YSU had a balanced attack: 232 yards passing and 275 yards rushing.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Youngstown State took full advantage of mistakes by Southern Illinois, turning them into a 31-7 victory Saturday at McAndrews Stadium.
The Penguins, who scored 24 of their 31 points following Southern Illinois turnovers, improved to 7-2 overall and finished play in the Gateway Conference with a 5-2 record.
Senior quarterback Jeff Ryan had his best game of the season as the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder passed for 214 yards on 16-of-19 with one interception and one touchdown, and added 94 yards on 15 rushes.
Southern Illinois (1-7, 1-5 Gateway) lost three fumbles and had two passes intercepted.
Heacock: "We came back to make some nice drives offensively in the second half," said Youngstown State coach Jon Heacock. "I wasn't too pleased with the turnovers in the first half.
"We started to play the game like we know how in the second half and that pleased me," he added.
Junior tailback P.J. Mays, although not having a great day rushing, finished with 87 yards on 24 carries and it was enough to put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. He also scored a pair of touchdowns to give him 17 for the season, including 16 on the ground.
Ryan's lone touchdown pass, his fourth of the season, came on a 23-yarder to junior receiver Eugene Mintze. The final YSU score came on a 9-yard run by sophomore tailback Darius Peterson.
Balanced attack: The Penguins put together their most-balanced offensive attack of the season as they passed for 232 yards and rushed for 275 yards for a total of 507 yards.
Senior defensive back LeVar Greene intercepted his sixth pass of the season, and senior Bruce Hightower also picked off an SIU pass, his fourth of the year.
The defense held the Salukis to 260 total yards, 148 rushing and 112 passing, and the turnovers once again killed Southern Illinois.
Turnovers: Each team turned the football over twice in the first half, and the Penguins took advantage of both SIU turnovers.
On the Salukis' initial series they drove from their own 22 down to the YSU 18 where on second down quarterback Madei Williams fumbled and Martin Stachowicz recovered for the Penguins.
YSU then drove to the Southern Illinois 16, but when the drive stalled Jake Stewart kicked a 36-yard field goal.
Late in the first period the Penguins took over at their 26 and on first down Ryan fired 11 yards to senior wide receiver Sean Guerriero, but he fumbled when he was hit and the Salukis recovered at the YSU 38.
On the first play the Salukis used a halfback option pass from Brandon Robinson to Jason Hollingshed, who was all by himself at the 15-yard line and caught it and scampered into the end zone for a 7-3 SIU lead.
YSU came back the next series and drove from its own 29 to the SIU 18 on three plays, one a 22-yard run by Ryan. One first down Ryan rolled right on the option, turned the corner and reached the SIU 5-yard line when he tried to lateral back to a trailing Mays. The ball was tipped and the Salukis recovered at their own 3.
YSU quickly held the Salukis and forced a punt and took over at the Southern Illinois 39. Two plays later they were at the 23 and on first down Ryan rolled left, then reversed his field and rolled right, eventually throwing a perfect pass to a breaking Eugene Mintze in the end zone.
The Penguins got the ball back less than a minute later when SIU's Tom Koutsos fumbled and Stachowicz recovered again at the Salukis' 38.
Mays ripped off an 18-yard run and with the ball on the 1 four plays later, Mays went off tackle untouched for the touchdown.
Youngstown State missed a final scoring attempt just before halftime when Stewart had a 42-yard field goal attempt blocked. That block, by Bart Scott was recovered on the SIU 45. After one 20-yard pass, the Salukis tried a 52-yard field goal just before halftime, but it was wide left.