The Penguins' defense blanked the Bears in the second half.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- For the second week in a row, the Youngstown State football team needed a second-half rally to secure a victory.
The Penguins, trailing the University of Maine 14-13 at halftime, dominated the Black Bears in the second half and recorded their second straight win 34-14 before 15,867 fans at Stambaugh Stadium.
A week ago the Penguins led Slippery Rock 28-14 at halftime and saw The Rock pull to within 28-21 before pulling away for a 51-21 victory.
Saturday the Penguins struggled on offense and defense in the first half and allowed the Black Bears to take the lead.
The second half started pretty shaky, too, as junior quarterback Tom Zetts threw an interception deep in his own territory on the first play from scrimmage.
But the YSU defense answered the call and shut down the Bears. Then Zetts recovered and drove for touchdowns on the next two possessions.
"We made some adjustments at halftime, but nothing real major," said YSU head coach Jon Heacock. "Our guys just came out wired up and took control."
"Our defense was huge in the third quarter as they just shut down their offense and never let them get anything going."
The Black Bears (0-1) had 110 yards rushing and 94 passing in the first half and 204 total yards. They finished the game with 124 rushing, 104 passing and 201 total yards as the YSU defense played at its best.
Zetts, who struggled early, came on to finish 12 of 21 for 178 yards and three touchdowns, although he did throw two interceptions and was sacked once.
The running game was again led by senior Marcus Mason, who went over the 100-yard mark for the second straight week with 107 yards on 29 carries and one touchdown. Senior Monquantae Gibson added 23 yards and scored the Penguins' other rushing touchdown.
Senior wide receiver T.J. Peterson had his best game as a Penguin with five catches, including two for touchdowns, one on a 42-yard play from Zetts. Junior tight end Louis Irizarry caught his first touchdown pass as a Penguin on a 7-yard toss by Zetts in the third quarter.
"They were loading up the box on us to stop the run so the pass was open and we probably could have thrown more," said Heacock.
Maine head coach Jack Cosgrove praised the Penguins and Zetts.
"The best team won out there today," Cosgrove said. "But give a lot of credit to the quarterback. He came out and threw a quick pick and then almost another one, then just completely dominated us the rest of the way. He was the difference."
The Penguins got on the board first with the help of the Bears, who had the snap on a punt attempt sail over the head of Kash Kiefer at the Maine 13-yard line.
On the first play Mason got outside and raced to the end zone. Sophomore kicker Brian Palmer kicked the point after, but the Penguins were called for a penalty and his second attempt, which holder Todd Rowan had trouble handling, hit the left upright.
The Black Bears came right back. On the second play, Arel Gorden broke loose for a 75-yard touchdown run and a 7-6 Maine lead.
Zetts and Peterson put the Penguins back on top in the second quarter with their 42-yard scoring play, but the Black Bears scored with 25 seconds remaining in the half on a pass from Ron Whitcomb to Manzi Pierre covering 31 yards.
After Zetts threw the interception to open the third quarter and the defense quickly stopped the Bears, the Penguins started again. On his first pass he threw it right into the chest of a Maine defensive back, who couldn't hold on.
Zetts then settled down and drove the team 71 yards, hitting Peterson with a 16-yard scoring toss. After the defense sent the Bears to the sidelines quickly, he came back and drove 71 yards again, this time finding a wide-open Irizarry for the score.
Junior defensive back Bob Perez picked off a Whitcomb pass midway in the final quarter and returned it to Maine territory and Zetts then guided the final scoring drive with Gibson going over for the final yard with 1:30 remaining in the game.