By Dan Hiner
With the Youngstown State University football team sitting most of their players during their last game against Robert Morris University, the question was how YSU was going to play since they haven’t been healthy since week one.
YSU (3-1, 1-0 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference) beat the University of South Dakota 30-20 on Saturday, but head coach Bo Pelini wasn’t happy with the performance.
Pelini said the team’s performance was not what he was looking for, and said the Penguins struggled in all areas of the game. The Penguins put together 450 yards of total offense, but Pelini said the Penguins left points on the board in the first half turned the ball over four times.
After two weeks off, YSU quarterback Ricky Davis threw for a career-high 281 passing yards and ran for 82. But Davis also was picked off twice in the game.
“Offensively, we played less than…not good. He’s part of it, there’s 10 other guys that are a part of it. We didn’t play the way we needed to play,” Pelini said. “I don’t take a whole heck of a lot of positives out of this football game.”
YSU running back Martin Ruiz was second on the team in rushing with 65 yards on 19 carries. Ruiz also scored
the Penguins’ only two offensive touchdowns in the game.
The Penguins held a 20-3 lead after halftime, but South Dakota (1-3, 0-1 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference) started to claw back in the second half.
With 4:26 left in the third quarter, Coyotes’ kicker Miles Bergner connected on a 29-yard field goal attempt to cut the lead to 20-6. YSU kicker Zak Kennedy responded with a field goal of his own to extend the Penguin lead to 23-6.
But with 5:24 left in the game, South Dakota receiver Riley Donovan scored on a 1-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chris Streveler—shrinking the YSU lead to 23-13.
On the next Coyotes possession, YSU extended the lead to 30-13 after defensive end Avery Moss tipped a pass from Streveler into the hands of defensive back Jayln Powell, who returned the interception for his first career touchdown.
Powell, a graduate of Warren Harding High School and a former Michigan State University Spartan, said it was a good feeling to come up with a clutch play in his hometown. He added that he “was just in the right place at the right time”, but gave credit for the play to the rest of the defense.
South Dakota responded one more time on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Streveler to wide receiver Alonge Brooks. The Coyotes attempted an onside kick, but YSU recovered and ran the clock out.
The Penguins’ defense caused three turnovers, with two interceptions and one fumble recovery. Also, the defense sacked Streveler four times and hit him five more times. But, Moss agreed with Pelini and said the defense didn’t play up to its’ standards.
“We could do so much better. Like I said, we got to get in unison with stuff like that—like with tempo,” Moss said. “We all got to do better. We all got to be on one page, then nobody could stop us in this conference.”