Big halftime lead lifts YSU past Red Flash
By Joe Scalzo
David wasn’t armed with a slingshot against Goliath on Saturday, but at least he came with more than a blindfold and a cigarette this time.
Youngstown State’s second game this season against a partial scholarship FCS team was more competitive than the first, but the result was the same as the Penguins cruised to a 49-23 win over St. Francis (Pa.) at Stambaugh Stadium.
“I was concerned coming into the game that we might come out a little bit flat and not be ready to play,” said YSU coach Eric Wolford, whose team defeated Valparaiso 77-13 earlier this year. “But we did come out ready to play and that’s encouraging.”
Junior running back Jamaine Cook tied a school record with four touchdowns and went over 100 yards rushing for the sixth straight game, carrying 19 times for 162 yards.
The Penguins (4-3) rolled up 450 yards rushing and 646 yards total to best last year’s win total.
“We enjoy these games,” Cook said. “Every game is competition and we want to come out every game and get a win.”
Coming off their best win of the season, a 35-23 victory at Southern Illinois, the Penguins scored on six of their first seven possessions to take a 42-3 halftime lead.
YSU substituted liberally in the second half — backup quarterback Marc Kanetsky played all five series — and scored its lone touchdown on a 95-yard run by sophomore Jordan Thompson, who hadn’t played in nearly a month after separating his shoulder against Indiana State.
The run matched Marcus Mason’s school record for longest in school history, which he set against Western Illinois in 1996.
“I didn’t even know I tied the record until I heard it over the [P.A.],” Thompson said.
When asked if a run like that made him feel good, he smiled and said, “A run like that makes me feel exhausted.”
YSU’s 646 total yards was the second-highest in school history to the 657 it gained against Valpo this season but this game wasn’t nearly as lopsided as that one, if only because the Penguins didn’t have to spend the second half running off tackle with two seconds left on the play clock.
Both Valparaiso and St. Francis use far fewer than the 63 scholarships allowed under FCS rules and the rare October non-conference game was little more than speed bump on YSU’s road to bigger goals.
“The schedule’s the schedule,” Wolford said. “The only thing I’m concerned about is ... our team looks at another team’s record and may have a preconceived thought that they can just chalk up a win.
“I don’t think you can do that in this day and age of college football.”
St. Francis (1-7) burned YSU’s secondary for 202 yards passing in the second half and a touchdown. QB John Kelly finished with 288 yards passing and Kyle Harbridge adding 117 yards on 28 carries.
Kurt Hess completed 11 of 14 for 172 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the back of the end zone that cost the Penguins a chance to go 7-for-7 on scoring drives in the first half.
The Penguins return to Missouri Valley play next week when they host Western Illinois.
“It’s good to go out and get a win,” Wolford said. “Now we’ll move forward.”