Macomb, Ill. - The 24th-ranked Youngstown State football team used a staunch defense, a physical offense and played great in special teams to knock off No. 23 Western Illinois on a wet and cool Saturday afternoon at Hanson Field.
With the win, the Penguins improve to 4-4 overall and 2-3 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference while WIU falls to 4-4 and 3-2.
Needing a win to stay in the playoff hunt, the Guins were physical all game against the Leathernecks and it paid off time after time.
YSU took a 7-0 lead when Ricky Davis found Andre Stubbs on a 49-yard scoring strike with 8:39 left in the first quarter. After the defense forced it's second three-and-out, the Guins took over at the WIU 49-yards line. On the first play, Davis found Stubbs with a deep ball for his first career touchdown pass.
WIU tied the game three plays later however. QB Trenton Norvell found Lance Lenoir down the near sidelines for a 56-yard touchdown strike exactly one minute after the Guins had taken a TD lead.
The Penguins took a 10-7 lead later in the period after Jameel Smith made an over-the-shoulder interception at the Western 32-yard line. The Guins managed just three yards on the drive, but were able to get three points off the turnover as Zak Kennedy converted a 46-yard field goal.
Western took its first lead of the contest when the Penguins were called for a questionable fumbled punt at their own 33-yard line. On a fair catch, Stubbs bobbled the ball, but Western knocked it from his hands and gained possession. YSU caught another bad break when they were called for pass interference on 4th-and-10 four plays later.
The Leathernecks capitalized as Nikko Watson plowed in from seven yards as WIU took its first lead of the game at 14-10 just 44 seconds into the second quarter.
But YSU responded scoring the final 10 points of the period to lead 20-14 at the break.
Jody Webb scored on a nine-yard run to give the Penguins their third lead of the contest at 17-14. YSU converted a 4th-and-16 to keep the drive alive and then Webb scooted around the left side to score from nine yards out with 7:20 left in the second.
Before the half, Kennedy's second field goal of the game, this time from 40 yards, gave the Guins a six-point at the break.
YSU's offense had 237 yards of total offense while WIU had just 127. YSU held Norvell to just one completion - the touchdown in the first quarter - in the first 30 minutes. Wright had 10 tackles for the Guins.
In the third, Western's Watson scored his touchdown of the game on a two-yard run to put the Leathernecks ahead 21-20 with 5:37 left in the third quarter.
Kennedy's third field goal of the contest, a 30-yard kick with 2:07 left in the third gave the Penguins a 23-21 lead after three. That proved to be the final points in the game.
Leading by two late in the fourth, YSU converted three straight third downs at one point before being forced to punt. Nick Sheely pinned the Leathernecks at their eight-yard line and the defense forced four straight incompletions to seal the victory.
Stubbs had 129 yards receiving on six catches while Hunter Wells was 16-of-26 for 152 yards. Norvell was held to just eight completions on 29 attempts for 154 yards. Martin Ruiz led all rushers with 77 yards on 29 carries.
The Penguins return home to play host to Missouri State next Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.