Football Holds Off South Dakota in MVFC Opener, 30-20

Avery Moss (Photo by Ron Stevens)
Avery Moss (Photo by Ron Stevens)

The No. 15 Youngstown State football team scored two touchdowns in the first 16 minutes of the game and had a pick six late in the fourth quarter to seal a 30-20 win over Missouri Valley Football Conference foe South Dakota on Saturday evening at Stambaugh Stadium.

With the win, the Penguins improve to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the MVFC while the Coyotes fall to 1-3 overall and 0-1 in the conference. It marks the Penguins' eighth straight conference opening win.

Senior Martin Ruiz moved into fifth place on the YSU all-time rushing list with 3,520 career rushing yards after running for 65 yards on 19 carries with two touchdowns. He now has 35 career rushing touchdowns.

Sophomore kicker Zak Kennedy had three field goals of 26, 28 and 24 yards.

Junior quarterback Ricky Davis threw for a career-high 281 yards on 15-of-23 passing but had two interceptions. Davis had a career-high 15 completions to eight different receivers.

The Penguins accumulated 450 yards in total offense, which marks the first time since 1983 YSU has gained at least 400 yards in each of the first four games of the season. Youngstown State also dominated the time of possession, 38:31 to 21:29.

USD was averaging 39 points per game entering today's game, but the Penguins allowed just 254 yards in total offense, including only 114 in the first half. The Coyotes were just 4-for-17 on third down and were force to punt six times.

Senior Derek Rivers tied for the team lead with five total tackles and had a pair of sacks to put his career sack record at 30. Rivers also had three quarterback hurries

Ruiz's first touchdown, a one yard plunge, was set up by back-back to sacks by Rivers and Moss, who recovered a fumble he forced at the YSU 42 and returned it to the USD 45.

Kevin Rader's falling away catch of a Davis pass on second-and-five set up the Penguins at the Coyotes three. Two plays later, Ruiz scored from one-yard out to put YSU up 7-0 with 10:47 left in the first.

After the teams exchanged field goals, Ruiz capped a 70-yard drive with an eight-yard touchdown run to put the Penguins up 17-3 with 14:11 left in the second quarter.

The Penguins offense stalled a couple times in the second quarter. First, the Penguins were stopped on fourth and goal at the USD 1. Then, a YSU fumble at the USD 16 was recovered by Coyotes. Fortunately for the Penguins, both resulted in USD punts.

The Penguins also failed to convert on third down at the South Dakota 6, and Kennedy added his second field goal of the game, a 28-yarder, to put the Penguins up 20-3 at the half.

The Penguins forced a USD turnover on third and 14 at the YSU 32 when Jameel Smith intercepted a pass in the endzone returned it to the YSU 23, but he fumbled and the Coyotes recovered at the 23.

South Dakota's Miles Bergner nailed a 29-yard field goal to get the Coyotes within two touchdowns, 20-6, with 4:26 left in the third.

The Penguins answered with a 14-play, 61-yard drive that ended with Kennedy's third field goal, a 24-yard attempt that put YSU back up by 17, 23-6, with 13:07 left in the fourth.

Davis's second interception of the game set up a USD touchdown. The Coyotes converted on fourth-and-7 with a 33-yard completion to Alonge Brooks from Chris Streveler down to the YSU 4.  Three plays later, Streveler hit Riley Donovan from one-yard out to get the Coyotes within 10, 23-13, with 5:24 left in the game.

The Coyotes forced the Penguins to punt late in the fourth quarter, but Jalyn Powell's 21-yard interception return for a touchdown put the Penguins up 30-13 with 2:37 left.

Streveler hit Brooks on a 23-yard touchdown pass with just 58 seconds left to close out the scoring.

The Penguins visit Illinois State, Saturday, Oct. 8. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. from Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill.