Mooney’s Kennedy kicks game-winner for YSU


Mooney’s Kennedy hits game-winning FG for YSU

By Brian Dzenis

bdzenis@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Youngstown State’s football team stood by Zak Kennedy and the senior kicker rewarded that trust.

Heading into Saturday’s contest against Southern Illinois, Kennedy was 2 for 6 on field goals this season — making him the worst kicker in the Missouri Valley Football Conference in terms of accuracy. He said the team has consistently kept its faith in him despite his kicking malaise.

“It really hasn’t been an up and down year. I missed some kicks,” Kennedy said. “Practice-wise, I haven’t missed a lot. I’ve been confident and I’m thankful to my teammates, coach [Bo Pelini] and the rest of the coaches who have helped me keep my confidence up.”

The Cardinal Mooney graduate made three field goals out of four attempts, including a 34-yard, game-winning field goal with 26 seconds left to give the Penguins a 17-14 victory.

“It’s amazing, but it’s what I’m here to do and hopefully, we can start a streak with that.” Kennedy said.

Kennedy made field goals of 32 and 24 yards in addition to the winning kick. The miss came from 42 yards, but Pelini said Kennedy’s holder — punter Mark Schuler — took responsibility for the miss.

“I’m not one to give out game balls, but I gave him the game ball,” Pelini said. “He’s gone through some tough times — some criticism — but I’m happy for Zak.”

YSU (2-3, 1-1 MVFC) tied the game at 14 with Tevin McCaster’s 1-yard touchdown run with 4:36 left to play in a drive that saw two would-be touchdown passes called back. One came on a review that Natavious Payne didn’t complete the catch, the other was on a holding penalty. Quarterback Montgomery VanGorder had an interception called back due to a Saluki pass interference call.

The kick salvaged a brutal offensive outing for the Penguins, which saw quarterback Montgomery VanGorder throw two interceptions and get sacked three times. The Penguins had three woeful trips to the red zone.

“We’re doing too many things that take us out of drives and that has me shaking my head,” Pelini said.

In the second quarter, a muffed Southern Illinois punt return put the Penguins at the Saluki 21. On the first play, center Vitas Hrynkiewicz snapped the ball over VanGorder’s head for a 22-yard loss. The two sides traded penalties to put YSU at the SIU 18. The Penguins worked their way to a first-and-goal at the 5, but McCaster was stuffed three times and YSU settled for Kennedy’s 24-yard field goal.

The Penguins had a chance to take a lead in the final minute before halftime, but VanGorder was picked off by the Saluki’s Jeremy Chinn in the end zone.

YSU drove to the SIU 10 to open the second half, but backed up 12 yards on a backward pass and a sack before Kennedy’s 42-yard field goal attempt that was short, left and nowhere close to getting through the uprights.

Matt DeSomer got the start at quarterback for SIU (1-4, 0-2) because regular starter Sam Straub was dealing with concussion symptoms. DeSomer passed for 105 yards, rushed for 100 and scored on a QB sneak. D.J. Davis had a 5-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter.

McCaster rushed for 116 yards in addition to scoring. The defense collected five sacks, with Shereif Bynum collecting two. Ma’lik Richmond’s fourth-quarter sack set up the Salukis to punt from their end zone. Lane Reazin shanked the punt to give the Penguins the ball at the SIU 39 to eventually set up McCaster’s TD. VanGorder hit Zach Farrar for the two-point conversion.

YSU plays at South Dakota State on Saturday.

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