By Cameron Niemi
The Youngstown State University football team played its second-straight home game Oct. 28. Missouri State University came to Stambaugh Stadium with a 3-4 overall record. The Penguins won their fifth-straight home game and defeated the Bears by a final score of 44-28.
The YSU offense found success in the passing game as senior quarterback Mitch Davidson and senior wide receiver Bryce Oliver both had career-high games.
Davidson led the offense to victory as he passed to 10 different targets throughout the game. Davidson threw four touchdown passes for the second week in a row and went 26-of-33 through the air for 390 yards passing.
Oliver finished with six catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns.
Missouri State jumped out to an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter. YSU responded with a drive of its own as Davidson found Oliver for a 48-yard completion.
That drive led to a 10-yard catch and score from junior wide receiver C.J. Charleston.
With the game tied at 7, the Penguins got the ball again and took their first lead of the game. Davidson found senior tight end Jake Benio for a 2-yard touchdown. The ‘Guins went into the second quarter with a 14-7 lead.
A scoring drive for the Bears ensued and YSU responded with a five-play, 85-yard drive which ended with a 51-yard touchdown pass to Oliver, which gave the ‘Guins a 21-14 lead.
Davidson connected with Oliver again late in the second quarter for a 20-yard catch in the corner of the endzone for a touchdown. Redshirt freshman Andrew Lastovka kicked a 27-yard field goal to end the first half and extend the teams lead, 31-14.
The Penguins received the ball to start the second half. They marched down the field 75-yards in two minutes, as senior Dra Rushton ran in a one-yard touchdown, which extended the teams lead, 38-14.
Missouri State slowly started to fight back as it went and scored 14 unanswered points before heading into the fourth quarter.
YSU’s defense showed up big in the final quarter. The team had five sacks in the game, three of which came in the fourth quarter. Senior defensive lineman Devin Lee led the team with two.
Junior Troy Jakubec also had an interception early on in the quarter, which led to three points from the foot of Lastovka from 29-yards out, which gave the Penguins a 41-28 lead.
Lastovka had another perfect game as he finished 5-of-5 on extra points and 3-of-3 on field goals. His third field goal was a career-long 44 yards.
Davidson spoke after the game on the offense’s success and the defense showing up when they needed it in the fourth quarter.
“To come in the Ice Castle and defend it like we did, very proud of the way the offense came out to play and the way that the defense stepped up when we really needed them,” Davidson said. “The defense is always doing their job when we need it most.”
Davidson was named Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Week after a successful day through the air. Nate Mays was the last YSU quarterback to receive this achievement in 2019.
Oliver — who came off a productive game — spoke after the win on the importance of preparing for next week’s game.
“Just having that road focus. Taking this thing day by day, week by week. Last time we went there we ended up coming up short, that definitely left a sour taste in our mouth,” Oliver said. “We’re gonna go there and just try to get that W.”
The Penguins moved to 5-3 on the season and 3-2 in the MVFC. The team jumped to No. 22 in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25. YSU still remains on the outside of the FCS Coaches Poll.
Youngstown State will travel west to Indiana, to take on a winless Indiana State University at 1 p.m. on Nov. 4.
For more information on the game, go to ysusports.com. To watch the game, go to ESPN+ or listen on 570 WKBN.