Penguins Keep Playoff Dream Alive With 27-24 Win at No. 1 NDSU

Jelani Berassa
Jelani Berassa

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Fargo, N.D. -- The Youngstown State football team picked up its first win over the top-ranked team in the nation since 1997 with a thrilling 27-24 come-from-behind triumph North Dakota State at the Fargodome on Saturday afternoon.

With the win YSU improves to 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference while the previously unbeaten Bison fall to 9-1 and 6-1.

YSU trailed by 11 on two occasions in the first half, but kept chipping away and a huge momentum switch in the game came on the first play of the third quarter.

On the first play of the second half, the Guins caught a huge break. On first down at the NDSU 47, D.J. McNorton broke a big gainer and while shifting the football from one arm to the other lost the ball at the 24. Each team had chances to recover, before YSU's Travis Williams eventually recovered at Guins' 14-yard line. It was only the fifth NDSU turnover of the year.

The Penguins followed with an impressive drive to take the lead. After moving the ball 76 yards, QB Kurt Hess connected with Jamaine Cook on 10-yard touchdown pass with 10:31 left in the third quarter giving YSU a 24-21 advantage.

NDSU tied the game less than two minutes later on a 27-yard field goal by Ryan Jastram with 8:52 left in the third quarter.

David Brown connected on a 30-yard field goal with 2:49 left in the third quarter which proved to be the final points of the game and give the Penguins a 27-24 lead and the eventual win.

Both defenses stepped up in the fourth quarter. YSU did not get a first down while NDSU had three.

The Penguins took their initial possession of the game 13 plays and 67 yards taking 7:11 off the clock as Brown converted a 33-yard field goal with 7:49 left in the first quarter.

The Bison answered quickly on one-yard run by Sam Ojuri to go ahead 7-3 with 6:42 left in first. That scoring play came just three plays and 56 seconds after YSU had opened up the scoring.

YSU had a drive end deep in NDSU territory when Hess was intercepted on the nine-yard line.

The turnover led to Ojuri's second score of the contest six plays last. Ojuri scored on a two-yard run to put NDSU ahead 14-3 with 13:45 left in the second quarter.

The Penguins answered when Hess connected with Jelani Berassa on a 12-yard scoring pass to get  YSU within 14-10 with 8:02 left in the second quarter.

YSU had apparently stopped an NDSU drive when Jeremey Edwards intercepted a Brock Jensen pass in the end zone, but the officials called a roughing-the-passer penalty to nulify the interception. D.J. McNorton found the end zone from two yards out allowing the Bison to go ahead of YSU 21-10 with 1:48 left in the second.

But the Penguins worked the two-minute drill to perfection scoring a must touchdown just before halftime. After a 38-yard run by Jordan Thompson moved the ball to the NDSU one, Hess ran a perfectly executed option keeper for a one-yard touchdown run with 0:17 left before halftime pulling the Penguins within 21-17.

In the first half, YSU had 283 total offensive yards to NDSU's 163. The Penguins had 162 on the ground with 107 coming on 19 carries by Cook. Through the air, Hess was 12-of-15 for 121 yards. YSU dominated the time of possession holding onto the football for 19:26 compared to 10:34 for the Bison.

For the game, Hess was 20-of-24 for 237 yards and two touchdowns. Cook finished with 147 yards on 33 carries.

The Penguins play host to Missouri State next Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium in the home finale. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

FOOTBALL: D.J. McNorton finds the end zone from two yards out as Bison go ahead of YSU 21-10 with 1:48 left in the second. 7/67/6:07