Penguins Fall to Jackrabbits 38-28

By Nathanael Hawthorne

The Youngstown State University football team dropped its second Missouri Valley League conference game to third-ranked South Dakota State University on homecoming night. Despite the loss, the Penguins are still 4-2 overall.

YSU’s homecoming record was 53-24-1 all time, and at the Ice Castle, they were 25-12.

The first half for YSU showed what the team is really capable of —  provided they can “stay out of its own way,” according to coach Bo Pelini.

“We got in our own way tonight in the second half. I think we showed what we’re capable of in the first half but you gotta sustain it,” Pelini said.

In the first half for YSU’s offense, they seemed to be firing on all cylinders. Quarterbacks Nathan Mays and Joe Craycraft combined for 92 yards in the air, completing 10 of 14 passes.

The only scores came from Mays who had two touchdown runs — 28-yards and one-yard, respectively.

Coming into the game, Mays was listed as day-to-day due to an injury sustained Oct. 5 against the University of Northern Iowa. Not only did he start for the Penguins, Mays had one of the biggest impacts on the offense.

Quarterback Nathan Mays runs for the first touchdown of the game against SDSU while wearing a brace on his injured left knee. Photo by Brent Bigelow/The Jambar

“He fought like a warrior,” Pelini said. “He made a couple bad decisions, but you gotta give Nate a lot of credit, he played hard.”

The “bad decisions” Pelini referred to were two interceptions thrown by Mays. 

One of which was taken to the end zone by the SDSU defense. YSU also pick up another turnover on offense after a fumble by senior tailback Joe Alessi. All three turnovers took place in the second half.

“Some of the things we just need to cut down on,” Alessi said. “Some turnovers and other things. That just can’t happen.”

For the Penguin defense, they started strong by holding the SDSU offense to three points in the first half, but YSU couldn’t keep the momentum going after intermission.

“We just gotta learn how to finish,” senior linebacker Cash Mitchell said. “I feel like we just came out lazy in the second half and didn’t really live up to our expectations that we did in the first half, so we gotta practice better and we gotta pay attention to details better to make that happen in the second half.”

In conference play, the team is 0-2. Their four wins were against non-conference teams.

“We should have won that game … but we have to realize we’re 4-2. The two teams we lost to were good teams. We just need to bounce back [and] we’ll be good. We’ll see those teams again in the playoffs,” Alessi said.

YSU hits the road for next week’s matchup against Southern Illinois University and then returns to the Ice Castle to take on Western Illinois University.