Because Youngstown State University scored 31 first half points, it looked as if the YSU Penguins would easily coast to a victory against Duquesne.
Instead, the Dukes outscored the ‘Guins 13-3 in the final 30 minutes. Despite Duquesne’s late scare, YSU still prevailed 34-23 on Saturday afternoon, bringing their record to 1-1.
Quarterback Dante Nania contributed 288 yards and went 16-for-23 during the day’s victory.
Late in the game with the victory already wrapped up, Nania suffered an ankle sprain. The extent of the injury was unknown at press time, and he will be reevaluated on Sunday. He should be expected to play next week versus Butler, said head coach Eric Wolford.
“It was really a non-contact injury,” Wolford said. “He should be fine.”
On that same play, offensive tackle Trevor Strickland threw a punch and was subsequently ejected from the ballgame; he will miss the first half of next week’s game.
For senior receiver Jelani Berassa, it was a career day. The Miami product finished with six catches for 114 yards. Fellow receiver Andrew Williams added three catches, 78 yards and two touchdowns.
“I just give it all to my O-line and running backs,” Berassa said. “And, Dante did a good job of giving me the ball. The coaches tell us where we need to be; he gets the ball where it needs to be and I just made the play I was supposed to.”
Sophomore running back Martin Ruiz had another busy day, rushing for 148 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to two receptions for two yards.
Perhaps the big story to come out of the game is the discrepancy of both teams’ performances in the first and second halves. The first half was dominated by YSU, outgaining Duquesne 352-135.
After halftime, the tables turned, as Duquesne had 352 yards to YSU’s 141. Wolford didn’t mince words about the tale of two halves.
“In the first half, I thought we came out and did some good things,” he said “but in the second half, it was real sloppy. It’s a good learning lesson for us. Hopefully we can get some of those things ironed out in film sessions.”
The team is riddled with injuries on the team’s secondary — a reality that safety Donald D’Alesio had to contend with. He was forced to move to corner, a position he hadn’t played since his freshman year.
“ I actually went and played corner, that was the first time in a long time. I didn’t even practice corner really, we did a walkthrough and they were like in case we need you,” D’Alesio said. “ I was kind of joking around with Jameel Smith at practice, saying I hope they never need me at corner and then it happened. I just ran out there and did whatever I had to do to help the team.”
Duquesne dropped to 0-2 with their loss. YSU’s next game is Saturday, September 13 versus Butler in the first meeting between the schools since the 2010 season. Kickoff is set for 4:00 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.