By Kyle Wills
After a strong start to the season, the Youngstown State University football team fell into the loss column for the first time in 2022 against a SEC opponent in the University of Kentucky at Kroger Field Sept. 17.
In what was a courageous effort, the Penguins fell by a final of 31-0 to the No. 9 Wildcats after trailing 21-0 at the half.
The Penguins continued their impressive run stuffing ability as they held Kentucky to 2.9 yards per carry. The Wildcats managed 103 yards on 36 rushing attempts.
Sophomore Dylan Wudke helped lead the defense with seven total tackles including 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack
Despite getting multiple stops on defense, Wudke said the team needs to put its focus ahead.
“We just have to keep going, we can’t point fingers. We can’t look at the offense and do that. We just have to keep going and keep grinding,” Wudke said.
Youngstown State forced two interceptions and four sacks, but allowed 377 yards on 27-for-35 in the air to Kentucky’s Will Levis. The Wildcats also converted six of their 10 third-down conversions.
The offense struggled to get anything going as it gained 192 yards of total offense and was 0-of-10 on third-down conversions.
Senior Jaleel McLaughlin rushed for under 100 yards for the first time this season as he only mustered 36 yards on 10 attempts, but the lead back was able to gain 60 yards on three receptions including a 64-yard pass in the third quarter.
Sophomore Demeatric Crenshaw couldn’t find many open receivers as he only completed seven passes for 120 yards along with an interception.
Head coach Doug Phillips said the Wildcats were a challenge to face, but he was happy with how hard the team played.
“We knew it would be a tough game coming in here and I can say that I’m not one ounce disappointed in the effort of our kids,” Phillips said.
Despite coming out on the wrong end of the score, Phillips said the team did do great things in the game.
“It makes me proud of my kids, they belong… When I turn the film on, I’m going to see some good things … I’m excited for the players and I’m excited to see where this team can go,” Phillips said.
The football team will have a bye week before continuing its season Oct. 1 versus North Dakota State University in Fargo, North Dakota. The game can be listened to on 570 WKBN or watched on ESPN+.