Football Hangs On For 24-14 Win Over Western Illinois

Football Hangs On For 24-14 Win Over Western Illinois

Youngstown – Freshman running back Martin Ruiz ran for a career-high 199 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown as the 15th-ranked Youngstown State football team defeated Western Illinois, 24-14, on Saturday evening at Stambaugh Stadium.

The Penguins improve to 7-1 overall and 4-0 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference while Western Illinois falls to 3-5 overall and 1-3 in the conference. Youngstown State has now won 10 straight games against FCS opponents and a school-best seven consecutive games against MVFC foes.

Defensively, senior Kyle Sirl recorded a team-high 10 tackles with a sack, and Teven Williams added nine tackles and recovered a fumble.

A week after being named the national offensive player of the week, senior quarterback Kurt Hess was held in check by the WIU defense. Hess completed just 7-of-18 passes for a career-low 47 yards with two touchdowns.

WIU outgained the Penguins 337 yards to 299 behind 148 yards from J.C. Baker.

The Penguins scored 10 points in the final quarter after the Leathernecks tied the game at 14-14 midway through the third on a 12-play, 99-yard drive that ate up nearly five minutes of the third quarter.

Junior placekicker Joey Cejudo's 33-yard field at the 11:34 mark of the fourth snapped the tie to put YSU up, 17-14. On the ensuing drive, the Leathernecks drove 57 yards to the Penguins' 23 to set up a game-tying field goal attempt, but Nathan Knuffman's 40-yard attempt sailed wide left with 6:34 remaining.

The Penguins then marched 77 yards, keyed by a 57-yard run by Ruiz, in nine plays for a game-sealing touchdown. On third-and-goal from the WIU five, Nate Adams' diving catch with 2:34 left in game extended the Penguins lead to 10 points, 24-14.

The Leathernecks' final drive ended when Julius Childs intercepted Trenton Norvell in the endzone with 11 seconds left to seal the victory.

In the first half, YSU's defense forced two punts and a turnover on downs on WIU's first three possessions.

On their second possession, the Leathernecks went for it on fourth-and-five at the YSU 25. Emmanuel Kromah sacked Trenton Norvell and the Penguins took over at their 31.

Three plays later, Ruiz broke a career-long 60-yard touchdown run to put the Penguins up, 7-0, with 7:24 left in the first quarter.

The Penguins defense forced another Leatherneck punt, but on the next YSU possession, Hess was intercepted by Kevin Kintzel at the WIU 40. It was Hess's first interception since the season opener against Dayton.

Norvell then engineered a 12-play, 60-yard drive to tie the score at 7-7. Norvell scrambled in from one-yard out on the first play of the second quarter. The Leathernecks converted two third downs to continue the drive.

The Penguins' special teams units made two big plays late in the second quarter to set up YSU's second touchdown. Long snapper Nathan Gibbs prevented a punt from going in the endzone and the ball was downed by Dubem Nwadiogbu at the WIU one-yard line. The Leathernecks were forced to punt from their own 41, but a low snap and forced fumble set up the Penguins with a first-and-goal from the WIU 9.

Two plays later, Hess found Christian Bryan in the back of the endzone for a seven-yard touchdown reception to put the Penguins up 14-7 with 5:08 left before halftime.

In the first half, Youngstown State outgained the Leathernecks 112-88 but managed just four first downs. Ruiz rushed for 91 yards on seven carries, and Hess threw for 23 yards on 4-of-11 passing.

The Penguins are idle next week then visit South Dakota, Saturday, Nov, 2, at 2 p.m. in Vermillion, S.D.