YOUNGSTOWN - It wasn't pretty. It wasn't clean. And it wasn't the score the Youngstown State University Penguins wanted. But it was in fact a win - and it was a win that the team desperately needed.
The Penguins defeated South Dakota, 13-10, on Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium. The victory snapped a four-game losing streak and propelled the Penguins to back over the .500 mark, as they improve to 5-4 (2-4 Missouri Valley Conference).
"It was one of those ugly wins, but obviously we'll take it," YSU coach Eric Wolford said. "We never felt like we didn't have control of the game, we just didn't have the points to make you feel like you had more control."
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
YSU’s Jamaine Cook, center, dives for extra yardage as USD’s Ryan Hillier (4) and Lamar Mady (55) follow the play during the second quarter on Saturday.
If the score was based on the margin in the statistics, YSU would have won by a margin by a much bigger than three points. The Penguins outgained the Coyotes (1-8, 0-6) in yardage 361-206, they possessed the ball nearly 10 more minutes then USD and ran 29 more plays than their opponents.
The biggest stats of the day was the numbers put up by senior running back Jamaine Cook. YSU's workhorse carried the ball an astounding 42 times for 203 yards and a touchdown. The Coyotes only ran 44 total plays.
Also during the game, Cook cracked the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season and became the Penguins' third all-time leading rusher with 3,815 yards.
"I'll do whatever I have to do to help my team win," Cook said. "If I have to put the team on my back to win, that's what I will do."
Cook's touchdown came on YSU's first possession of the third quarter. Using nine plays to drive 75 yards, Cook capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown, which was set up by a brilliant run he made for 28 yards the play before.
YSU's other touchdown came on the first drive of the first half. In a series that was classic YSU offense, there was a heavy amount of running, mixed in with just enough passing, to march the Penguins 84 yards over 15 plays, ending with a Kurt Hess 3-yard pass to Nate Adams for the score. However, David Brown's PAT hit off the goal post, leaving YSU with the 6-0 lead.
Hess finished the game with 133 yards on 11-of-17 passing.
There were only two other times in the game that the Penguins even sniffed the end zone.
Their best chance to add another touchdown was at the end of the second quarter. Sitting at the South Dakota 24-yard line and facing fourth down, wide receiver Marcel Caver picked up 6 yards, giving Penguins a new set of downs with less than a minute on the clock. But the Penguins tried to get fancy, as Hess tossed the ball to receiver Michael Wheary in an attempted halfback pass. It didn't pay off as Wheary's pass was intercepted with seconds left before halftime.
Another missed opportunity came in the fourth quarter. The Penguins, realizing their struggles to put the ball in the end zone, called upon Brown for a 45-yard field goal. But in another bad play by the YSU special teams, the kick was blocked and recovered by the Coyotes on the YSU 47. Three plays later, USD turned that turnover into seven points, as halfback Jasper Sanders ran for a 22-yard touchdown.
Other than giving up that touchdown and a field goal in the third quarter, the YSU defense had a great day. The Penguins limited the Coyotes to 206 yards and sacked quarterback Josh Vander Maten twice. Linebacker Teven Williams led the team with seven tackles and had a few big hits over the course of the game.
"The defense played outstanding," Wolford said. "I've always said it starts up front, and our defensive line was very active and disruptive today."
The biggest defensive play of the day was on South Dakota's last play of the game. On fourth and 11, after a time out, the Coyotes had no choice but to go for it. But Aronde Stanton and the Penguin defensive line wasn't going to let USD have a chance. Stanton got pressure on Vander Maten, grabbed him by the ankle, then defensive end Josh Fenderson came blazing around the corner with a huge hit, sealing the game for the Penguins.
"We knew what we wanted to do," Stanton said. "I came up to coach (Tom) Sims and coach (Joe) Tresey (during the time out) and told them, 'Just let the D-line rush them.' We wanted to win the game, the D-line wanted to win the game. Thankfully he trusted us to make a play and we gave it all we had and good things happened."
The win was definitely needed for the Penguins, as they have two games left on the schedule. Next week, the Penguins travel to Western Illinois, which got shut out Saturday by UNI, 40-0. Then the Penguins come back to Stambaugh in the season finale against a very tough Indiana State team on Nov. 24.
"It feels great (to get a win)," Cook said. "For the last few weeks, our backs have been against the wall. And our coaches just stressed to us every day that we have to fight. And we're going to do that for the next two weeks."