Pittsburgh, Pa. - The Youngstown State football team scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to force overtime at Pitt, but the comeback came up short as the Panthers escaped with a 28-21 win at Heinz Field.
Five years and one day after YSU beat Pitt, the Penguins nearly pulled the upset over an FBS opponent again. After Pittsburgh scored on its first three drives of the game, YSU slowly gained momentum before scoring twice in the final seven minutes to force overtime.
Tevin McCaster scored on a 1-yard run with 4:44 left in the third to get the Penguins on the board, and Christian Turner caught two Hunter Wells touchdown passes in the fourth quarter as YSU tied the game at 21-21. Pitt placekicker Alex Kessman missed wide right on a 38-yard field goal at the end of regulation.
The Penguins got within a touchdown when Wells connected with Turner on a wheel route for a 25-yard touchdown pass and made it a 21-14 game with 6:10 left.
On Pitt's next possession, Justus Reed sack and recovery of Pitt quarterback Max Browne's fumble gave the Penguins possession at the Pitt 42.
Two plays later, Wells hit Turner on a 40-yard touchdown pass to knot the game at 21-21 with 3:35 to go.
In overtime, the Panthers converted a third-and-five to keep their drive alive, and Max Browne connected with Jester Weah for an 11-yard touchdown that put Pitt up 28-21.
McCaster rushed three straight times to get the Penguins to the Pitt 13, but Wells was picked off in the end zone by Bricen Garner to end the game.
Turner had an impressive debut for the Penguins, finishing with 124 receiving yards on five catches while adding 32 yards on the ground and 33 on kickoff returns. Kevin Rader caught six passes for 100 yards, and McCaster finished with 73 yards rushing, 65 of which came in the second half. Wells was 18-for-32 for 311 yards and two touchdowns, plus the interception in overtime.
Youngstown State outgained Pitt 276-84 in the third and fourth quarters.
Pitt scored on its first three drives and owned a 21-0 lead at the halftime. The Panthers, who had three scoring drives of at least 11 plays, took the opening drive of the game 71 yards in 11 plays capped by a six-yard run by Qadree Ollison. The Panthers converted on third down three times on the drive, including a 30-yard pass play from Browne to Ollison to the YSU 37.
Ollison scored from five yards out to give the Panthers a 14-0 lead with 1:50 left in the first quarter, and A.J. Davis capped a 16-play, 74-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge at the 3:07 mark of the second quarter.
The Penguins host Robert Morris in the 2017 home opener, Saturday, Sept. 9. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.