Carbondale, Ill. -- The defense kept them in it. The offense helped them roar back. And a special teams touchdown sealed it as the Youngstown State football team overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to beat Southern Illinois 35-23 on Saturday at Saluki Stadium.
YSU (3-3 overall and 2-2 in the MVFC) outscored Southern Illinois (2-4 and 1-3) 28-6 in the second half after falling behind 17-7 at halftime.
For the Penguins, it was the first road victory under second-year Head Coach Eric Wolford and it marked the first time in his short tenure, YSU rallied from a halftime deficit to win a ballgame.
YSU scored four second-half touchdowns in the win, three of which came in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the defenses stepped up for both team's to keep it close. Finally, YSU caught a break.
After being stopped on a third-and-five at their own 47, Nick Liste's punt was mishandled by SIU's LaSteven McKinney at the six and deflected off Penguin long snapper Nate Schkurko. With Schkurko in hot pursuit, senior cornerback Josh Lee pounced on the ball in the end zone. After a brief discussion by the officiating crew, YSU was awarded the touchdown to go in front 35-23 with 2:48 left in the game.
In the first half, the defense held the Salukis to 142 yards on 38 plays.
The offense came out with something to prove in the third quarter and scored 21 points. They got a big boost from Jamaine Cook who took YSU's first offensive play of the half 69 yards.
On their next possession, the Penguins moved 82 yards in seven plays and this time Cook took it in from two yards out for their first lead of the day at 21-17.
Hampton answered with his third touchdown run of the day, this time from 20 yards out with 3:32 left in the third. Davion Rogers blocked the extra point as the Penguins trailed 23-21.
YSU came right back when Hess threw a 15-yard scoring toss to Jelani Berassa with 1:11 remaining in the third for a 28-23 lead.
After 190 yards on 32 snaps in the first half, YSU had 235 on 15 plays in the third quarter and scored three touchdowns.
Hess finished the game completing 16-of-21 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns. Bryan caught five passes for a career-high 131 yards while Jamaine Cook had 179 yards on 32 carries. The Penguins defense was credited with four sacks while Travis Williams had a game-high 11 tackles, including nine solos.
In the first half, the Penguins turned the ball over twice on fumbles in Southern Illinois territory. Meanwhile SIU had scoring drives of 43, 58 and 16 yards to go in front 17-7 at the break. YSU had 190 yards compared to the Salukis' 142.
Southern Illinois took a 7-0 lead with 3:15 left in the first half on a two-yard run by Hampton capping an eight-play 43-yard drive.
The Penguins picked up some momentum shortly after when Jeremey Edwards intercepted a Kory Faulkner pass and returned it 14 yards to the SIU 42.
Five plays later, the Penguins found the end zone for the first time when Adaris Bellamy scored on a two-yard run on a third-and-goal.
The Salukius answered immediately going just 58 yards on eight plays as Hampton found the end zone for the second time in the first half, this time from six yards out. Hampton's run came on the first play after SIU converted a 4th-and-1 at the YSU 10.
Southern Illinois tacked on a 34-yard field goal by Jackson MacLachlan with 1:05 left in the first half.
On their first possession of the game Penguins moved the ball, but Hess stripped on a third-down run that would have given YSU a first down and SIU recovered at its own 29. In the second quarter, Berassa made a nice catch and run, but was stripped the Salukis pounced on the ball at their own 28.
The Penguins return to action next Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium when they play host to Saint Francis (Pa.). Kickoff for the contest is set for 4 p.m.