By Cameron Niemi
The Youngstown State University football team returned to Stambaugh Stadium to take on the No. 5 ranked Southern Illinois University on Oct. 7. The Penguins made a statement against the Salukis and defeated them 31-3.
The team bounced back after last week’s loss against the University of Northern Iowa. YSU picked up its third win of the season and its first conference win, moving to 1-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Salukis came into the game with a 4-0 record and the No. 1 rushing defense in the conference. They have not given up more than 100 rushing yards in their first four games this season.
In the first quarter, the Penguins marched 75 yards down field on their opening drive and took an early 7-0 lead. The drive was capped off with a 40-yard touchdown run from senior running back Tyshon King who ran right through the SIU defense.
On the Penguins’ following drive, senior quarterback Mitch Davidson connected with senior wide receiver Bryce Oliver for a 39-yard gain into SIU territory.
That led to a two-yard touchdown run from senior running back Dra Rushton, which gave the ‘Guins a two-score lead early in the second quarter.
SIU stalled the YSU offense when Davidson’s pass was intercepted in the endzone. The Penguins defense held the Salukis to a field goal and they went into half with a 14-3 lead.
The YSU offense was efficient in the first half with 110 rushing yards. The defense held SIU to just 76 yards passing and 16 yards rushing.
The Penguins defense continued to dominate in the third quarter. Junior defensive back Troy Jakubec intercepted SIU’s Nic Baker’s pass. This led to a 22-yard field goal by redshirt freshman Andrew Lastovka.
As a team, YSU had seven sacks on Baker in the game and senior Dylan Wudke led the defense with two. This marked the most sacks in a game from a Penguin defense since 2016.
Wudke spoke after the game about his team and how they bounced back.
“Coming off last week with the loss, we knew we had to make a statement win. Not only for ourselves but to show the conference and everybody else what we are about and I feel like we did that today for sure,” Wudke said.
The rain started to come down by the third quarter, but it didn’t slow down the ‘Guins defense from flying around the field. The offense continued to capitalize with two more touchdowns before the clock hit zero.
King scored from the two-yard line for his second touchdown of the game early in the fourth, which extended the Penguins lead to 24-3.
The running back duo of King and Rushton had another dominant performance on the ground. King finished with 22 carries for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Rushton had 17 carries for 52 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Head coach Doug Phillips spoke highly about the team after its win.
“Pressure is a privilege. We have expectations to play like we did tonight,” Phillips said. “I’m proud of our kids and the way they stuck together. The way that they supported each other this week after a tough loss.”
The defense dominated as it held SIU to 94 passing yards and just six rushing yards in the game.
Youngstown State improved to 3-2 on the season and jumped back into the FCS rankings tied for 20th after its dominant performance.
The Penguins will hit the road and travel to play the No. 17 University of South Dakota inside the DakotaDome at 2 p.m on Oct. 14. For more information, go to ysusports.com. To watch the game, go to ESPN+.