Gateway Football Conference newcomer Western Kentucky beat Youngstown State 24-14 in the team's first conference battle on Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium.
The Penguins (6-2 overall and 4-2 in the Gateway) never led and trailed 14-0 after the Hilltoppers' first two possessions. WKU improves to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the conference. The Hilltoppers have three league games remaining, while YSU travels to Southern Illinois next Saturday.
WKU jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead when Donte Pimpleton scored on a one-yard run and DeWayne Gallishaw scored on an eight-yard run in the first quater.
YSU's Jeff Ryan culminated a 14-play 61-yard drive that ate 7:15 off the clock scoring on a three-yard run in the second and cut the deficit to 14-7 at halftime.
WKU's Peter Martinez added a 29-yard field goal to expand the Hilltoppers' advantage to 17-7 with 5:24 in the third.
The Penguins caught a break when LeVar Greene blocked a Brian Claybourn punt and Chris DiMauro returned it 27 yards for a touchdown. YSU's defense stuff WKU on three straight plays and on the ensuing possession, the Penguin offense moved the ball to the Hilltoppers' 27. But Ryan's 3rd-and-8 pass was intercepted by Erik Dandy to turn the momentum back in favor of WKU.
YSU stopped the Hilltoppers again, but Claybourn's punt hit YSU's Carlos Pearson in the helmet and was recovered by Carl Birts at the Penguin 24. Four plays later, Curtis Hamilton scored on a one-yard run to give WKU a 24-14 advantage.
Western Kentucky finished with 278 yards of total offense, 265 of which came on the ground. YSU had just 128 yards, including just 71 yards rushing. The Hilltoppers entered the game as the third ranked scoring and total defense in the nation.
Pimpleton had 111 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and Keith Brooks finished with 87 yards on 19 attempts. P.J. Mays was YSU's leading rusher with 53 yards on 17 rushes.
Ryan completed 11-of-22 passes for 93 yards, but threw two interceptions. Pimpleton completed one-of-three pass attempts for 18 yards.