The Cowboys jumped out to a 21-0 lead.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State head football coach Jon Heacock knew Saturday's game with McNeese State was going to be a playoff-caliber meeting, but he didn't know that only one team was going to play up to that billing.
The Cowboys jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead and then went on to hand the Penguins their first loss of the year, 28-13, before 17,829 fans at Stambaugh Stadium.
"They are a playoff-caliber team and they played like one tonight," Heacock said. "We played like a team in the second week of the season."
Through three quarters, the Penguins had managed just 60 rushing yards; but again when trying to play catch up football, the running game gives way to the passes.
Mays gets first score
The Penguins were down 21-0 before they scored on P.J. Mays's 1-yard run.
Mays, the senior tailback, set up the score with a 48-yard scamper to the McNeese 4-yard line.
On the night, Mays finished with 90 yards on 21 carries, while he also caught five passes for 73 yards and was the Penguins' top receiver.
After the Cowboys scored two first-half touchdowns, they tallied two more times.
The first one came on an 81-yard punt return by B.J. Sams on YSU's first punt of the second half. Sams was barely touched by a Penguin on the return.
Iced the victory
The Cowboys iced the victory with 9:14 remaining in the final period when Roderick Royal batted a Luis Gonzalez pass into the air, caught it and raced 20 yards for the score.
Gonzalez came on for starting quarterback Colby Street in the second half, but neither was effective for the Penguins.
Street finished 5-of-10 for 88 yards, while Gonzalez was 7-of-15 for 104 yards and one interception.
"We've got to find a quarterback," Heacock said. "Nothing is happening there. Right now that position is wide open again."
Senior Justin Green came on in the final period and quarterbacked the Penguins on an 87-yard touchdown drive for the second and final YSU score.
Brought back regulars
The drive started against the Cowboys subs, but they brought back the first team. That didn't stop the Penguins as junior tailback Darius Peterson carried seven times for 38 yards and Green hit two of three passes.
Peterson carried the final yard for the score with 1:13 remaining.
"We've got a lot of fixing to do this week and I mean at every position, even the head coach," Heacock said. "This next week we'll work on Youngstown State and then the following week we'll work on Western Kentucky."
The Penguins are idle next Saturday and play at Western Kentucky on Sept. 21.
The Penguins had trouble figuring out the Cowboys in the first half, both on offense and defense.
After stopping the Cowboys on their first offensive possession, the Penguins couldn't get anything going themselves. After getting into McNeese territory, the Penguins were forced to punt.
Starting at its own 20, McNeese then drove for its first touchdown, a seven-play, 80-yard drive that featured passes of 22 and 13 yards by Pendarvis to Jermaine Martin and Britt Brodhead to the YSU 25.
On first down, the Cowboys ran the end-around play and Sams rambled 25 yards for the touchdown with 6:48 remaining in the period.
After the Penguins were forced to three-and-out on offense, the Cowboys came right back, starting at the YSU 38 yard line.
This time, it took six plays and Pendarvis hit Jason Cook with a 28-yard touchdown pass with 1:44 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Penguins got down to some serious defense after that and held the Cowboys to three-and-out on three straight series, while the YSU offense was just unable to get anything going.
The Penguins threatened when on first down from their own 28, Street lobbed a pass to a wide open John Schumacher, who lost his balance catching the ball or he would have scored. By the time he regained his balance he was caught from behind at the McNeese 24 yard line.
The drive stalled there and Street was sacked on third down and junior place kicker Jake Stewart missed a 47-yard field goal attempt.