Penguins pound Robert Morris for 48-28 win
QB Mitch Davidson completed 21 of his 25 pass attempts for a career-high 339 yards
YOUNGSTOWN — The quest for a dominant performance from start to finish will continue, but Youngstown State concluded its nonconference slate in convincing fashion nonetheless.
After Robert Morris took a 1-point lead early in the second quarter, the Penguins woke up and rattled off 35 consecutive points en route to a 48-28 demolition of the visiting Colonials on Saturday afternoon at Stambaugh Stadium.
“As a coach, you want to see that practice execution become game reality, and you want to see it in all (phases of the game). We’re striving for that,” YSU coach Doug Phillips said. “We talked about that going into this week’s game, and there were glimpses of it, but we’re certainly not there yet. We have to continue to improve.”
Youngstown State (2-1) was efficient offensively for nearly the whole day. The Penguins pieced together a pair of methodical touchdown drives on their first two offensive opportunities to take a 13-7 lead. The first was capped by a 6-yard Dra Rushton run and the other by a 32-yard Tyshon King scamper on a well-timed counter play.
Those two figured heavily into YSU’s day. King ran for 117 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries, while Rushton tallied 55 yards and three scores on 14 runs.
“We only stopped ourselves,” said King, alluding to a pair of first-half turnovers. “We put the defense in a bad spot with that turnover, but we felt like (Robert Morris) never stopped us today. We only stopped ourselves, and we feel like when we execute the way we should, nobody can stop us.”
However, for as efficient as the offense began things, the defense was equally inefficient at first. Struggling to get off the field, YSU gave up a pair of third down conversions and, on a fourth and 5, surrendered a 29-yard touchdown pass up the sideline from Anthony Chiccitt to Noah Robinson.
After the Colonials (1-2) picked off a Mitch Davidson pass, they struck again to take a 14-13 lead as RMU tailback Chaese Jackson took a handoff and then pulled up to fire a pass to Robinson, who hauled in the eight-yard score.
Robinson was a thorn in YSU’s side for much of the first half, and frequently on third downs. He caught eight passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns before halftime, but the Penguins were able to stifle him to just one catch after the break.
Chiccitt went 19-for-31 for 171 yards and two touchdowns, the latter of which was an 8-yard pass to Jackson in the fourth quarter after the game was well in hand for YSU.
And as Robinson became limited, RMU’s offense came to a halt. The Penguins kept their visitors off the scoreboard in the third quarter, and in fact, kept RMU to just three first downs in that stanza while growing the 27-14 halftime advantage to a 41-14 gap entering the fourth.
“They threw the ball up to him, and they hit some screens early, which was smart because it slows your pass rush,” Phillips said of Robinson. “We still have to get after the quarterback, and we made adjustments there (at halftime). He’s a tall receiver, very athletic, and you can throw the ball up to him. But just play your technique, trust it and trust your instincts and your execution. ‘Do your job’ was the key going into this game. They’re going to make some plays. … At the end of the day, you hope you make more plays than what they can.”
The interception aside, Davidson had perhaps his best — and certainly most efficient — game as a Penguin. The senior completed 21 of 25 passes for a career-high 339 yards, a touchdown and that one pick.
CJ Charleston had an especially impressive game out wide, hauling in six passes for 119 yards, including 81 yards after the catch. Of those, five catches for 105 yards came in the first half. Bryce Oliver caught six passes for 108 yards, including a 71-yard reception in the fourth quarter to set up a 7-yard Davidson touchdown run.
It was the first time since Nov. 4, 2017, that a pair of YSU receivers went over the century mark. That came in a 66-24 win at Indiana State, in which Damoun Patterson caught five passes for 143 yards while Sam St. Surin added two grabs for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the ground game churned out 5.95 yards per attempt, led by King’s efforts. Davidson added five runs for 42 yards and a touchdown, which came early in the fourth quarter.
In all, YSU racked up 595 yards of total offense on 69 plays — 8.62 yards per play. That dwarfed RMU’s output of 290 yards on 54 plays.
“We were using this game to see who we are and what we can do,” Davidson said. “I think we found out who we are and what we can do. What we did was very successful today, and I think we’re going to build upon that.”
The Penguins enter a bye week before beginning Missouri Valley play with a critical road trip to Northern Iowa on Sept. 30.