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Gutsy call rallies UNI to comeback win over YSU

Published: Sun, November 6, 2011 @ 12:10 a.m.

By Joe Scalzo



Over the past decade, the Youngstown State football program has sometimes seemed miles away from Northern Iowa.

On Saturday, it was only inches.

Thanks to a gutsy call on fourth-and-goal with two minutes remaining, the Panthers rallied for a 21-17 win Saturday in a game that officially ended the Penguins’ playoff hopes, but left many inside the program believing they’re closer than they’ve been in years to competing for a league title.

“We’re heading in the right direction,” YSU coach Eric Wolford said. “Northern Iowa is one of the elite teams in this league, one that’s been consistently at the top. We’re trying to get Youngstown back to that.”

After giving up a quick touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half, the Penguins’ defense forced punts on UNI’s first six possessions, allowing YSU to regain the lead, 17-14, on a 38-yard TD pass from Kurt Hess to tight end Will Shaw with 13:42 to go in the fourth quarter.

But YSU’s next two possessions lasted just six plays, with UNI forcing punts both times.

Northern Iowa’s game-winning drive started at its own 37 with 7:29 left.

Behind a 32-yard pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Jared Lanpher (starting in place of senior standout Tirrell Rennie) and seven rushes by David Johnson, the Panthers drove inside the Penguin 1, where they faced fourth-and-inches with about two minutes remaining.

“It’s a split-second decision,” UNI coach Mark Farley said of going for the win instead of the game-tying field goal. “It comes down to a gut instinct.

“I think you’ve got to trust in your football team and have confidence in them.”

Johnson first tried to leap over the pile, got stuffed, but kept his feet moving, plowing over the right side of the line for the touchdown with 1:59 left.

“It came down to a game of inches and I made a huge mental error and it cost us,” said YSU senior defensive tackle Andrew Johnson, whose offsides penalty six plays earlier gave UNI a first-and-5 at the YSU 9. “I feel like we can go head-to-head up against anybody. We proved that against Michigan State and in the second half.”

YSU got the ball back at its own 26, then picked up a first down at the 38. But three straight incompletions, combined with a false start penalty, left the Penguins with a fourth-and-15 at the 33.

Hess tried to hit freshman Christian Bryan on a deep route over the middle but the pass went too high and got picked off by Garrett Scott to end the threat.

“We have to go out there and close out the game,” Hess said. “It’s one thing to take the lead, it’s another to close out the game. We didn’t do that.”

Jamaine Cook carried 30 times for 90 yards and a TD for YSU, which will play at No. 1 North Dakota State next weekend.

Lanpher, in his first start, completed 16 of 28 passes for 238 yards — 162 of them in the first half — and two TDs.

With Rennie out, UNI rushed 27 times and netted just 30 yards.

Ultimately, YSU needed it to be 29.

“It’s just another great game between Youngstown and Northern Iowa,” said Farley, whose team has won 11 straight against the Penguins. “We were fortunate to win this game and many before it. We’ll take this one.”


1valleyred(1103 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

Officially ended our playoff hopes ehhh?

Win out with wins over #17 ILSU and #1 NDSU, I can assure you we have a great shot at the playoffs.

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2valleyred(1103 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

arod, he has a 5 year deal, again you don't know what in the hell you are talking about.

Derf, our resume, if we were to upset NDSU, would be stronger than Illinois State's and Indiana State's as I outline in my article below:


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3pioneer9(7 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

Valleyred, great article and I really do believe that you are making great sense of the situation (rather than those who just throw in the "we suck" comment every time we lose a game.... even when it is against some of the best competition in the nation)

I will agree with you that Scalzo's article "Down and Maybe Out" was a little presumptuous (meaning no offense to you, Joe) At that time, the Penguins still had an opportunity to go 8-3 and, in my mind, easily make the playoffs. However, 7-4 is a completely different story than 8-3... and it brings a completely different set of obstacles. Consider the following:

(1) Think beyond Indiana State and Illinois State. YSU has to compete against several teams to get into the playoffs this season... Let's look at the field of 20... Big Sky will get 2 team, Big South 1, MEAC 1, NEC 1, Ohio Valley 1, Patriot 1, SoCon 3, Southland 1, CAA 4, NDSU and UNI. That's 17 teams right there and that's just the givens! CAA has 3 more teams in the Top 20 right now, Great West's South Dakota has a chance to prove some things in the stretch (2 of their loses are to good FBS teams) and the OVC and Southland might both have another eligible. So, it's not even a given that the MVFC will get 3 teams in this year. I think they will. But there's no guarantee so we can bank on that.

(2) History is a good indicator. 7-4 has never been a record to hold your hat on for the Penguins. In fact, neither has 8-3! In 2005, the Penguins went 8-3 and even ended the season by pummeling once #1 Western Kentucky. The result... a missed playoff berth in favor of a lackluster Colgate squad even though YSU had earned a share of the Gateway Conference crown.

(3) Fickle Voters. Sure, YSU plays some top competition... outside of the CAA teams, MVFC schools probably play the most competitive schedules in FCS. However, it's there non-conference games that concern me... not that I think that there schedule is too light but that the voters are going to use a very mediocre non-conference schedule as an excuse to exclude YSU from the postseason. St. Francis is 2-6 in an unimpressive NEC and Valpo is 0-9 in the middle Pioneer League. And as crazy as it seems, they will hold that against the Penguins

Long story short, I agree with you but am a little less optimistic. Hopefully, I am wrong. We'll know more after NDSU.

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