Normal, Ill. - The Youngstown State football had three leads, but each time Illinois State battled back and eventually the Redbirds seized control of the game in the second half to knock off the Penguins 35-21 on a sunny, but windy Saturday afternoon at Hancock Stadium.
The 10th-ranked Penguins fall to 7-3 on the season and 4-2 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference while the No. 12 Redbirds are now 8-1 and 5-1 while extending their home winning streak to 11.
Penguins QB Hunter Wells completed 14-of-23 passes for 236 yards and two scores. However, Wells was 9-of-14 in the first half for 206 yards. TB Martin Ruiz rushed for 106 yards on 18 carries and WR Andrew Williams caught six passes for a career-high 158 yards in the defeat.
For Illinois State, QB Tre Roberson completed 16-of-24 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns while Marshawn Coprich ran 107 yards on 22 carries and a pair of scores.
YSU had three leads during the game, including a 21-14 advantage at halftime that carried into the second half. The Redbirds shut down the Guins' offense in the second half during their rally.
The third quarter belonged to Illinois State as the Redbirds tied the game following an impressive 11-play 77-yard drive. Coprich scored his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard run at the 9:20 mark of the period.
The Penguins had a chance to regain the lead, but after the drive stalled at the Illinois State 28-yard line following a sack of Wells, Joey Cejudo's 45-yard field goal was blocked. It was the second time Cejudo had a long field-goal try blocked in the contest.
The Redbirds took over with 3:53 left and moved to the YSU 29-yard line. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Tre' Roberson tossed a 29-yard pass to Cameron Meredith as ISU seized its first lead of the contest.
Tre' Moore's interception with 5:45 left gave the Penguins life, but the Redbirds held on fourth down. Two plays after the stop Roberson kept the ball on a nifty 36-yard scoring run.
At halftime the Guins built a 21-14 lead on two Wells touchdown passes and Jody Webb touchdown rush. ISU matched the Penguins' first two scores, but YSU was able to carry a touchdown-lead into halftime.
The Penguins took their opening possession of the game 86 yards for a touchdown and ran 6:39 off the clock. On third-and-two from the Illinois State 28, Wells found a wide open Ruiz in the middle of the field as the Redbirds came on an all-out blitz.
In the second period, both teams combined for four touchdowns.
Illinois State knotted things up at seven in the opening minute of the second quarter as Coprich scored on a two-yard run with 14:09 left capping a short five-play 43-yard drive.
The Guins responded with an impressive four-play, 94-yard march that was highlighted by 68-yard pass from Wells to Williams. Webb capped off the fast-paced 1:48 drive scoring untouched on an 11-yard run. It marked the seventh straight game in which Webb had a score.
But the Redbirds answered once again moving 70 yards in nine plays. The game-tying play was a six-yard pass from Roberson to James O'Shaughnessy with 8:15 left in the period.
Less than two minutes later, the Penguins regained the lead. Facing a third-and-short, Wells connected with Williams on a 39-yard flea flicker for a touchdown. On the play, Wells handed the ball of to Ruiz who pitched back to Wells and he fired a long ball to a wide open Williams putting the Penguins in front 21-14 at the 6:11 mark.
In the half, Wells was 9-of-14 for 206 yards and two scores. Williams had four catches for 135 yards becoming the first Penguin since Bob Ferranti in 1970 to haul in more than 100 yards in three straight games.
YSU amassed 325 yards of total offense to 148 for Illinois State in the opening half. For the game, the Guins had 411 total offensive yards while the Redbirds had 373.
The Penguins play their final regular-season home game next Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium when they play host to Indiana State. Kickoff for Senior Day is set for 2 p.m.