Macomb, Ill. -- Youngstown State senior tailback Jamaine Cook rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns while the defense continued to be staunch against the rush allowing just 52 yards in a 31-7 victory over Western Illinois at Hanson Field on a warm Saturday afternoon.
The Penguins (6-4 overall and 3-4 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference) scored the final 24 points of the game. Western Illinois (3-7 and 1-6) suffered its fifth consecutive defeat.
Cook finished with 32 carries in the contest while recording the 19th 100-yard rushing game of career. His two short scoring runs now give him 38 career rushing touchdowns.
The game was tied at seven late in the first half before a punt by Nick Liste may have changed the momentum of the contest.
Liste drilled a 67-yard boot to the WIU two-yard line with 5:06 left in the second quarter. The defense forced a three-and-out and following a short punt, the Penguins scored just prior to halftime to go on top 14-7.
YSU held the Leathernecks scoreless in the second half while Cook and Torrian Pace added fourth-quarter touchdown runs to seal the win.
For the game, the Penguins had 372 yards of total offense compared to 142 yards for the Leathernecks. YSU rushed for 225 yards and Kurt Hess was 14-of-22 for 147 yards. WIU had 90 of its 142 yards through the air. The Leathernecks had 33 yards on 14 plays in the second half.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Cook capped a 14-play, 72-yard drive with a one-yard scoring run to put YSU on top 24-7. Pace added the final score of the game scoring from 15 yards out with 4:22 left.
On their first drive of the second half, the Penguins increased their lead to 17-7 on a 31-yard field goal by David Brown. YSU forced a three-and-out by Western to open the half before moving 52 yards in 15 plays before settling for the Brown field goal, which clipped off the left upright and squeezed through the goal posts with 7:33 left in the third.
YSU jumped out to a 7-0 lead with an impressive march to open the contest.
Cook capped a 13-play 75-yard drive when he scored on a two-yard run at the 6:06 mark of the first quarter. On the march, the Penguins rushed the ball 10 times and passed just three.
Western capitalized on a YSU turnover to tie the game.
Hess was intercepted by WIU's David McDaniel who returned the pick to the Penguins' 17-yard line. It took six plays for the Leathernecks to punch it in as quarterback Hayden Northern scored his first career touchdown on a sneak from a yard out at the 2:33 mark.
In the second quarter, Liste's 67-yard punt helped swing field position. YSU lined up to go for it on a fourth-and-short from its own 36. However, the Penguins were whistled for a false start and had to punt.
Liste crushed a punt down to the WIU two-yard line and the defense followed with a three-and-out. Christian Bryan returned the Leathernecks' punt to the 25-yard line to put the Penguins in business.
Cook picked up a key first down on a fourth-and-short from the WIU 16 with a seven-yard gain to the nine.
On third-and-goal from the three-yard line, Hess found paydirt behind the right side of the offensive line on a option keeper to put YSU ahead 14-7 with 39 seconds left in the half.
In the first half, YSU had 137 yards while the Leathernecks had 109. The Penguins picked up 104 on the ground thanks to 82 by Cook.
The Penguins play their final home game of the regular-season next Saturday against Indiana State (7-3). Kickoff is set for 2:05 p.m.