Western Illinois scored 16 second-half points and held off a late Penguins charge to defeat the Youngstown State football team, 30-24, on Saturday evening at Stambaugh Stadium.
The 10th-ranked Penguins fall to 4-2 and 1-1 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and the Leathernecks improve to 3-4 and 1-2 in the conference.
Western Illinois outgained the Penguins, 455-344, and limited the Penguins to just 148 yards rushing. In the second half, the Leathernecks gained 260 total yards compared to 153 for the Penguins.
YSU freshman quarterback Hunter Wells completed 14-of-25 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown after coming on in the second quarter. Sophomore Martin Ruiz led the Penguins with 80 yards rushing on 14 carries and sophomore Jody Webb scored two rushing touchdowns.
Leathernecks quarterback Trenton Norvell passed for 291 yards on 19-of-26 passing and four touchdowns. Two of Norvell's touchdowns went to Lance Lenoir, who caught eight passes for 132 yards.
Trailing by three at the intermission, WIU scored two touchdowns to open the second half and took a 27-17 lead with less than five minutes left in the third quarter
On its first drive of the half, WIU used a fake punt for a 27-yard gain and a first down that led to a 35-yard touchdown pass from Norvell to Joey Borsellino to put the Leatherneck back in front, 21-17, with 11:44 left in the third.
The Leathernecks capitalized on a YSU encroachment and roughing-the-passer penalties to prolong their second possession of the third quarter. Facing a third-and-six, the Penguins were called for offsides that negated an eight-yard loss. On the next play, Devon Moore converted a first down on a three-yard run.
On a pass to HI-C Scott to the YSU 10, the Penguins were called for roughing the passer, which set up the Leathernecks at the YSU five.
Three plays later, Norvell threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game this time to a wide-open Scott from three yards out with 4:36 left in the quarter to take a 27-17 lead.
The Leathernecks added a 23-yard field goal by Nathan Knuffman with 8:18 left in the game to extend their lead to 30-17.
The Penguins were able cut the WIU lead to 30-24, on a 16-yard touchdown run by Webb with 6:08 left in the game. The Penguins got the ball back with less than a minute to play but their Hail Mary-attempt on the game's final play was batted down.
On the game's opening drive, the Penguins went 79 yards in 10 plays, but were forced to settle for a Joey Cejudo 28-yard field goal with 8:52 left. The Penguins used eight rushes by Ruiz, Webb and Nania.
During that drive Ruiz carried five times for 60 yards. He had 20 yards on his next nine rushes.
WIU answered with an 80-yard drive in 11 plays capped by a 14-yard touchdown pass from Norvell to Lenoir with 3:47 left in the opening quarter.
After forcing a YSU three-and-out, the Leathernecks, who were facing a third-and-nine, struck quickly to take a 14-3 lead when Norvell hit Lenoir on 49-yard touchdown pass on the last play of the first quarter.
The Penguins defense stiffened after the first 15 minutes of play. After giving up 114 total yards and 14 points in the first quarter, the Penguins allowed just 80 yards in the second quarter and helped set up two touchdowns.
The Penguins defense stopped the Leatherneck on fourth-and-one at the YSU 29. Hunter Wells, then, engineered a 71 yard drive and connected with Jelani Berassa on a 15-yard touchdown pass to cut the WIU lead to 14-10 with 7:33 left in the second quarter.
Defense forced a three and out and Berassa returned the WIU punt to the Leathernecks' 31. On second-and-10, Wells hit Stubbs on a 15-yard game to the Leatherneck nine, and Jody Webb scampered in from nine yards out to put the Penguins up 17-14 with 2:40 left in the second.
The Penguins hosts Southern Illinois next Saturday, Oct. 18, in the annual Homecoming Game. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.