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Youngstown, Ohio – Junior cornerback DJ Smalls returned an interception for a 65-yard touchdown with 6:19 remaining in the game to secure a 29-17 victory for the Youngstown State football team over South Dakota on Saturday night at Stambaugh Stadium.
The Penguins improve to 3-4 overall and 2-2 in the Missouri Valley Conference while Coyotes drop to 3-4 and 2-2.
Senior tailback Tevin McCaster carried the ball a career-high 36 times for a season-high 176 yards and a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass. On his final carry of the game, McCaster became the 14th player in school history to eclipse the 2,500-yard mark for his career.
Quarterback Montgomery VanGorder completed 10-of-18 for 131 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 19 yards and score. Junior quarterback Nathan Mays came off the bench and ran the ball six times for 76 yards. Jeramiah Braswell led all wide receivers with three catches for 66 yards.
YSU jumped out to a 6-0 lead when McCaster found the end zone on a 7-yard touchdown run. The six play, 36-yard drive was set up by a Chrispin Lee forced fumble, which gave the Penguins the ball at the South Dakota 36-yard line. The Penguins extended their lead to 12-0 with 5:50 left in the first quarter when VanGorder connected with McCaster on a 12-yard swing pass to cap off a nine play, 78-yard drive.
After forcing a three and out deep in South Dakota territory, YSU took the ball 40 yards for a score to extend their lead to 19-0. On the drive, VanGorder connected with Braswell for 33 yards before finishing off the drive with a 2-yard rushing touchdown. Freshman kicker Grant Gonya converted his first career extra point after missing his previous two attempts. The YSU defense kept the Coyotes in-check during the first quarter, allowing them to only three yards on 14 plays.
To open the second quarter, the Penguins went on a 12 play, 45-yard drive that chewed up over six minutes of the clock to push their lead to 22-0. Gonya drilled a 27-yard field goal, the first of his career, with 7:37 left in the first half.
In the first half, YSU dominated South Dakota on both sides of the football. The Penguins' offense had 256 total yards on 43 plays while the Coyotes only managed 43 yards on 25 plays. McCaster led the ground game for YSU with 18 carries for 92 yards and a score. He also had one reception for 12 yards and a touchdown Through the air, VanGorder completed 9-of-13 for 124 yards and a touchdown. With his legs, VanGorder had seven carries for 32 yards and a score.
South Dakota opened the second half with a 14-yard touchdown run from Kai Henry to bring the score to 22-7. The one-play scoring drive was set up after the Coyotes forced a fumble on VanGorder. The Coyotes cut the lead to 22-10 with 7:43 remaining in the third quarter after Mason Lober made a 23-yard field goal.
After the Penguins extended their lead to 29-10 late in the fourth quarter, the Coyotes responded with a touchdown to bring the score to 29-17. The nine play, 57-yard drive was capped off by a Henry 24-yard touchdown run, his second of the game. Backup quarterback Nathan Mays sealed the games for the Penguins when he converted a 3rd and 10 with a 50-yard carry.
The Penguins are back home next Saturday when they host Indiana State. Kickoff at Stambaugh Stadium is set for 2 p.m.