By Nathanael Hawthorne
After a tough three-game stretch for the Youngstown State University football team, the Penguins picked up their first Missouri Valley Football Conference win of the season against Western Illinois University 59-14.
Coming into the contest, YSU dropped three consecutive conference games. Penguins coach Bo Pelini said he believes this could be a step in the right direction that the team needed.
“It’s important to get our mojo back a little bit,” Pelini said. “I don’t think this team lacks confidence or anything like that. … We took a step forward because we took a big step backward but we took a step forward this week and we just gotta keep that going.”
Quarterback Nathan Mays also thinks that the three losses really gave the team motivation.
“Those three losses ate at us, but it gave us a great deal of motivation,” Mays said. “A lot of guys took that motivation and did the right thing with it and came out and played today.”
Defensively for the team, they held WIU’s offense to 260 total yards and forced three turnovers — all of which were fumbles. The defense also had four sacks.
The weather conditions for the game were less than ideal, but the defense used this as an advantage.
“[The bad weather] means they run the ball more,” senior linebacker Christiaan Randall-Posey said.
The big story of the game was the offensive output.
Both the run game and air attack were out in full force for the Penguin offense. To start the game, senior tailback Joe Alessi busted off a 44-yard touchdown run and there was no looking back for the offense at that point.
The team had 524 total yards — 248 of them from the rushing attack. They kept the pressure up the whole game and quarterbacks Mays and Joe Craycraft threw for 276 yards and five combined touchdowns.
“[They were] pretty efficient. You know five touchdown passes, that’s pretty good. I thought I saw a lot of good things out there,” Pelini said.
On the ground for YSU, Joe Alessi was the leading rusher. He had 156 on 13 attempts with two touchdowns. Christian Turner and Braxton Chapman also had time on the field, Chapman put up 62 yards and a touchdown and Turner a touchdown on a one-yard catch.
With the majority of the 59 points coming in the first half, Pelini gave more time to some of the players who usually don’t get a lot of time on the field.
“A lot of guys got playing time today which is important this time of year,” Pelini said. “A lot of guys who don’t get a lot of reps, they played most of the second half and that gives you a chance to evaluate them when the lights are on.”
The football team clicked in all aspects of the game. Special teams was one of those aspects. Junior Jake Coates had an 80-yard punt return, which led to a points for the Penguins after Colt McFadden drilled a field goal.
Next week YSU faces their toughest opponent yet, the top-ranked team in the nation, North Dakota State University. Kick off against the Bison is slated for 6:00 p.m. Nov. 2 at Stambaugh Stadium.