Penguins head to Iowa on six-game winning streak

Whether it’s at Stambaugh Stadium or the Watson and Tressel Training Site, the Youngstown State University football team works on the two-minute drill every Wednesday.

Actually, the Penguins practice with 1:16 on the clock. So, when they had 2:07 remaining in Saturday’s game at the University of South Dakota, there was never a doubt they couldn’t score.

“When I saw we had an extra 50 seconds, I said, ‘This is nothing to us,’” Christian Bryan, junior receiver, said. “If we do our jobs and do what we’re supposed to do, we can move the ball down the field, and it’s going to be no problem.”

YSU trailed by three points and began the drive on its own 26-yard line.

“We came together as a unit,” Kyle Bryant, senior offensive lineman, said. “It was a decision by the players in the huddle right before we went out to leave nothing here — leave nothing out there — and we just went for broke.”

Bryan began the drive with an 18-yard reception from Kurth Hess, senior quarterback and the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s Offensive Player of the Week. Bryan later nabbed a 15-yard pass to the USD 3-yard line.

Hess then spiked the ball, and Martin Ruiz, freshman running back and a Co-National Freshman of the Week, punched it in with 14 seconds left, giving YSU the lead and eventual 38-34 victory.

There was no question the eighth-ranked Penguins were not playing for a game-tying field goal.

“We’ve been in that situation probably, since I’ve been here, at least 75 or 80 times,” head coach Eric Wolford said. “I can tell by looking at the kids, you can tell in their eyes that they have confidence. We really didn’t lack any confidence offensively.”

YSU (8-1, 5-0) will take that momentum to the University of Northern Iowa on Saturday.

The Panthers (4-5, 0-5) began this season with a four-game winning streak before losing their last five, all coming against conference opponents.

UNI fell at Illinois State University, 13-3 on Saturday. Three of its five losses have come in overtime, with two of those coming in double overtime.

“They’ve just been kind of on the short end of the stick there,” Wolford said. “There’s been some plays in every one of those games that could’ve went their way. When you’re playing games in this conference because of the parody, three or four plays determine games.”