Turnovers and mistakes plagued YSU in a 31-23 loss to Northern Iowa.
By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
YOUNGSTOWN -- Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley never has lost to Youngstown State University during his six-year tenure at the helm of the Gateway Conference program.
Farley doesn't believe in curses, jinxes or karma, but Penguin fans left Stambaugh Stadium shaking their heads thinking the Panthers definitely have Youngstown's number after watching YSU drop a 31-23 decision to Northern Iowa.
Youngstown has won just six times in 21 games against its league rival.
"This was a huge win for us," Farley said. "To come out here and play a great football team on their Homecoming was a tough task. [Youngstown] made some mistakes, we made some mistakes. It came down to who was going to win it in the end.
On Saturday, the Penguins had plenty of chances to win the game in the final 23 minutes after trailing the Panthers 24-17 in the third quarter but couldn't get the job done.
Penguin quarterback Tom Zetts threw three of his four interceptions during that span. He only threw four in his first seven outings.
Turnover leads to score
Outstanding punt-return specialist Jason Perry fumbled a punt which gave the Panthers the ball at the YSU 18, and led to a score that put NIU up by eight points late in the game.
Sure-handed Youngstown receivers dropped passes in the open field, and an extra point attempt that would have tied the game at 24 was blocked.
But the Penguins still had a chance as the game clocked clicked to the final seconds.
Youngstown scored an apparent touchdown with 1:20 seconds left that would have given the Penguins the chance to tie the game and send it into overtime, but the score was negated by a penalty.
The Penguins couldn't recover and Northern Iowa left Youngstown with another victory.
"We were fortunate," Farley said. "We came here to play four quarters which you must do when you come here to play in the 'Ice Castle' and we won it on the last play."
Farley said that he doesn't believe there is anything to the Panther streak over YSU except that it makes his team prepare better.
"Past success means nothing," Farley said. "We didn't even talk about it as a team. This is this year's football team. They aren't last year's or next year's. We have a job to do and we were able to get it done.
"The only thing that we talk about prior to coming here is what this place is like to play in."
Farley said that Youngstown is one of the best venues in Division 1-AA football and its fans are outstanding.
In the storied rivalry between the two teams, YSU has had other heartbreaking losses to Northern Iowa, including a 31-28 playoff loss in the Uni-Dome in 1987 and a 35-32 loss in 1997.
Since 2001, YSU has been unable to break the mystique that the Panthers seem to possess when they play the Penguins.