By Rick Henneman
The Youngstown State University football team (3-3, 1-2 in Missouri Valley Football Conference) entered Saturday night’s top-10 matchup against North Dakota State University (6-0, 3-0 in MVFC) coming off of a disappointing loss against the University of South Dakota. The eighth-ranked Penguins looked to defend its 11-game home winning streak against the second-ranked Bison in Stambaugh Stadium. NDSU won the game 27-24 in overtime.
YSU opened up the game with the ball and Nathan Mays started at quarterback in place of Hunter Wells for the second straight week.
The Penguins moved down the field on an 11-play, 58-yard play but were stopped in the red zone on third down. Kicker Zak Kennedy converted a 34-yard field goal to put the Penguins up 3-0 with 9:08 left in the first.
After holding the NDSU offense scoreless on its opening drive, YSU moved down the field again. This time, Mays connected with wide receiver Damoun Patterson on a 22-yard touchdown pass. YSU led NDSU 10-0 with 1:22 left in
The Bison would answer during the first drive of the second quarter. Wide receiver RJ Urzendowski made a spectacular one-handed grab on a touchdown pass from quarterback Easton Stick. YSU led 10-7 with 13:44 left in the second quarter.
The NDSU offense tied the score at 10 before halftime with a 19-yard field goal from kicker Cam Pederson. YSU linebacker Lee Wright made a crucial pass break-up to keep the Bison out of the end zone on third down.
The Penguins opened up the second half firing on all cylinders. The defense forced NDSU to punt on its opening drive and a touchdown pass from Mays to tight end Kevin Rader capped off an 8-play, 56-yard drive. The Penguins led the Bison 17-10 with 9:16 left in the third quarter.
“It’s always nice to play in big games and have a stage to prove yourself on,” Mays said. “I think I’ve done fairly well. I know a lot of guys have confidence in me despite going three-and-out a couple of times.”
The back and forth action continued in the third quarter as the Bison offense struck back with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Stick to tight end Nate Jenson. The game was tied at 17 with 3:45 left in the third.
The game remained tied at 17 entering the fourth quarter.
Stick opened up the fourth quarter with a bang. On the first play of the quarter, he ran it up the middle for an 80-yard touchdown run after breaking a tackle by Wright. NDSU took a 24-17 lead with 14:45 left in the game.
“He’s a great mobile quarterback,” YSU defensive tackle Donald Mesier said about Stick. “He can get out of the pocket and run. We just missed some tackles. That’s one thing we need to get better at.”
Both defenses took their turns stalling offensive drives until YSU marched down the field on a 9-play, 90-yard drive capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run from running back Tevin McCaster that tied the game at 24 with 1:27 left. NDSU took the game into overtime
YSU began the overtime period with the ball and gained just two yard. Kennedy missed a 39-yard field goal attempt. NDSU got the ball with a chance to win the game.
The Penguin defense stepped up and held the Bison to just six yards but Pedersen nailed a 36-yard field goal to win the game on OT.
“It was a tough loss, but it was a good football game,” YSU Head Coach Bo Pelini said after the game. “Two good teams laid it on the line and we had our opportunities. In the end, they made one more play than we did. I have a lot of respect for their team and their program.”
Mays had a career performance with his first multiple touchdown game and a career-high in yards with 188 yards and 2 touchdowns.
“Nate [Mays] competes, he played his butt off and played hard,” Pelini said. “He’s going to look film and kick himself for certain things. That’s a part of playing football. I thought he did a lot of good things, but he will learn from this experience.”
Stick finished the game with 113 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 172 yards.
“I think he is a heck of a football player,” Pelini said about Stick. “I have a lot of respect for him. He can run it, throw it and makes good decisions. He is an experienced quarterback and a really good one.”
YSU will move on to face the University of Northern Iowa on Saturday Oct. 21. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m at the UNIDome.