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Youngstown, Ohio – The 17th-ranked Youngstown State football team fell to No. 3 South Dakota State 38-28 on Saturday evening at Stambaugh Stadium.
The Penguins drop to 4-2 overall and 0-2 in the MVFC for the first time since 2004 while the Jackrabbits improve to 5-1 and 2-0.
YSU was leading at the half 14-3 and held a 21-9 lead in the final minute of the third quarter, but the SDSU outscored the Penguins 29-7 the rest of the way.
Nathan Mays passed for 176 yards and a touchdown and rushed for two more, and Joe Craycraft came on to throw a late touchdown in the fourth quarter that got the Penguins within 31-28. Joe Alessi rushed for 72 yards on 17 carries and caught a 55-yard touchdown, and tight end Miles Joiner had a game-high five receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown.
The Jackrabbits marched right down the field on their opening drive, but the Penguins defense came up with a stop on third down as Justus Reed was able to bring down the quarterback. Chase Vinatieri capped off the 12 play, 64-yard drive with a 36-yard field goal with 7:47 remaining in the first quarter to give SDSU a 3-0 lead.
After failing to move the ball on their first offensive possession, the Penguins went on a six-play, 63-yard scoring drive to take a 7-3 lead with 1:13 left in the first quarter. Mays took a zone read up the middle of the field for 28-yard touchdown scamper.
Following a three-and-out by the Jackrabbits, the Penguins went on an eight-play, 50-yard drive to extend their lead to 14-3. Mays finished off the drive with his second rushing touchdown of the game on a one-yard quarterback sneak. The touchdown followed a 12-yard pass from Mays to Joiner down to the one.
In the final seconds of the first half, Vinatieri missed a 47-yard field goal wide left to keep the score 14-3 headed into the break.
Coming out of the half, the Jackrabbits cut the lead to 14-9 after Don Gardner returned a Mays interception 42 yards for a touchdown.
On their next offensive drive, the Penguins regained their 11 point lead when Mays connected with Alessi for a 45-yard touchdown strike. Alessi came out of the backfield uncovered on play action and ran untouched to the end zone to make the score 21-9 with 7:17 remaining in the third quarter.
The Jackrabbits responded with a touchdown score on their following with drive when J'Bore Gibbs punched it in the end zone from two yards out to bring the score to 21-16 with 40 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
SDSU regained the lead with 11:04 remaining in the game when Gibbs threw an 81-yard touchdown pass to Cade Johnson. The Jackrabbits made the score 24-21 after converting a two-point conversion.
Following a second interception by Mays, the Jackrabbits went 44 yards on seven plays to push their lead to 31-21 after C.J. Wilson ran in for a score from 13 yards out.
YSU made the score 31-28 with 2:54 left in the game when Craycraft hit Joiner down the seam for a 17-yard touchdown. The Penguins picked up a huge conversion on fourth-and-28 on the drive when Mays threw a pass falling to a ground that was completed to Jermiah Braswell for 28 yards. Craycraft's scoring throw came on third and goal after Mays left with an injury.
Gibbs connected with Jaxon Janke for an eight-yard pass on third-and-seven to allow SDSU to keep possession, and Gibbs raced for a 63-yard touchdown three plays later on third-and-nine to put the game out of reach.
The Penguins hit the road next Saturday when they travel to Southern Illinois to take on the Salukis at 3 p.m. from Saluki Stadium.