Penguins Knock Off No. 6 Illinois State in Season Finale

YSU celebrates Zaire Jones' interception return for a touchdown (Photo by Ron Stevens)
YSU celebrates Zaire Jones' interception return for a touchdown (Photo by Ron Stevens)

Youngstown, Ohio – The Youngstown State football team used a dominating performance from their defense to knock off No. 6 Illinois State on Senior Day at Stambaugh Stadium.

The Penguins finish the season 6-6 overall and 2-6 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference while the Redbirds fall to 8-3 overall and 5-3 in the league.

The Penguins defense held the Redbirds to just 142 yards on 57 plays and 0-13 on third down conversions. The Redbirds' quarterbacks had only three completions for 30 yards while also throwing three interceptions.

As a unit, the Penguins' defense recorded six sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Senior defensive back Kyle Hegedus had nine tackles while Terray Bryant recorded seven tackles and two interceptions. Justus Reed and Ray Anderson each recorded a pair of sacks while Zaire Jones had an interception returned for a touchdown.

Offensively, the Penguins finished with 270 yards of total offense, 187 yards came on the ground while 83 yards were gained through the air. Senior tailback Joe Alessi finished with 103 yards on 18 carries while freshman quarterback Mark Waid ran for 58 yards on 13 attempts. 

With 26 seconds remaining in the first quarter, the Penguins took a 7-0 lead on a six-yard touchdown run from Braxton Chapman. On his first drive of the game, Waid manufactured a 12 play 80-yard scoring drive. Waid picked up 49 yards on five carries while the Penguins featured running plays on all 12 snaps.

The Penguins' defense held the Redbirds' offense to just 20 yards on 12 plays while also forcing a turnover in the first quarter.

Following the Penguins' second turnover of the game, Sam Fenlason converted a 22-yard field goal to cap off an eight play 30-yard drive to make the score 7-3 with 8:33 left in the first half.

Headed into the half, the Penguins took a 14-3 lead on a one yard touchdown from Joe Craycraft with only 13 seconds remaining. Craycraft's score capped off a 12 play 89-yard drive which featured a fourth down conversion in Illinois State territory on eight yard reception from Craycraft to Ryan Emans.

In the first half, the Penguins had 169 yards of total offense while holding the Redbirds to just 57 yards all on the ground. Illinois State failed to complete a pass on seven attempts.

After a scoreless third quarter, the Penguins defense helped extend their lead to 21-3 with only 5:06 remaining in the contest. On a third-and-nine, Jones jumped in front of a throw from Jack Baltz for an interception before returning 30 yards for a touchdown.