The Youngstown State football team lost 35-17 to top-ranked North Dakota State on Saturday afternoon at Stambaugh Stadium. YSU played three quarterbacks in the contest with the Bison, who with the win clinched the MVFC outright title and an FCS playoff berth.
Senior quarterback Kurt Hess started the game, but was hampered by a sprained ankle. Hess gave way to Dante Nania in the second quarter, but Nania was hit late on a roughing-the-passer penalty by Cole Jirik just before halftime and eventually left the contest with a sprained shoulder. Hess came back to play one possession in the third quarter before third-string QB Tanner Garry played the remainder of the game.
The loss drops the Penguins to 8-3 on the season and 5-2 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The victory improves the Bison to 10-0 and 7-0. NDSU has won 19 straight games.
Hess was 4-of-9 for 53 yards and a score, Nania was 5-of-9 for 67 yards and Garry was 3-of-10 for 48 yards and a touchdown. NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen was 17-of-22 for 200 yards and four touchdowns. Jensen also added a rushing score. Four players combined for all 17 receptions.
The Bison had 483 yards of total offense with 283 coming on the ground. Sam Ojuri had 146 yards on 17 carries and John Crockett finished with 120 on 15 yards. Martin Ruiz led the Penguins with 74 yards on 17 carries.
Youngstown State held North Dakota State to one first down on the game's first possession, and Hess led the Penguins on a 10-play touchdown drive. He hit Stubbs on a 26-yard gain on the first play of the drive, and the drive was extended when Stubbs was held on a third-and-nine pass. The senior quarterback and Stubbs then connected again on first-and-goal from the six for a touchdown.
North Dakota State answered immediately with a 75-yard drive that featured three plays of more than 10 yards. Crockett started it with a 34-yard run, and Jensen hit Zach Vraa in the post to give the Bison first-and-goal at the 3. Jensen then hit Andrew Bonnet two plays later for the game-tying score.
The Penguins went three-and-out on their next drive, and Jensen led the Bison on a 14-play, 87-yard drive that put them ahead 14-7. The Bison converted on three third-downs to prolong the drive, and Jensen hit Ryan Smith in the end zone on third-and-eight.
Dale Peterman came up with a big interception of Jensen deep in Penguins territory late in the first half, and Nania was able to lead YSU to a field-goal that made the score 14-10 at halftime. Nania connected with Andrew Williams for a 19-yard gain that put the Penguins in field-goal range, and the Bison had two penalties on the drive – one for pass interference and one for a late hit on Nania. Cejudo's 24-yard field goal came right as the half expired.
YSU had possession to start the second half, but Nania fumbled on a scramble on the second play of the half. NDSU took over at the YSU 33, and Jensen found Kevin Vaadeland on a three-yard scoring pass on the sixth play of the drive. That score put the Bison up 21-10 with 11:10 left in the third quarter.
Another three-and-out by the Penguins set up another Bison score, a 12-yard pass from Jensen to Vaadeland, that increased the margin to 28-10.
Garry drove the Penguins into field-goal range on YSU's next drive, but Cejudo's 44-yard attempt was blocked. NDSU's drive lasted just two plays though when Teven Williams recovered a fumble on a swing pass. Garry then hit tight end Nate Adams on play action on fourth-and-two for a 24-yard touchdown that got the Penguins within 28-17.
YSU's defense held on North Dakota State's next drive, but Garry was intercepted on a deep ball on the first play of Youngstown State's drive. The Bison marched 72 yards on nine plays and took 5:44 off the clock before Jensen scored on a one-yard run. NDSU converted on two third downs to keep the drive alive.
The Guins return to action next Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium against South Dakota State. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.