Youngstown State built a 31-14 halftime lead and intercepted UC Davis quarterback Jon Grant on three consecutive second-half drives in a 38-24 victory Saturday evening at Stambaugh Stadium.
The win gave the No. 8 Penguins their 10th straight victory at home and improved their record to 3-1 heading into the Gateway portion of their schedule next week. No. 16 UC Davis fell to an even 2-2 record.
The Penguins scored jumped out to a 10-0 lead and scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes of the first half to take the 17 point lead into the locker room. Junior quarterback Tom Zetts passed for 167 of his 181 yards in the first half and YSU had a rushing advantage of 159 to 33 over the first 30 minutes.
Zetts hit Deke Ison on a 48-yard touchdown pass on the third play of the game to give YSU a 7-0 lead. After the defense forced a three-and-out, YSU marched down to the UC Davis 4 before settling for a 21-yard Brian Palmer field goal with 6:01 on the clock.
The Aggies got within three when Grant connected with Tony Kays on a 22-yard touchdown to cap a nine-play drive with 2:14 left in the opening quarter.
Monquantae Gibson put the Penguins up 17-7 early in the second quarter when he bounced off two tacklers and scored from 16 yards out. Gibson preceded the score with rushes of 14 and 15 yards on the two previous plays.
The Aggies used some trickery on the next drive to cut the margin to three again. On the drive's sixth play, Kays hit Kale Turner on a double pass play for a 38-yard touchdown.
The Penguins owned the rest of the half on both sides of the ball as the defense caused one of its four turnovers and forced another three-and-out, and the offense found paydirt on its final two possessions.
Codera Jackson jarred the ball from Kays at the UC Davis 37, and Marcus Mason rushed five yards up the middle into the endzone three plays later. YSU then took the ball again with 4:05 left in the half and scored nine plays later when Tom Zetts maneuvered through the defense for a 23-yard touchdown rush.
The Aggies scored on their opening possession of the second half to get within 10, but neither team put any points on the board for the rest of the quarter. UC Davis drove down to the YSU 39 late in the quarter before Jackson picked off a pass at the 21 for his second turnover of the game.
Jason Perry blew the game open again three plays into the final quarter when he stepped in front of a pass and returned the interception 78 yards for a touchdown.
After Chris Goffer came up with an interception on the Aggies' next drive, UC Davis stalled at the YSU 7 and kicked a 24-yard field goal to get within 14. The onside kick attempt failed, and the Aggies ran out of time on their final drive.
Mason finished for a game-high 99 yards on 22 carries, and Gibson finished with 65 yards on five carries. Louis Irizarry had three catches for 54 yards to lead YSU, and punter Joe Bishop pinned UC Davis inside the 20 on three occasions.
Grant completed 28-of-45 passes for 285 yards and accounted for 37 of the Aggies' 130 yards rushing. Garfio and Kays had seven receptions apiece for 77 and 71 yards, respectively.
The Penguins will play at Missouri State next Saturday at 7 p.m. The Penguins defeated the Bears 31-7 at YSU's Homecoming Game last season.