By Cameron Niemi
Last year, the Youngstown State University football team ended its season with a 7-4 record and 5-3 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference but was not selected for the FCS Playoffs.
This season, the Penguins finished with the same record as a year ago, but “left no doubt” and were selected for a bid in the FCS Playoffs for the first time since the team’s National Championship run in 2016.
YSU finished the regular season Nov. 18 on the road against Murray State University. The Penguins took care of business as they defeated the Racers, 34-17.
YSU was selected to play Duquesne University in a first-round matchup. The Dukes finished their season with a 7-4 record and won the Northeast Conference Title.
Duquesne traveled to Stambaugh Stadium on Nov. 25 to take on the Penguins in the first round of the FCS Playoffs. YSU secured a 40-7 victory over the Dukes and earned the program’s 17th straight home playoff win.
YSU controlled time of possession throughout the game and held the ball for over 42 minutes.
Senior quarterback Mitch Davidson drove the offense down the field in the first quarter as he connected with junior wide receiver C.J. Charleston for a nine-yard touchdown and took an early 7-0 lead.
The Dukes responded with a touchdown of their own, making it a 10-7 Penguin lead before heading into the second quarter.
The Penguins put together a long drive in the second, which ended with a two-yard touchdown run from senior running back Dra Rushton, which extended the lead 17-7.
Rushton finished with 16 carries for 77 yards and senior Tyshon King had 19 carries for 101 yards. King was also named to the MVFC All-Newcomer Team in his first year as a Penguin.
Right before halftime, Davidson found his number-one target, senior Bryce Oliver in the corner of the endzone for a 21-yard touchdown. Oliver finished with eight receptions for 181 yards.
This marked Oliver’s 26th career touchdown catch, officially breaking YSU’s record of most receiving touchdowns by a player. This was previously held by Jim Ferranti who was a part of the YSU football program from 1976-79.
Davidson finished the game 18-of-27 for 316 yards through the air and two touchdowns as he threw to 10 different targets throughout the game. This also marked the most passing yards by a YSU quarterback in a playoff game.
Redshirt freshman kicker Andrew Lastovka was perfect on field goals as he went 4-of-4 including a career-long 50-yarder.
Davidson spoke after the game on the team’s dominant win and breaking the passing record.
“To get in the playoffs as a sixth-year senior, since I got here in 2018 that’s really all I wanted to do as a quarterback was to be able to step in there and help a team make a playoff run and I feel like I’m doing that,” Davidson said.
Head coach Doug Phillips also spoke after the teams first playoff win since 2016.
“Great to get into the Ice Castle today, you could feel the crowd and to be able to get a playoff win not only for our seniors, but for our program [and] for our community,” Phillips said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our players, our coaches, our fans, our community. It feels great to get that playoff victory.”
The MVFC announced its All-Conference team Nov. 27. On the defensive side of the ball, defensive back Troy Jakubec and defensive end Dylan Wudke made Second-Team All-Conference.
On the offensive side of the ball Oliver, King and offensive lineman Jaison Willams were also named Second-Team All-Conference.
Youngstown State will travel to Philadelphia for the first time since 1999 to take on No. 8 Villanova University in the Second Round of the FCS Playoffs. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. on Dec. 2. To watch the game go to ESPN+ or view live stats on ysusports.com.