Jacksonville, Ala. – Hunter Wells passed for 290 yards while Jody Webb ran for 140 and two touchdowns as the Youngstown State football team beat No. 3 Jacksonville State 40-24 in the second round of the FCS Playoffs on Saturday at Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium.
The victory snapped Jacksonville State's (10-2) nine-game winning streak and 14-contest home victory run dating back to December 2014. YSU (10-3) won for the first time in the state of Alabama and has won two posteason season games in each of its last two appearances. YSU won an FCS road game for the first time since 1999 as well.
Wells hit Damoun Patterson on a 70-yard touchdown just over three minutes into the game to give the Penguins a 7-0 lead, and YSU never trailed. The game was tied at 7-7, and the Penguins held the upper hand for the final 51 minutes.
Webb scored on a 37-yard run to put the Penguins up 14-7 at the 6:45 mark of the first quarter, and he had a 50-yard touchdown rush just 57 seconds into the third to give the Penguins a quick shot in the arm and push the lead back to 10 points at 27-17.
JSU closed within 27-24 with 4:07 left in the third on a two-yard run by Josh Clemens, but the game turned quickly after that play.
On the ensuing kickoff, Jaylin Kelly had a short return, and JSU was penalized 15 yards for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. YSU took over at its 46-yard line and two plays later was back on top by 10 points.
On the first play, Wells threw a 40-yard pass to Patterson down to the JSU eight. Ruiz went untouched eight yards for a touchdown with 3:44 left in the period and YSU now ahead 34-24.
In the fourth, Zak Kennedy booted a 46-yard field goal with 8:04 left after the defense stopped JSU in YSU territory. That drive took a key 6:17 off the game clock. Kennedy added a 28-yard field goal with 5:02 left just after an interception by D.J. Thomas at the JSU 19-yard line.
The Penguins had a high-powered first quarter scoring 17 points on the strength of a pair of long touchdowns and a Kennedy field goal.
Two offensive snaps into the game, Wells found Patterson on a deep ball for a 70-yard scoring strike just 3:07 into the contest. However, JSU quickly answered when Jenkins found daylight up the middle and scored on a 26-yard run with 9:29 left in the period.
The Penguins cashed in on their next offensive possession when Webb scampered home from 37 yards out. YSU's final score of a solid opening quarter was a 26-yard field goal by Kennedy with 1:42 remaining in the period.
In the second quarter, the team's exchanged field goals as JSU's Cade Stinnett cut the deficit to 17-10 with a 34-yard field goal. Kennedy had a 38-yard field goal with 5:38 left to put the Guins back in front 20-10.
Late in the first half, Eli Jenkins threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Jamari Hester capping off an eight-play 85-yard drive in 3:38.
In the opening half, YSU had 332 yards of total offense on 27 plays while JSU had 266 on 39 snaps. Wells was 7-of-12 through the air for 263 yards. Jenkins had 100 yards rushing and 100 yards passing.
Youngstown State advances to play either Wofford or The Citadel in the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs.
Coach Bo Pelini's Opening Statement
"I'm proud of our football team. I thought they came out and played hard. Obviously we have a lot of respect for Jacksonville State. We knew we were going to come into this place and play a really good football team. I thought our guys executed well and did a lot of good things on both sides of the football. We kept answering them. I give them a lot of credit, because they answered us a few times and kept coming and fighting back. We are happy to move on. Our goal is to win five. That's two down and now we are into next week."
On taking big shots throughout the game
"I said, from a defensive standpoint, I knew if they were going to put that many guys at the line of scrimmage, that we wanted to create some conflicts. We thought, if you were going to be that aggressive at the line of scrimmage and play our guys one-on-one, then we were going to take our shots. They sell out to play the run game and you have to take advantage of that. We went into the game saying if you are going to cover our guys one-on-one, we'll tip our hat to you. Once they started backing off, we turned loose 20 and 29, who we've been riding all year long. I thought it was a good plan and we executed it very well."
"He throws everything well. You see, he's not really a runner. He's an outstanding thrower and that's what we needed to do. We altered the offense around, obviously, to ride our running backs if people are going to commit to stopping the run. Then, when Mays comes in, we add the quarterback run part of our offense and be able to get everything we want out of what we want to do offensively. We are going to adjust our offense based on how people are trying to stop it."
Jody Webb, RB
On overall game plan
"The plan was, due to the fact they played cover zero for most of the game, we had to take our shots. Offensively, our thing is to run the ball then take the shots when you have a chance, but, with our guys one-on-one on the outside so often, we had to take our shots and see what would happen.
"The message was to finish. We were moving the ball, but couldn't capitalize in the red zone. We had to find a way to put some points on the board. We got a few field goals, but we had to get into the end zone."
Lee Wright, LB
On being back, playing
"It felt great. The adrenaline was rushing from the beginning of the game, but after the first two drives I kind of calmed down a little bit. I just felt good the rest of the game."
"Overall, we knew we had to stop the offense, period, but Eli (Jenkins) was a big part of the offense. The quarterback run was a big part, so once we stopped that, it kind of got easy for us as the game went."