YOUNGSTOWN - To say the Youngstown State defense struggled at times against the University of Northern Iowa on Saturday night is an understatement.
The Panthers were having their way on offense in the second half, putting up 21 unanswered points, and it looked for a while as if Saturday's contest was going to be the same game and result that so many Penguin faithful had seen in the past.
Then, with 4:44 left in the third quarter, UNI quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen got greedy, and tried to make a throw in to heavy coverage. YSU's Jeremey Edwards made him pay, picking off Kollmorgen - and giving the Penguins' offense the boost they needed to get back in the game.
But by far the biggest play of the night came with seconds left on the clock and UNI driving, trailing by 7.
The Panthers picked up two first downs off of fourth-down conversions and were sitting at the 11-yard line with 5 seconds left in the game. With a stadium and two teams holding their breaths, linebacker Ali Cheaib and safety Don D'Alesio swatted away the Kollmorgen pass intended for Brett LeMaster to seal the 42-35 victory for the Penguins.
"We go through that every Tuesday and Wednesday, we go over 2-minute drill in practice," D'Alesio said. "We go against our offense, which you can see is pretty good."
The deflection wasn't even needed, as LeMaster was called for offensive pass interference. Though he thought he made a clean play, D'Alesio had to stop and think if it was called on him or not.
"At first, I thought they were calling it against us," D'Alesio said. "Then, I replayed the play through my head, and they picked our corner, and that's how I made the play. Then I heard what the ref said, and we were all excited. I actually saw Ali run, and that's when I knew they called it on them."
RAIN, RAIN GO AWAY: Mother Nature delayed the start of Saturday's game by 45 minutes. Kickoff was slated for 7 p.m., but the game officially got underway at 7:45.
This is the second time this season a YSU game has been delayed by rain. In the season opener against Pitt, the game was delayed nearly an hour.
The last time a game at Stambaugh Stadium was delayed by rain was Sept. 29, 1990 against Akron.
LANDMARK GAME: Saturday night's game marked the 200th game to be played at Stambaugh Stadium.
The first game played at the stadium come to be known as "The Ice Castle" happened on Sept. 4, 1982 against Akron in front of a then sellout crowd of 15,833.
For the 200th contest, the fans packed the Ice Castle, despite the rain showers. Announced attendance was 19,277, which was the ninth largest crowd in Stambaugh Stadium history.
CLIMBING UP THE CHARTS: In the third quarter, YSU running back Jamaine Cook hit the 100-yard mark for the 16th time in his career. He finished the game with 146 yards.
With the effort on Saturday, Cook is now second all-time at YSU for number of 100-yard rushing games. The leader is Tamron Smith, who had 22.
HESS IMPRESSES: YSU quarterback Kurt Hess might have had the game of his life against UNI.
The junior from Dayton threw for 290 yards on 20-of-28 passing and four touchdowns.
Saturday night's show was the 14th time in his career that he has passed for more than 200 yards. That puts him by himself on top of the YSU record books in that category.