By Kyle Wills
Following three straight losses, the Youngstown State University football team ruled supreme against Indiana State University Oct. 15 during the homecoming game at Stambaugh Stadium.
In a game with over 80 points scored and nearly 1,000 yards of offense gained, the Penguins came out victorious 48-42. Senior Jaleel McLaughlin moved up to fifth all-time in NCAA history with 7,434 career rushing yards.
It was a back-and-forth contest with both offenses hot from the first play of the game. Indiana State took an early 7-0 lead after a 75-yard run on the opening play, but Youngstown State responded as junior Mitch Davidson completed a 50-yard touchdown pass to junior Bryce Oliver.
After taking a 14-7 lead, the Sycamores tied the game on a 53-yard pass. However, the Penguins responded quickly with a school-record 98-yard return from redshirt freshman Latrelle Fordham.
Indiana State tied the game, 21-21, after a two-yard quarterback scramble into the endzone in the second quarter.
With 10:17 left in the second quarter, McLaughlin churned out a 68-yard run for a score, taking the lead 28-21. Youngstown State’s lead extended to 35-21 after a 12-yard run by Davidson.
Indiana State cut the deficit 35-28 following a 12-yard touchdown reception with 1:35 left.
Following the announcement of the homecoming king and queen during halftime, the Penguins started the second half by scoring on their opening drive with a 10-yard run by McLaughlin to add to their lead 42-28.
The Sycamores fumbled the kickoff and the Penguins took advantage with a 33-yard field goal by senior Colt McFadden.
Indiana State responded with 14 unanswered points following an 18-yard touchdown pass and 11-yard scoring rush, but a second McFadden field goal set the score 48-42.
The Sycamores had one final drive to tie the game, but a turnover-on-downs sealed a victory for the Penguins
With Indiana State having one last drive to win the game, senior James Jackson said the defense needed to play with discipline to seal the game.
“I was telling everyone don’t do anything stupid, no flags, no offsides, [no] pass interference, or anything like that. We knew they were going to have to pass the ball, so we just knew we were going to have to win the game up front and that’s what we did,” Jackson said.
With both teams having disappointing defeats the last couple weeks, head coach Doug Phillips said it was a must-win game for each side.
“We knew coming in both these teams needed a win, it was going to be a dog fight for 60 plus minutes. They lost a tough one to [University of] Northern Iowa, a tough one to North Dakota State [University], we lost some tough ones. You don’t want to start 0-3, so this was critical especially at home,” Phillips said.
McLaughlin finished the game with 32 carries, 200 rushing-yards and two touchdowns while Davidson completed 14 of his 25 passes for 223 yards and a score. He also rushed for 35 yards with a touchdown. Oliver was the favorite target as he caught seven passes for 143 yards including a touchdown while Fordham was behind him with three receptions for 46 yards.
McLaughlin said emotions ran high all week leading into the game
“We wanted to win really, really bad. Going into the game, coming in after last Sunday, we were already focused like ‘Hey, we need this game. We literally need this game, not only for us, but for the fans and the people of Youngstown,’ so it was definitely very emotional for us to actually go out there and put everything we can into this game,” McLaughlin said.
Jackson had a great day on defense, forcing his way into the backfield numerous times to record three sacks. Sophomore Jordan Trowers led the team with five tackles while senior Greg Benton Jr. had four, including a forced fumble.
The football team looks to even out its Missouri Valley Football Conference record when it travels to Western Illinois University to strap up against the Leathernecks Oct. 22 at 4 p.m. The game can be listened to on 570 WKBN or watched on ESPN+.