Western Illinois opened its passing offense, but didn't have much to show.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Western Illinois waited 23 days for this?
Having not played for three weeks because of the terrorist attacks on America, the Leathernecks' return to the football field wasn't a welcoming experience.
YSU played a part in that.
Western Illinois was handed a 41-7 defeat in a Gateway Conference game Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium.
"Thank God this counts as just one," Coach Don Patterson said. "It's embarrassing that the score was so one-sided."
Patterson was bothered that his team didn't play to its potential.
"Even if we could have tonight, we still might have lost," said Patterson, crediting the Penguins' play.
After passing 10 times in a 17-13 win over Western Kentucky on Aug. 30, the Leathernecks opened their offense Saturday against the Penguins with 48 pass attempts.
Air yardage: Senior quarterback Sam Clemons completed 21-of-41 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown. Still, Western Illinois' propensity to pass didn't equate into many points.
Why? Because the Leathernecks couldn't gain any semblance of consistency throughout the game. When something went right, more went wrong.
"We couldn't run the football," said Patterson, referring to his team's 108 yards on the ground. "We have a lot of good plays, if we could block people.
"It started at the line of scrimmage," the coach added. "We got beat up front, and then we were throwing the ball more than we wanted to."
Signs of Western Illinois' downfall began in the first quarter when junior punter Mike Scifres chased a snap over his head to Western Illinois' 15-yard line. Showing balance and poise, Scifres was able to line-drive the ball back up field.
Scifres was given another chance on the Leathernecks' next possession, but his punt was blocked by Youngstown State's Antulio Aroche, putting the Penguins into position for their first touchdown.
"That was a huge play," Patterson said. "We were trading punts and no one was doing much of anything."
More missed opportunities plagued the Leathernecks, this time in the second quarter, when Youngstown State stopped them on fourth-and-goal from the 2.
Confidence shattered: "It's hard to settle for a field goal on fourth-and-goal at the 2," Patterson said. "We felt we could make it."
Western Illinois' next possession ended when freshman Justin Langan missed a 28-yard field goal wide right.
Western Illinois only added to its problems when Clemons misfired on the offense's next opportunity, being intercepted by LeVar Greene.
The Penguins' offense took advantage and put Western Illinois behind 21-0 with just under two minutes remaining in the half.
Greene intercepted Clemons again in the second half, returning the ball 23 yards for a touchdown, which put Youngstown State ahead 34-0 to start the fourth quarter.
"I wouldn't say [the loss] was because of the layoff," Clemons said. "It was nerves. It was a big game because it's Youngstown State. It took us a while to get on the same page."