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The Youngstown State football team used a late-scoring surge and a rode a strong defensive effort to a 27-6 Senior Day win over Missouri Valley Football Conference foe No. 18 Indiana State on Saturday afternoon at Stambaugh Stadium.
With the win, the Penguins picked up their third straight victory to improve to 7-4 overall and 4-4 in the MVFC. Indiana State, the only team to defeat No. 1 North Dakota State, falls to 7-4 overall and 5-3 in the conference.
The Penguins' defense held Indiana State's Shakir Bell, who was averaging 142.1 rushing yards per game, to just 54 yards on 18 carries. Bell's longest rush of the game was 11 yards. The defense also posted two interceptions, had five tackles-for-losses, forced five punts and allowed just 4-of-13 third-down conversions.
Offensively, the Penguins racked up 394 total yards and won the time of possession battle, 36:36 to 23:24.
Senior Jamaine Cook ran for 124 yards on 30 carries with a touchdown. Cook also broke the YSU career all-purpose record previously held by Tamron Smith – 5,128 from 1990-93. Cook now has 5,220 all-purpose yards.
Cook, who recorded the 20th 100-yard effort of his career, also moved into second place on the Youngstown State career rushing list with 4,052 yards.
Junior quarterback Kurt Hess broke the YSU career touchdown-passes record after two scoring throws in the second half. Hess, who completed 20-of-28 passes for 248 yards, has 53 scoring strikes and notched the 18th 200-yard passing game of his career.
With the game tied and Indiana State inside the YSU 40, the Penguins' defense came up with a big play that swung the momentum in YSU's favor.
Donald D'Alesio, who had an interception called off by a penalty in the first half, picked off a half-back pass by Shakir Bell at the YSU three that stopped a potential scoring drive.
After the interception, the Penguins scored touchdowns on their next three possessions to take a 21-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.
The Penguins used a 10-play, 97-yard scoring drive capped by Hess' record-breaking touchdown toss to Andrew Williams that put the Guins ahead, 13-6, with 3:20 left in the third quarter.
After a 15-yard penalty, Hess hit on Bryan on passes of 20 and 16 yards to get down to the Sycamore 30.
The defense forced a Sycamore punt and the offense responded with another scoring drive to take a 20-6 lead with 14:18 left in the fourth. Cook capped the 54-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown run – his 15th of the season.
The Penguins took a 21-point lead, 27-6, when Hess found Williams again on a 43-yard touchdown pass to cap a six-play, 67-yard drive with 8:17 left.
Julius Childs, who led the Penguins with seven tackles, picked off a Mike Perish pass in the endzone with 6:08 left to stave off a Sycamore scoring threat.
The defense also forced the Sycamores to turn the ball over on downs with 2:28 to go to seal the victory.
Indiana State opened the second half with a 75-yard scoring drive and tied the game at 6-6 on a 32-yard field goal by Fristschle at the 12:21 mark of the third quarter. Again the Sycampores were aided by a YSU penalty. On a 15-yard pass from Perish to Tanner Riley, the Penguins were flagged for roughing the passer, which put the Sycamores at the YSU 44.
Indiana State receivers also dropped two potential touchdown passes on the drive, including one on third-and-three at the YSU 15.
The Penguins defense allowed just 55 yards on the ground and limited Bell to just 40 yards on 10 carries in the first half. YSU also stopped by on a fourth-and-one and allowed just one third-conversion before the intermission.
After the Sycamores knotted the game at 3-3 on a 30-yard field goal by Tanner Fristchle, Michael Wheary returned the ensuing kickoff 56 yards to the Sycamore 32-yard line.
The Penguins mustered just two yards and set up David Brown's career-long 47-yard field to give YSU a 6-3 lead with three minutes remaining before halftime.
On Indiana State's scoring drive, the Sycamores was aided by a pass interference call against the Penguins.
D'Alesio intercepted a Mike Perish pass only to have it turned over by a pass interference call that put the ball on the YSU 25.
On third-and-goal from the YSU three, Perish hit Mike Mardis for an apparent touchdown, but a holding penalty against the Sycamores negated the score.
The Penguins marched 75 yards on the opening drive to take a 3-0 lead on a 20-yard field goal by Brown with 9:55 left in the first quarter. Hess, who was 3-for-4 for 44 yards on the drive, hit Christian Bryan on a 30-yard completion down to the Sycamore 20-yard line.
Three more carries by Cook put the Penguins at the INSU three, but Hess overshot Bryan in the corner of the endzone on third down.