Penguins eliminated from playoff contention


Sophomore Trevor Wooden slips past junior Aronde Stanton the Penguins’ final game at the Ice Castle. Wooden finished with 121 rushing yards, 188 passing and four touchdowns combined. Photo by Dustin Livesay/The Jambar.

Sophomore quarterback Kurt Hess chucked a final pass from his own 45-yard line, hoping for a reception in the end zone.

The pass fell incomplete, and the Youngstown State University Penguins lost to Missouri State University, 38-34, on Saturday.

“We didn’t do enough things to win that football game today,” head coach Eric Wolford said. “We had a lot of foolish penalties that were a concern there early in the game. The coverage and the kicking game were atrocious. We had our opportunities there as bad as we played.”

Before the final possession, the Penguins held a 34-31 lead and sustained a drive. They faced third and five from the MSU 42-yard line.

Hess attempted a pass to junior tailback Jamaine Cook. The pass fell incomplete and the Penguins were forced to punt.

“In hindsight, I’d probably wished I would’ve went for it,” Wolford said.

Sophomore Sybhrian Berry returned the punt 27 yards to the MSU 36-yard line. Later in the drive, the Bears faced second and ten at the YSU 32-yard line.

Sophomore quarterback Trevor Wooden completed a 30-yard pass to freshman Robert Fields. Wooden threw a touchdown pass two plays later to junior Cadarriu Dotson to take a four-point lead.

“He’s very well-developed, especially in his lower body, and he’s a guy if something’s not there, he can pull it down and run,” Wolford said of Wooden.

Wolford said that although the missed third down conversion would have concluded the game, it came down to more than just that play.

“You can’t just alienate just one play,” Wolford said. “How about our kickoff coverage? How about our punt coverage? All three phases of the game today we did not play a championship level of football, period.”

The Penguins allowed 55 return yards on two punts and 173 on five kickoffs.

Hess also said there was not one specific turning point.

“We had our opportunities, and we couldn’t capitalize,” Hess said. “We had some good drives we put together offensively, and other drives stalled. You can’t let those stall, and we can’t put the defense out on the field. We didn’t play as well as we could have, and we’re feeling the pain from it.”

Coming into the game, the Penguins needed Indiana State University and Illinois State University to lose for sole possession of third place in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Indiana fell to Southern Illinois University, and Illinois lost to the University of Northern Iowa.

The standings remain the same with all three teams losing.

“This one’s rough,” Hess said. “It was an emotional game, especially on senior night. We wanted to come out and play well for the seniors. I hope it does hurt our football team. I hope we learn from it and get better.”

Hess set school records for most passing touchdowns in a game (five) and in a season (26). He finished the game with 298 passing yards on 21 completions.

Junior tight end Will Shaw led all YSU receivers with three catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore Jelani Berassa, freshman Christian Bryan and sophomore Kevin Watts combined 17 receptions for 206 yards and three touchdowns.