Carbondale, Ill. - The Youngstown State football team scored two touchdowns in the final 10 minutes to rally for a 28-27 win over Southern Illinois on Saturday night at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale, Ill.
YSU (4-1 overall and 1-0 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference) has now won four straight conference openers and three of the past four over Southern Illinois (2-3 and 0-1). It was the largest fourth-quarter comeback for the program since rallying from a 28-14 deficit to Hofstra in 2000.
After the teams combined for 51 points and 525 yards in the first half, the defenses were rock solid for the first 20 minutes of the second half. Finally, the Penguins were able to break through in the fourth quarter.
After allowing one first down, the defense stopped the Salukis, forcing a punt from their own 42-yard line.
YSU took over at its own 17 with 7:57 left on the clock and Hess led a memorable fourth-quarter drive.
With 6:56 remaining, Martin Ruiz picked up 19 yards for a first down to keep the drive alive.
Then in a do-or-die play on a fourth-and-six from the SIU 27, Hess scrambled to keep the play going and ran to the sideline, diving head first to the 20 to pick up a first down.
The Guins pounded the ball at the SIU defense and eventually had a fourth-and-goal from the SIU one-yard line. Hess found Carson Sharbaugh in the back corner of end zone to tie the game. Joey Cejudo's conversion kick gave the Penguins a 28-27 lead with 1:55 remaining. Sharbaugh also had a career-high six rushes for 17 yards in the contest. Entering the game, he did not have a rush in his entire career.
The Salukis advanced to the YSU 41-yard line, but MyCole Pruitt fumbled and Donald D'Alesio pounced on the ball to seal the come-from-behind victory.
Hess finished 25-of-37 for 258 yards and four scores while Kory Faulkner was 28-of-43 for 348 yards and four TDs.
Each team had long drives to open the game.
Southern Illinois opened the contest with a 13-play, 73-yard march to go on top 7-0 on Faulkner's first touchdown pass of the night. Faulkner found Malcolm Agnew from seven yards out to give the Salukis the lead at the 8:30 mark of the first quarter.
The Guins answered back when Hess threw an 18-yard touchdown toss to Stubbs with 1:24 remaining in the opening quarter. YSU used an impressive 15-play, 81-yard drive to knot the game at seven.
After holding the Salukis on a fourth-and-short play from the YSU 45, YSU took its first lead of the contest when Hess connected with Stubbs for a two-yard score at the 10:33 mark of the second quarter.
But the Salukis caught fire scoring the final 20 points of the quarter to take a 27-14 halftime lead. The final score came with 0:09 seconds left, but a missed extra point left the lead at 13.
Faulkner completed 21-of-28 passes for 278 yards and four touchdowns in the first half while Hess was 11-of-15 for 154 yards and two scores. SIU had 332 yards of total offense while the Guins had 193.
Both teams were scoreless in the third quarter with SIU gaining 62 yards to YSU's 55.
The Penguins return to action next Saturday at Indiana State. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. at Memorial Stadium in Terre Haute, Ind.