Penguins romp, await playoff invite
RELATED: YSU shows military appreciation
By Brian Dzenis
Call it a never-say-die attitude or just wishful thinking, Youngstown State’s football team isn’t quite ready to close the book on the 2017 season.
The Penguins closed out the regular season on Saturday with a decisive 38-10 victory against Missouri State and for coach Bo Pelini, it was time to do some scoreboard watching.
“Let’s see what happens and we’ll figure it out from there,” Pelini said.
At 6-5 with a 4-4 mark in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, it’s hard to see the Penguins making the FCS postseason. Five league teams have either matched or exceeded the Penguins’ overall record. That number goes to six when looking at MVFC records.
With the exception of Western Illinois — whom YSU didn’t play — and South Dakota State, all of the teams ahead of YSU have a win over the Penguins.
The team’s case is based on a recent run of good form with a three-game winning streak, plus the degree of difficulty of the MVFC itself.
“We’ve been in some tough games. We had some games where we lost by three at the end,” running back Tevin McCaster said. “I do think we deserve to get in. If we do get in, I know we’ll be dangerous.”
With the exception of a 35-0 beatdown by Illinois State, it’s hard to argue that the Penguins played poorly this season. YSU’s losses to South Dakota, North Dakota State and Northern Iowa came by a combined 10 points during a four-game losing streak. There was also the 28-21 overtime loss to Pitt (FBS) to open the season.
Missouri State (3-8, 2-6) offered little resistance as rain came down at Stambaugh Stadium. The weather plus slim playoff chances made for a crowd that was a bit short of the announced attendance of 9,362.
“I thought our kids played well and played hard. There was rain, but I’ve played in worse and it didn’t end up being that bad,” Pelini said. “I appreciate the fans that came out and it was big day for the seniors.
“It was an emotional day and these kids have done a lot for the program and the community and I wished there were more people that saw it today, but it is what it is.”
A Missouri State gaffe on special teams gave YSU a two-score lead in the first quarter. Following Zak Kennedy’s 30-yard field goal, the Bears went three-and-out with a snap flying over punter Brandon Withrow’s head.
Withrow didn’t make much of an effort to dive on the loose ball in the end zone, but Samuel St. Surin did for the Penguins’ first touchdown.
The Penguins added two more rushing touchdowns in the second quarter with one each from McCaster and South Range graduate Joe Alessi took his first carry of the contest 34 yards for a score.
The Penguins piled up 284 yards on the ground, averaging close to eight yards a carry. For the first time all season, YSU’s offensive line did not allow a sack.
“We just gelled at the right time. It was just a good day for us,” left tackle Justin Spencer said.
McCaster added a 28-yard rushing TD in the fourth quarter and Ricky Davis also found the end zone with a minute to go.
Missouri State broke the shutout with Zach Drake’s 29-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. Myron Mason scored his teams first touchdown on a 4-yard run with two-and-a-half minutes left.