By Kyle Wills
The Youngstown State University football team is now on a winning streak after being victorious in three-straight matchups, including Oct. 29 against the University of South Dakota.
Senior Jaleel McLaughlin rushed for over 100 yards for the seventh time this season with 119 along with two touchdowns in the 45-24 victory.
Head coach Doug Phillips said with the team’s focus on the game ahead, it was able to come out of the gate hot.
“Our kids came ready, we wanted to start fast. I thought we started fast, got up on it real quick and then we never took the [foot] off the gas pedal in the first half,” Phillips said.
Junior Mitch Davidson finished the game with 242 passing yards and three touchdowns. Of those yards, 122 went to junior Bryce Oliver, who also brought in two of Davidson’s scoring passes.
With a touchdown in every start of Davidson’s, Oliver contributes their off-field relationship to their on-field connection.
“Mitch and I have been hanging out a lot. Recently this year, we’ve been stepping it up off the field. We’ve been going to the movies a couple times a week. I even go out to eat with Mitch and the [offensive] linemen on Thursdays,” Oliver said.
Defensively, senior Caleb Burr led the team with 10 total tackles while sophomore Dylan Wudke brought terror to the line of scrimmage with five tackles including two sacks.
Youngstown State got on the board first during its opening drive following a two-yard run by McLaughlin, but South Dakota responded in less than three minutes with its own scoring rush from 15 yards out.
The Penguins reclaimed the lead, 10-7, with a 52-yard field goal in the first quarter from senior Colt McFadden. The kick marks the longest kick since the school-record 56-yard kick made in 2003.
The Coyotes tied the score with their own field goal of 28 yards in the second, but the Penguins responded by driving 75 yards in a minute and a half. Davidson finished off the drive with a 42-yard pass to Oliver.
That score started a span of 28 unanswered points for Youngstown State, as it scored three more touchdowns in the second quarter. The span included a 13-play, 90-yard scoring drive, ending in a Davidson rushing touchdown.
It was a slower second half as only three scores occurred. South Dakota scored first in the half after a touchdown with 8:47 left in the third, but Youngstown State responded on its next drive with its own score after a second touchdown for Oliver from 19 yards out.
The Coyotes tried to limit the damage with seven points with under a minute left in the game where it stayed until the final, 45-24.
Phillips said with the team’s best football still ahead, the defense and special teams were important components to the outcome.
“To see them take that step today where special teams … had another turnover on the kickoff unit … and then defensively … we said we wanted to stop the run,” Phillips said.
The football team looks to make a playoff push as it travels to Illinois State University Nov. 5 to take on the Redbirds at 3 p.m. The game can be listened to on 570 WKBN or watched on ESPN+.