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Youngstown – Junior quarterback Kurt Hess threw for 290 yards on 20-of-28 attempts with four touchdown passes and senior Jamaine Cook ran for 146 yards on 32 carries with a touchdown as No. 4 Youngstown State football team held off No. 8 Northern Iowa, 42-35, in front of 19,277 fans at Stambaugh Stadium on Saturday evening.
The Penguins improve to 4-0 overall (1-0 MVFC) for the first time since 2000 and snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Panthers, who fall to 1-3 overall (0-1 MVFC).
Trailing 35-28 in the fourth quarter, Hess and the Guins' defense made critical plays at critical times. Hess engineered a 12-play, 74-yard drive capped by a Torrian Pace one-yard touchdown run with 7:07 left in the game. Hess hit Will Shaw for a 26-yard gain on 4th-and-4 down to the UNI three to prolong the drive and set up Pace's score.
The defense forced a three-and-out, and on the ensuing possession, Hess hit sophomore Christian Bryan on 3rd-and-5 for a 26-yard touchdown to give the Penguins a 42-35 lead with 1:50 left.
UNI though made things interesting by driving down to the YSU 11 before Ali Cheaib broke up a Sawyer Kollmorgen pass in the end zone on the game's final play to seal the victory.
Hess also set a school record with his 14th 200-yard career passing game. It's also the fourth time in Hess' career he has thrown for at least four touchdowns in a game.
Cook, who rushed for 100-yards for the 16th time in his career, moves into fifth-place on the YSU career rushing list with 3,205 yards.
Trailing 21-14 at the half, UNI scored 14 straight points to take a 28-21 after its first two possessions of the second half. A 48-yard touchdown pass from Kollmorgen to Johnson tied the game at 21-21 just 57 seconds into the third.
After forcing a YSU punt, the Panthers went 64 yards in six plays capped by a 23-yard touchdown scamper by Johnson and took a 28-21 lead with 8:59 left in the third.
On the Guins, next possession Hess connected with Will Shaw for a 43-yard touchdown pass on a 4th-and-2 with 4:51 left in the third quarter. The Penguins used a nine-play, 86-yard drive to tie the game.
Jeremey Edwards intercepted Kollmorgen at the YSU 14 to stall the Panthers, but the Guins offense could not capitalize and was forced to punt.
On the Panthers' next possession, UNI took a 35-28 lead on a 16-yard touchdown run by Johnson, his fourth of the game, with 12:42 left in the game.
The Guins, who scored on their first two possessions, took the game's opening drive 73-yards in five plays to take a 7-0 lead at the 10-minute mark on a three-yard plunge by Cook. Cook, rushed for 30 yards on five carries, converted two third-and-short situations to prolong the drive.
UNI tied the game at 7-7 when Kollmorgen hit Terrell Sinkfield on a screen pass for a 32-yard score at the 6:43 mark of the first half.
The Guins regained the lead when Hess hit Andrew Williams on a 38-yard touchdown pass with 4:16 to go in the first. It was the 43rd touchdown pass of Hess' career and the first TD reception of Williams's career.
Cook, who ran for 74 yards on 14 carries in the first half, again carried the bulk of the load on the Guins' second scoring drive, rushing three times for 20 yards before Hess-to-Williams touchdown.
A Hess to Nate Adams 25-yard touchdown pass put the Penguins ahead 21-14 with 9:26 left in the half
The Guins forced a UNI punt and took over the ball at their own 18 with 5:11 left in the second. On second-and-six from the 22, Cook's 20-plus yard gain was nullified by a holding penalty that pushed the Guins back to their own 17.
After a Nick Liste 38-yard punt, UNI marched 57 yards in eight plays and scored on a seven-yard pass from Sawyer Kollmorgen to David Johnson to get within 21-14 with just 27 seconds left before halftime.