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Junior quarterback Dante Nania passed for a career-high 288 yards with two touchdowns and Martin Ruiz rushed for 148 yards and two scores as the Youngstown State football team held off a scrappy Duquesne team for a 34-23 win on Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium.
With the win the Penguins improve to 1-1 while Duquesne falls to 0-2.
Senior Jelani Berassa caught six passes for a career-high 114 yards while Andrew Williams caught three passes for 78 yards and a touchdown.
Duquesne's Dillon Buechel passed for 347 yards on 25-of-44 attempts with two touchdowns.
The Penguins, who led 28-0 in the early in the second quarter, posted a dominant first half limiting the Dukes to just seven first downs and 135 total yards while the offense gained 352 total yards, including 208 through the air.
The second half was a much different story as the Dukes clawed their way back from 31-7 halftime deficit to get within 11 late in the fourth quarter. The Dukes had 352 yards in total offense in the second half while limiting the Penguins to 141 yards and just three first downs.
Duquesne scored 10 points in the third quarter to cut the lead to 34-17 after a 24-yard field goal by Austin Crimmins and a 64-yard touchdown pass from Buechel to Chris King.
On the last play of the third quarter, YSU's Jaylin Kelly intercepted a Buechel pass at the YSU 10 and returned it to the Duquesne 41, but fumbled and Buechel recovered at the Duquesne 47.
The Dukes marched down to the Penguins' 13, but a sack by Derek Rivers pushed the Dukes back to the 21. Austin Crimmins' 38-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide left.
The Dukes cut the deficit to 11, 34-23, with 2:48 left in the game when Buechel hit Devin Rahming on a 57-yard pass, but Crimmins missed the extra-point attempt.
YSU scored touchdowns on its four of its first five possessions in relatively quick fashion. The Penguins scoring drives were 3:05, seven seconds, 19 seconds and 26 seconds. The Guins had two drives of 66-yards and the longest time of possession was 3:12 on a Joey Cejudo 34-yard field goal.
After forcing a Duquesne punt on the game's opening drive, Ruiz capped a 66-yard march that took just over three minutes with a seven-yard rushing touchdown for a 7-0 lead with 9:06 left in the first quarter.
Next the next possession, Nania hit Andrew Williams on a 54-yard touchdown pass to push the lead to 14-0 with 7:28 left.
A 42- yard pass from Nania to Jody Webb set up the Penguins at the Duquesne five, but, on the next play, Ruiz fumbled and Duquesne recovered at their own 10-yard line. The Duke could not capitalize and were forced to punt for the fourth straight time.
After an incomplete pass by Nania, Ruiz scampered 46 yards for his second touchdown of the game to put YSU up 21-0 with 1:39 left in the first quarter.
The Penguins pushed their advantage to 28-0 when Nania hit Nate Adams on a 31-yard touchdown pass with 10:05 left in the second quarter.
The Dukes forced a Penguins punt late in the second quarter and followed with a 55-yard drive that was capped a by 23-yard touchdown run by Marcus Hughes to cut make the score, 28-7, with 3:36 left before halftime.
The Penguins answered with their longest drive of the half marching 66-yards in 13 plays that ended with Cejudo's 34-yarder with 19 seconds left before the half for a 31-7 advantage.
The Penguins were forced to punt on their opening possession of the second half and Duquesne answered with a 10-play, 79-yard drive that resulted in a 24-yard field goal by Crimmins to cut the lead to 31-10.
A 66-yard pass from Nania to Berassi got the Penguins to the Duquesne 11, but YSU was forced to settle for a 24-yard field goal from Cejudo to take a 34-10 lead with 7:36 left in the third quarter.
Duquesne quickly cut the lead in half, 34-17, when Buechel hit King with a 64-yard scoring strike with 5:39 left in the third quarter.
The Penguins host Butler, Saturday, Sept. 13, at 4 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium