Penguins Drop First Conference Game of the Season

By Nathanael Hawthorne

In the first Missouri Valley Conference matchup of the year, 18th-ranked Youngstown State University was handed its first loss of the season to 13th-ranked University of Northern Iowa 21-14.

Penguins coach Bo Pelini believes to win on the road, you have to play even better than at home.

“To win on the road you need to play cleaner and better than we did, and we didn’t play well enough to win,” Pelini said.

The first half for the Penguin offense fared less than ideal. The team had 134 total offensive yards – 75 of them coming on one play which resulted in a touchdown for the Penguins.

On that play, quarterback Nathan Mays completed a pass to wide receiver Jermiah Braswell for a 75-yard score. 

In the first half, Mays went four for six with 102 yards in the air. He also tacked on 15 yards on the ground.

YSU’s defense looked sharp during the first few drives.

Freshman Jaelin Madison dropped UNI’s quarterback in the backfield for his first career sack. On the following drive, sophomore Antoine Cook nailed the UNI quarterback for a sack. Cook was the top tackler for the Penguin defense with seven tackles.

The next few defensive stands resulted in long plays for UNI. 

A 39-yard touchdown pass by the Panthers gave UNI a 7-0 lead. Two drives later, a 42-yard completed pass gave UNI great field position that led to a touchdown.

After a 75 yard touchdown pass thrown by YSU, the Panthers answered back with another long play – a 47-yard completion which turned into points for UNI.

Pelini kept the team’s spirits up as they went into the second half of the game.

Penguins coach Bo Pelini. Photo by Brent Bigelow/The Jambar

“He told us [to] keep our heads up and stay ready,” senior wide receiver Kendric Mallory said. “You never know when your number’s gonna be called so just stay ready.”

Mallory and the offensive unit took those words to heart as they opened the second half with 14-yard touchdown pass caught by none other than Mallory.

One of the biggest stories to come out of the game was an injury sustained by Mays. Late in the fourth quarter, Mays took a hit by several UNI defenders and suffered a leg injury.

At the end of the game, Pelini did not have an update on the quarterback. He said the team would know more within the next few days. 

“He played well,” Pelini said about Mays’ performance before the injury. “He fought his butt off.”

Mays finished 17-23 with 239 passing yards and two touchdowns.

A trend that came back for the Penguins was the presence of penalty flags. YSU got flagged nine times for 95 yards. 

“We just gotta play smarter,” linebacker Cash Mitchell said. “We just gotta come Tuesday ready to work. We just gotta get the errors out of there.”

The Penguins return to the Ice Castle Saturday, Oct. 12 for the Homecoming game against South Dakota State University. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.