Springfield, Mo. - An outstanding defensive performance helped propel the 12th-ranked Youngstown State football team to a hard-fought 14-7 win over No. 23 Missouri State on a windy and wild Saturday afternoon at Plaster Stadium.
Junior safety Tre' Moore had two interceptions, including the game-sealer with 2:21 remaining to help the Guins hold on for the wild win. YSU overcame a missed a field goal, a blocked punt and three turnovers to win its MVFC opener for the 15th time in 18 games.
The win improves YSU to 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the MVFC while Missouri State falls to 3-2 and 0-1. It's YSU first win over the Bears since 2007 and first win in Springfield since 2006. It's the programs third win at Missouri State in a conference opener. In the previous two wins, the Guins advanced to the postseason.
The Penguins held the Bears off the scoreboard for more than 55 minutes before MSU finally found the end zone. It didn't come easy when it finally scored.
Missouri State blocked a YSU punt and a penalty on the return nullified a would-be touchdown. Instead, the Bears took over at the Guins 14-yrad line. After getting a first-and-goal at the four, it took MSU eight plays before scoring for the first time in the contest.
On fourth down from the YSU four, Harris bought time and Gannon Sinclair was able to find room on the far side to haul in a touchdown reception with 4:58 left in the fourth quarter.
On the previous series, the Guins held the Bears out of the end zone on four plays from the YSU six-yard line. However, after a first down, MSU blocked a punt to set up its first score.
The Penguins had a chance to milk the clock, but MSU stopped them on a three-and-out and took over at its 43-yard line with 3:13 remaining. After a big gainer on their first play, Desmond Williams put them behind the chains with a three-yard TFL on a short pass. On second-and-13 from the 41, Moore picked off Kierre Harris and after a five-yard return fell to the ground.
With some consternation, the Guins were able to run out the clock and end the game without Missouri State getting the ball back.
The defense held Missouri State to just 227 total offensive yards, including just 75 through the air. YSU had 341 yards for the game with 211 coming on the ground and 130 through the air. Dante Nania was 10-of-16 for 130 yards and a touchdown while Harris, who was harrassed all day, was just 9-of-28 for 75 yards.
YSU's defense was credited with four sacks as five players got into the action. Overall, the Penguins had eight TFLs for 29 yards in losses. Moore led the Penguins with 11 total tackles, including seven solo stops.
It took just three plays for the Penguins to grab the lead at the game's outset. Nania came out and hit Williams on a deep 56-yard pickup giving YSU a first-and-goal at the nine. After Martin Ruiz carried for no gain, Nania found Andrew Williams for the score just 75 seconds into the contest as the Penguins went on top 7-0.
YSU doubled its lead at 14-0 when Jody Webb took a mis-direction handoff 81 yards for a score with 10:20 left in the second quarter. The Penguins took over at their own 19-yard line and on the first snap, Webb took a handoff from Nania, followed a tremendous block by center Stephen Page and out ran the MSU defense down the far sidelines for a score.
In the first half, the Guins held Missouri State to just 124 yards of total offense on 36 plays. Harris was 5-of-16 for 48 yards and was sacked twice while being hurried six times. YSU amassed 246 yards on just 28 plays. Nania was 6-of-9 for 109 yards while the Guins had 137 yards on the ground thanks to Webb's longest run of his career.
The Penguins return home next Saturday to face Western Illinois. Kickoff at Stambaugh Stadium is set for 7 p.m.