YSU comes up short, 34-28
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The Youngstown State football team made a gallant effort Saturday before dropping a 34-28 decision to Southwest Missouri State at Plaster Field.
The Penguins, who finished the year with their second straight seven-loss record, wound up at 4-7 overall and 2-5 in the Gateway Conference, and again will be among the bottom three in the standings.
It marked the first time in nine tries that Southwest Missouri State (6-5, 2-4 Gateway) has beaten a YSU team.
The big difference in the game was a 76-yard, 20-play drive by the Bears that used 10 minutes, 14 seconds and put them ahead 31-21 with 6:20 remaining in the contest.
Penguins bounce back
YSU, which had the football for just 53 seconds during the first 12 minutes of the final quarter, bounced back after senior Matt Rycraft returned a kickoff 75 yards to the SMS 17. Redshirt freshman quarterback Tom Zetts hit Rycraft with a perfectly thrown pass for a 7-yard touchdown to close the game, 34-28.
The Penguins did get one last chance at their own 29 with 1:36 remaining, but with no timeouts they could only get to the SMS 43 before time ran out.
"We just didn't do the things we needed to do to win the football game," said a dejected YSU coach Jon Heacock. "Give Southwest Missouri State credit, because they did those things needed to win."
Zetts had his second-best game as a Penguin, hitting on 18 of 25 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns. But he did throw one key interception that led to the Bears' final points -- a 34-yard field goal by Jon Scifres, his 16th consecutive field goal of the season.
The Penguins finished with just 98 yards rushing and 348 total yards, while they allowed 283 yards on the ground and 395 total yards.
Time of possession
But the major difference was in time of possession as the Bears held the football for 40:22, while the Penguins had the ball only 19:38.
The Penguins couldn't stop senior tailback Cody Pratt, who set a school record with 43 carries and gained 176 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Preston Portee added 90 yards on 19 carries and one score.
Leading 17-14 at halftime, the Bears drove 69 yards to open the second half and scored on a 3-yard run by Pratt.
YSU closed the gap on a one-play drive following a penalty by the Bears, as Zetts found a wide-open junior tight end Shawn Carlson on a 69-yard touchdown pass.
But then the Bears took over the clock as they got the ball with 1:34 remaining in the third quarter. Twenty plays later they completed a 76-yard drive with 6:20 remaining in the game on a 1-yard run by Portee.
Then Zetts threw the interception on first down, and four plays later Scifres kicked the field goal.
YSU senior placekicker Nick Terracina broke the school record for consecutive extra points. He kicked four of four to give him 48 straight career PATs and 31-of-31 this season, both records.
The Penguins never trailed until the final seconds of the first half.
Long, opening drive
YSU opened the game by driving 80 yards in four plays to take a 7-0 lead.
The big play was a 73-yard pass from Zetts to senior tight end Mike Roberts that took the Penguins from their own 26 to the Bears' 1-yard line.
On third down and under a heavy rush, Zetts dumped the ball over the line to a wide-open Roberts in the middle of the field. The big tight end was finally pulled down from behind by SMS's Chris Harris at the 1.
On the next play Monquantae Gibson slashed over for the touchdown.
Southwest Missouri State tied the score early in the second quarter after a 64-yard drive in 12 plays, 11 of them runs by Pratt, who went over the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the second straight year.
With a third-and-goal at the 5, Porter hit a wide-open Jay Steinbroner for the touchdown.
The Penguins came right back on the following series, after Rycraft returned the kickoff to midfield.
Terracina sets YSU mark
Junior Josh Cayson carried five straight times to the SMS 1-yard line before Zetts passed to Roberts for a 14-7 lead. Terracina made his 29th consecutive extra point of the year to set a YSU record.
The Bears scored the final 10 points of the half, all coming in the final 3 minutes of the second quarter.
They drove 83 yards for the first one, highlighted by a 48-yard pass from Porter to Kaya Ferris and then an 8-yard run by Pratt.
After holding the Penguins to three-and-out on the next series, the Bears moved quickly again.
Porter fired two straight completions, first for 20 yards to Smith and then 21 yards to Tony Hill to the YSU 18.
With time running out from the 6-yard line, the Bears settled for a 23-yard field goal from Scifres, his 13th consecutive field goal this year without a miss.