Penguins put the clamps on Bears, 49-21
Youngstown State combined a strong defensive effort and a solid ground attack to knock off the Missouri State Bears, 49-21 Saturday (Sept. 29) evening in the Gateway Football Conference opener for both squads. The Penguins (4-1, 1-0) rushed for 304 yards and scored five times on the ground while limiting the Bears (3-2, 0-1) to 305 yards of total offense.
Trailing 7-0 after Missouri State’s Gerald Davis bolted 51 yards for a touchdown on the Bears’ first offensive possession of the contest, Youngstown State reeled off 28 unanswered points and held MSU’s offense in check for most of the evening to post its fourth consecutive victory.
Youngstown State seized control of the contest in the second quarter, thanks largely to a defense that was able to get consistent pressure on MSU quarterback Cody Kirby. YSU sacked the Bears’ freshman signal-caller three times in the period, and free safety Dorian Chenault’s interception near mid-field at the 2:17 mark set up a crucial Penguin scoring drive. Two plays after Kevin Smith’s 19-yard run gave Youngstown State a first-and-goal, Ferlando Williams, Jr. took a direct snap out of the shotgun and sprinted five yards to the endzone to give the Penguins a 21-7 cushion.
Williams’s touchdown put the finishing touches on a dominant second-quarter performance by YSU that saw the Penguins outgain the Bears 144 to 29 in total yardage. The home team racked up 299 yards of total offense to the Bears’ 130 in the opening half.
The Penguins kept the pressure on to start the second half as well. A booming punt by YSU’s Ben Nowicki pinned the Bears inside the five to open their first possession of the second half. After the Penguins’ defense held MSU to three-and-out, Youngstown was able to take advantage of a short field and march the ball 41 yards in four plays. Smith carried for the final seven yards to top the 100-yard rushing mark and score his third touchdown of the evening to extend YSU’s lead to 28-7 with 10:38 to go in the third period. Smith finished the night with 102 yards on 15 carries to lead the YSU ground game.
The Bears responded with a five-play, 74-yard scoring march that trimmed the deficit to 14 points after Kirby found Jeremy Nicholson in the endzone for a six-yard strike. But Youngstown State drove 70 yards in nine plays, scoring on a three-yard run by Williams to take a 35-14 lead. The Penguins recovered an Eric Davis’ fumble on the ensuing kickoff and only had to go 28 yards for another score, a three-yard pass from Tom Zetts to Ben Lane that capped an 11-minute span in which YSU outscored the Bears 28-7.
Missouri State got off to a quick start in the first half when Davis broke loose on a third and short from the MSU 49 to give the Bears a lead just two minutes into the ballgame. Youngstown State answered with a touchdown on its first possession of the game when Smith finished off a 65-yard drive with an 11-yard run up the middle to pull the Penguins even.
The Penguins grabbed their first lead of the contest early in the second period on a one-yard plunge by Smith and never looked back. Zetts helped create the scoring opportunity with a 17-yard scamper to the Missouri State 10 on what appeared to be a broken play. The senior quarterback ran for nine more yards on the very next play to set up Smith’s second score of the evening.
Davis finished the game with 65 yards on eight carries, and Kirby completed 19-of-31 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown.
Missouri State returns to action next Saturday (Oct. 6) when it hosts Illinois State in a 2 p.m. contest at Plaster Field. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Net Midwest (FSN) as part of the Gateway’s television package.