Third-quarter deluge buries Bears
A crucial penalty at the start of the second half swung game momentum in favor of the visiting eighth-ranked Youngstown State Penguins and they buried the Missouri State Bears with an avalanche of third quarter touchdowns and rolled to a 37-10 victory Saturday night at Plaster Field in the Gateway Football Conference opener for both teams.
After outplaying the visitors to take a 10-9 halftime lead, Missouri State stopped the Penguins on YSU’s first possession of the third period and forced a punt. The Bears returned the kick to midfield but were whistled for roughing the punter. With new life, defending Gateway co-champ YSU struck on a 22-yard pass from QB Tom Zetts to WR Louis Irizarry and then TB Marcus Mason broke up the middle for a 42-yard touchdown run to give the Penguins a lead they never surrendered.
The Bears tried a pass of their own on their first play after the kickoff and YSU S Jason Perry raced across the grain to intercept the pass and go 40 yards for another quick TD to make it 23-10 with 10:45 left in the third period. The Penguins got the ball back on punts twice more in the quarter and tallied on a 75-yard drive and a 48-yard drive as Zetts threw scoring passes of nine yards to TE Max King and 48 yards to WR T.J. Peterson. The Penguins’ 28-point explosion pushed them in front 37-10 after three periods and the Bears didn’t find any answers the rest of the way.
Missouri State took the opening kickoff 71 yards and 14 plays and had a first down on the YSU nine before the Bears had to settle for a Nathan Stokes field goal. YSU got a short TD run from Mason on its first possession and the Penguins added a field goal but Missouri State got the ball back on a punt on the YSU 47 with three minutes to play. The Bears marched into the red zone and TB Michael Cooper went over the top to cover the final yards with 30 seconds left in the period to make it 10-9 at the half.
The Bears outgained YSU both rushing and passing in the first half but it was a different story after intermission as the visitors wound up with a 344-218 advantage in total yards for the contest. Zetts was an efficient 8-of-14 passing for 150 yards and two TDs and Mason finished with 130 yards and two touchdowns rushing.
Cooper led the ground attack for the Bears with 75 yards rushing but QB Matt Krapfl got only 95 yards through the air on 13 completions in 22 throws. TE Payne Hall had four catches for 49 yards. K Nathan Stokes stayed perfect for the season in PATs (12/12), hit his fourth field goal in five tries for the year and stayed solid in punting with a 43.5-yard average on six punts.
The Bears dip to 1-4 on the season while Youngstown climbs to 4-1. Missouri State takes on its second straight defending league co-champ next week when the Bears venture to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to take on the University of Northern Iowa Panthers at 4:05 p.m. UNI was the runner-up in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs last season.