YSU rolls UNI in complete performance on Senior Day
By Brian Dzenis
Youngstown State used its final home contest of the season to show what could have been.
The Penguins put together their best performance to date in a 31-10 win against Northern Iowa on the team’s Senior Day. Between Saturday and a valiant effort the week before in a 17-7 loss to North Dakota State, the Penguins put to bed any suggestion that the team has given up.
“We want to show everyone that this Youngstown program and these coaches have our support. They’ve done a phenominal job. Coach Bo Pelini, [offensive coordinator] Brian Crist and [offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo], I couldn’t say enough about them,” senior center Vitas Hrynkiewicz said. “The season wasn’t a reflection of them.”
YSU (4-6, 3-4 Missouri Valley Football Conference) ruined Northern Iowa’s playoff hopes by handing the Top 25 vote-receiving Panthers (5-5, 4-3 MVFC) their fifth loss of the season.
Tevin McCaster rushed for 136 yards and three touchdowns. Other than a fourth-quarter interception from Montgomery VanGorder, there were few mistakes.
“That was probably our most complete effort. We picked each other up after the interception. Defensively, we were playing pretty well,” Pelini said. “Offensively, we were pretty efficient. That’s a pretty good football team that we just beat.”
The Penguins caught a few breaks to take an early lead. In the first quarter starting from their 9-yard line, Montgomery hit a short pass to Darius Shackleford, who spun away from a nearby defender and ran untouched for a 62-yard touchdown.
Later on in the second quarter, punter Mark Schuler bobbled a snap, but was able send the ball to the Panther 1. Ma’lik Richmond forced Marcus Weymiller to fumble at the 5 and McCaster marched into the end zone one play later.
Northern Iowa broke the shutout in the final minute of the first half with Eli Dunne’s 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Briley Moore.
The Penguins took further control of the game in the second half. On YSU’s first drive, it took just two plays to score with VanGorder tossing a 52-yard pass to Miles Joiner to set up a 29 yard-run for McCaster. The former walk-on later scored on a 3-yard run out of the Wildcat and now has 1,093 rushing yards for the season.
“I just go to work everyday, but when I look back at it, I think it’s awesome,” McCaster said of his career. “I just appreciate the city of Youngstown so much.”
Cardinal Mooney graduate Ray Anderson recovered a botched Northern Iowa snap at the YSU 4 and had a 45-yard return that set up fellow Mooney grad Zak Kennedy for a 28-yard field goal.
After starting all season at left guard, senior Gavin Wiggins shifted to left tackle in place of redshirt freshman Dan Becker. Jacob Zinni, a junior from West Branch, started at left guard. Pelini made the switch to have an experienced lineman guard against Northern Iowa’s Rickey Neal. Neal is third in the MVFC in sacks with 6.5.
“Gavin did really well and we didn’t give up a sack. We had great group cohesion. [Becker] has been doing really well and I think he’s going to be a star at YSU,” Hrynkiewicz said. “Jacob also came in a did a great job and helped us out. I’m so proud of all the guys.”
YSU put up 401 yards of offense and had just two penalties on offense.
“I’m starving. I think I’m going to eat a couple of wings and I think the other guys are thinking the same things,” Hyrnkiewicz said of how the o-line will celebrate Senior Day. “We’ll have a nice huge dinner and have some nice fat-guy hugs.”
The fourth quarter had a lengthy delay as Moore had to be taken off on a stretcher. He appeared to injure his neck as he ran into a teammate. He put his arm up and made a fist as he was carried off the field.