By John Ostapowicz
With two weeks to prepare against Missouri Valley Conference opponent, University of Northern Iowa, the Youngstown State University football team hit the road and traveled to the UNI-Dome on Sept. 30.
Both teams combined for 85 points of total offense en route to a 44-41 loss for Youngstown State.
To open the first quarter, the Penguins started back deep in their own territory before senior quarterback Mitch Davidson threw a 61-yard pass to senior wide receiver Bryce Oliver.
The offense went three-and-out, which led to redshirt freshman kicker Andrew Lastovka to score the first points for YSU three minutes into the game.
With another opportunity for the Penguins, Davidson scored on a six-yard keeper to the left sideline, which put the team up 10-0.
UNI retaliated with a touchdown of its own with over two minutes left in the first quarter, with a 13-yard pass from redshirt quarterback senior Theo Day to junior tight end Layne Pryor, to put the Panthers on the board.
The Panthers’ offense went on to score three straight unanswered touchdowns and a 20-0 scoring run.
A field goal by Penguin sophomore Clay Medvec on the 38 yard-line, concluded the Panthers 20-point run.
In response to the offensive battle, head coach Doug Phillips felt there were a lot of positives for the Penguins moving forward.
“When we talk about complimentary football, we jump out 10-0 and when [Northern Iowa] starts scoring points, that’s when our offense has to score a lot of points,” Phillips said. “There were two times in the second quarter where we had two three-and-outs and an interception.”
Starting the second half, Northern Iowa senior kicker Matthew Cook added three points to make the score 23-13 in the early minutes of the third quarter.
Youngstown State’s offense trotted back on the field with great field position after a blocked punt by sophomore Deamontae Diggs, who returned it to the UNI nine-yard line.
Davidson handed the ball off to senior Dra Rushton to put the Penguins within three points.
YSU would score on back-to-back drives to grab a 27-23 lead in the final minutes of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, 35 points of offense led to the Penguins’ attempt to score with under a minute left in the fourth.
The team came up short 44-41, despite a five-yard touchdown pass by Davidson to sophomore Luke Henely to conclude the game.
Youngstown State’s offense controlled possession but gave up 436 yards of total offense. For Davidson, he finished the game 30-of-40 for 322 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Despite the loss, the offensive-line allowed only one sack throughout the duration of the game.
The Penguins fell to 2-2 overall on the season and 0-1 in conference play.
The football team will be back in action at Stambaugh Stadium at 6 p.m. Oct. 7 against the fifth-ranked Southern Illinois University.
In response to taking on the undefeated Salukis, Oliver said he knows the significance of the game and what it means to the team.
“We’re going to approach this week the right way and prepare the right way and hopefully the results will show in our favor on Saturday,” Oliver said.
The game will be streamed live on ESPN+ and can be listened to on 570 WKBN.