio
YSU Football Sideline Reporter for 570 WKBN / iHeartRadio
The Youngstown State football team used another phenomenal defensive effort and a huge special teams play to earn a hard fought 13-10 victory over Indiana State on Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium. The Penguins are now 6-2 overall and 4-1 in conference play. YSU is now back in a three-way tie for first place in the Missouri Valley Football Conference standings with three games remaining.
The Sycamores struck first about half way through the first quarter when Jerry Nunez converted a 23-yard field goal. Indiana State would extend their lead to 10-0 later in the first period when quarterback Isaac Harker found wideout Robert Tonyan for a nine yard touchdown pass. The Penguins struggled on offense most of the day, producing just six points in total. Zak Kennedy hit field goals of 23 and 31 yards respectively to cut the Sycamores lead to 10-6 at halftime.
YSU QB Hunter Wells started his first game since the season finale against the Sycamores last season. The junior was playing for the first time this season after coming off a shoulder injury. Wells completed 13 of 26 passes for 101 yards and two interceptions. The Penguins offense struggled to find a good rhythm most of the day but was successful again on the ground, rushing for 190 yards. Senior tailback Martin Ruiz led the way with 151 yards on 22 carries.
The defensive battle continued throughout the second half and the score remained 10-6 until the fourth quarter. With just over nine minutes left in the game, YSU wide receiver Darien Townsend returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown to give the Penguins their first lead at 13-10. After that, the YSU defense put the clamps down on the Sycamores to secure the 13-10 victory.
The Penguins allowed Indiana State to collect just 226 total yards and only 78 of the rushing variety. The Sycamores put up just 148 passing yards after averaging 294.3 coming into the game. Safety LeRoy Alexander led the way on defense with 11 total tackles, one sack and three tackles for loss. Linebacker Armand Dellovade recorded eight total tackles and one sack while safety Jameel Smith added seven total tackles, one tackle for loss and an interception.
Cornerback Kenny Bishop made an impressive, leaping interception in the first half to halt a promising Indiana State drive. Defensive end Avery Moss continued his stellar play with 5 total tackles and three sacks, two of which came on the final drive to help seal the win. In total, the YSU defense tallied seven sacks for 65 yards, two interceptions, a fumble recovery and 12 tackles for loss. Indiana State was only able to convert 4 of 16 third down conversions on the afternoon.
Indiana State QB Isaac Harker completed 18 of 35 passes for 148 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Star wideout Robert Tonyan caught five passes for 40 yards and a touchdown while tailback Roland Genesy led the way on the ground with 88 rushing yards. The Sycamores are now 4-5 overall and 2-4 in Missouri Valley Football Conference play.
Youngstown State now needs just one victory in their final three games to likely be in prime position for their first FCS playoff appearance since 2006. Two more wins will almost guarantee them a high seed in the postseason and a conference championship is still very much attainable. The Penguins will now travel to Fargo, North Dakota to face the five-time defending national champion, North Dakota State.
The Bison are 7-1 overall this season and tied with YSU and South Dakota State atop the MVFC standings at 4-1. Kickoff at the FargoDome this Saturday, November 5th is scheduled for 3:30pm ET.