Penguins Hold Off Southern Illinois to Remain Unbeaten at Stambaugh Stadium

Jody Webb (Photo by Ron Stevens)
Jody Webb (Photo by Ron Stevens)

Youngstown – Jody Webb ran for a career-high 167 yards, and Youngstown State's defense held in the red zone twice in the final three minutes to give the Penguins a 21-14 victory over Southern Illinois on Saturday afternoon at Stambaugh Stadium.

The 15th-ranked Penguins improve to 7-3 overall and 5-2 in Missouri Valley Football Conference play with the victory. YSU also finishes the regular season unbeaten at home for the first time since 2005. SIU drops to 3-7 overall and 1-6 in conference play.

Webb, who has been limited by injuries this season, saved his first 100-yard game of the campaign for Senior Day. His 167 yards came on 21 carries, and fellow senior tailback Martin Ruiz added 83 yards on 16 carries. They helped YSU hold an edge of 300 to 63 yards on the ground. Webb added 35 receiving yards and 12 kickoff return yards for 214 all-purpose yards.

After a missed field goal attempt on the game's opening possession, the Penguins found paydirt late in the first quarter. YSU ran seven times for 87 yards on the drive, and Tevin McCastser punched it in from the 1 to put Youngstown State up 7-0 with 21 seconds left in the first quarter. Webb carried four times on the drive for 72 yards, including a 50-yard scamper to the SIU 34. McCaster finished off the drive with three rushes for 15 yards.

The defense forced a Saluki punt on the ensuing possession, and the Penguins went up 14-0 when Hunter Wells hit Alvin Baily on a 10-yard touchdown pass with 11:56 left in the second. It capped a six-play, 49 yard drive and came on third-and-10.

In the first half, the Penguins outgained the Salukis, 302-128, and 201 of those yards came on the ground.

Southern Illinois put together a 16-play, 78-yard touchdown drive on its second possession of the third quarter to make the score 14-7. The Salukis converted three third downs on the drive, and quarterback Sam Straub kept the drive alive on with a sneak a fourth-and-one at the YSU 19. Two plays later, Jonathan Mixon scored on a three-yard rush.

SIU used a big play on its next drive to set up a game-tying score. Straub connected with Isra Lamprakes on a 73-yard catch-and-run on the second play of the drive, and a nine-yard touchdown pass from Straub to Connor Iwema came one play later. That tied the score at 14-14 with 14:41 left to play.

YSU's defense came up with a big sequence the next time Southern Illinois touched the ball with an incompletion, one-yard run and a sack, and the Penguins' offense stepped up to score the game-winning touchdown on their next drive.

Webb began the drive with a 24-yard run, and he made a move in space to escape for a nine-yard reception on a third-and-nine at the SIU 24 later in the drive. Two Ruiz runs moved the ball to the 10, and Townsend's touchdown followed. He caught the ball in the slot near the line of scrimmage and beat a defender one-on-one to go into the endzone untouched with 4:59 left on the clock.

Southern Illinois used a hurry-up offense to set up a first-and-goal at the YSU 10 on its next possession. The Penguins defense allowed four yards on first down, and they forced three straight incompletions to end the drive. Jalyn Powell had a breakup on the fourth-down attempt with 2:31 left.

YSU gained one first down and forced SIU to use all of its timeouts on its next possession, and the Salukis took over at its 20 following a 52-yard punt and holding penalty with 1:08 left. Southern Illinois used seven plays to move to the YSU 35 with five seconds left to set up a Hail Mary, but pressure on Straub by Avery Moss and Derek Rivers forced an early and high pass that resulted in a catch at the 5 yardline.

Armand Dellovade finished with a team-high eight tackles, and Rivers had seven. Moss had five tackles, three of which were behind the line of scrimmage, and forced a fumble. Eric Thompson had three pass breakups.

Wells completed 13-of-25 passes for 124 yards and the two touchdowns in his second start for the Penguins.

Straub passed for 269 of his 366 yards in the second half, and he finished the afternoon completing 24-of-40 attempts. Lamprakes had seven catches for 156 yards, and Billy Reed had six receptions. SIU ran 33 times for 63 yards.

The Penguins close out the regular season at Missouri State, Saturday, Nov. 19, in Springfield, Mo. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.