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Quarterback Easton Stick scored from four yards out with 35 seconds remaining to cap a fourth-quarter rally and give No. 2 North Dakota State a 27-24 win over No. 20 Youngstown State on Saturday afternoon at Stambaugh Stadium.
Stick's touchdown came two plays after Youngstown State was flagged for pass interference when North Dakota State was facing third-and-three at the YSU 18. The final score was the only time the Penguins trailed the defending national champions in the game.
Youngstown State's Jody Webb shined with 194 total yards on eight touches, and the junior tailback scored on long runs of 77 and 45 yards. His 77-yard score put YSU ahead 21-10, and Zak Kennedy's 44-yard field goal with 39 seconds left in the third quarter gave the Penguins a 24-10 lead. For Kennedy, that field goal was his 18th of the season, which broke YSU's single-season record.
YSU's ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, and a 57-yard run by Bruce Anderson set up a 7-yard touchdown by King Frazier that got the Bison right back in the game. Ricky Davis overthrew an open Andre Stubbs on third down on YSU's next drive, and a 40-yard field goal by Cam Pedersen made the score 24-20.
A dropped deep ball on third down on YSU's next drive resulted in another three-and-out, and the third straight three-and-out for the Penguins gave the Bison the ball on their 46 with 5:26 remaining. NDSU converted on third-and-9 on a pass from Stick to Jeff Illies, and the pass interference call that YSU's bench strongly disagreed with came three plays later.
North Dakota State improved to 8-2 overall and 6-1 in Missouri Valley Football Conference play, and YSU dropped to 5-5 and 3-4.
Youngstown State outgained North Dakota State 245-184 on the ground, including 114-42 in the first half. Webb gained 137 yards on five carries, and Davis finished with 62 yards on 11 totes. Hunter Wells was 9-for-21 passing for 104 yards, and seven of his completions went to a running back or tight end. Webb added 80 yards on four kickoff returns for 269 all-purpose yards.
Lee Wright led all players with 14 tackles, and he was one of five different Penguins to have a tackle for loss.
Three Bison players ran for at least 50 yards with Anderson pacing the group with 67 yards. Aside from the 57-yarder by Anderson, NDSU gained 127 yards on 41 carries. Stick had 51 yards and two touchdowns on 15 rushes, and he passed for 176 yards on nine completions.
YSU took the opening drive 72 yards in six plays, and Davis scored on a 13-yard scamper to give the Penguins a 7-0 lead just over three minutes into the game. Wells hit Webb on a 33-yard swing pass to set up the Penguins at the Bison 25. After a touchdown pass to Shaun Kuhn was negated due to a penalty, Davis found a crease in the NDSU defense and ran in from 13-yards out on third-and-8.
Both defenses held steady for the rest of the first and into the second quarter before the Bison got on the board. On first and 10 from their own 16, Stick hit Zack Vraa on a 66-yard pass play to the YSU 18. The Bison moved to the YSU nine and were stopped on third and one. A false start penalty pushed the Bison back to the YSU 14, and they had to settle for 30-yard field goal by Pedersen to get within four, 7-3, with 8:46 left in the second.
On YSU's next possession, Webb busted loose for a 45-yard touchdown run to cap an 86-yard drive and put the Penguins up 14-3 with 2:36 left before halftime.
The Bison took the opening drive of the second half 68 yards in eight plays to cut the YSU lead to four, 14-10, with 10:40 left in the third. Stick connected with RJ Urzendowski on a 41-yard completion to the YSU six, and, four plays later, Stick dove in from fourth-and-goal from the YSU one.
After an exchange of punts, Webb zig-zagged for his 77-yard run, and Kennedy's record-setting field goal gave the Penguins their two-touchdown lead late in the third quarter.
The Penguins close out the regular season at Indiana State, Saturday, Nov. 21, in Terre Haute, Ind. Kickoff is slated for 1:05 p.m.