Montgomery, Ala. - The Youngstown State football team rushed for 277 yards and forced four turnovers in a 45-22 season-opening victory over Samford on Saturday afternoon in the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff Classic.
The Penguins (1-0) intercepted three passes, had three sacks and returned a fumble for a touchdown against the Bulldogs (0-1). The Penguins built a 31-7 advantage early in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs took a 7-0 lead with 9:09 left in first quarter. After each team had a possession, Samford moved 85 yards in just five plays as Liam Welch found Robert Adams for a touchdown pass. Welch connected with Adams for a 55-yard touchdown pass.
YSU answered back with an impressive 13-play, 83-yard march to tie the contest. For the game-tying score, Mays connected with Samuel St. Surin on a 16-yard scoring toss with 2:12 left in the first quarter. The duo picked up a key 3rd-and-15 with a 26-yard pickup two plays before the touchdown.
Two plays following the touchdown, the Penguins found the end zone again, this time with a defensive score. Cash Mitchell stripped Welch of the football and was able to corral it and race 25 yards for a touchdown to give YSU its first lead of the game at 14-7.
The Penguins stretched the lead to 17-7 with 10:57 left in the first half on a 43-yard field goal by Colten McFadden.
Just before halftime the Guins added their third touchdown of the half. On third-and-two from the four-yard line, Mays connected with Josh Burgett on a four-yard touchdown pass with 36 seconds left to extend the YSU lead to 24-7.
In the first half, YSU had 271 yards of total offense while Samford had 166. The Penguins struck gold on third down converting 8-of-11 opportunities. Two touchdowns came on third down and YSU gained 120 yards on those 11 snaps.
After neither team could muster much offensively in the third quarter, the Guins scored on the second snap of the fourth quarter. Joe Craycraft stepped in at quarterback and engineered the eight-play, 63-yard scoring drive. On the drive, he found St. Surin for a pair of receptions and Braxton Chapman capped off the drive with a one-yard plunge, the first of his career.
Chapman added a second one-yard scoring run with 5:16 left in the game. After Samford pulled within 38-22 with 3:17 left, Christian Turner added a three-yard touchdown run just 61 seconds later to round out the scoring.
Mays led the way on the ground with 90 yards on 13 carries while Turner had 89 yards. Joe Alessi chipped in 56 while Chapman added 50. The Guins held the Bulldogs to just 60 yards rushing on 24 carries.
The Penguins play their home opener on Sept. 7 against Howard. Kickoff at Stambaugh Stadium is set for 2 p.m.