Penguins upset No. 15 Missouri State, 41-33
YOUNGSTOWN — This time, Youngstown State had a counterpunch.
Two weeks removed from surrendering a 28-point lead in a narrow home loss to Western Illinois, the Penguins made sure to finish the job and deliver a signature win for head coach Doug Phillips.
Fueled by four turnovers and a monstrous day on the ground, YSU upset the No. 15 Missouri State Bears on a soggy Saturday afternoon during homecoming at Stambaugh Stadium, 41-33.
The victory snaps a 3-game losing skid for YSU and gives the Penguins their first win in Missouri Valley Football Conference play this season.
“Getting to win at home, definitely on homecoming, is a huge win for the team,” YSU quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw said. “We got to keep it going, but it is definitely a great weight (lifted). Coming off three losses and getting this right here, I know the team loves it. We’re all happy and just about to celebrate.”
Youngstown State (2-3, 1-2 MVFC) led 20-10 entering the fourth quarter before MSU (3-2, 2-1 MVFC) rallied to tie the game at 20. From there, however, Crenshaw and Jaleel McLaughlin provided answers that allowed YSU to knock off its visitors.
Crenshaw was the centerpiece of a YSU ground attack that bulldozed Missouri State for 377 yards, by far the most MSU had given up all season. Previously, Illinois State held the top mark with 194 yards.
The quarterback led the way with 22 carries for 195 yards and a touchdown. The yardage set a school record for most rushing yards in a game by a YSU quarterback. McLaughlin piled on 156 yards and two scores of his own to bolster Crenshaw’s day, which also included a 10-for-19 passing performance for 99 yards and two touchdowns.
It also marked a rejuvenation for YSU, which had been held to 52 rushing yards at Northern Iowa last week.
“We’ve challenged our offensive line. I think they had to sit down to kumbaya this week in the o-line room,” Phillips said. He later added, “They aired some things out. … To see them pick up the stunts and the blitzes and give opportunities for our quarterback and running backs to run the football, I couldn’t be any more proud of the work that they put in this week and what they did today.”
Following Missouri State’s game-tying touchdown pass from Jason Shelley to Ron Tiavaasue with 4:38 to go, Sam St. Surin returned the ensuing kickoff to the Missouri State 22, and then McLaughlin took the first play from scrimmage to the house.
After the YSU defense forced a Bear punt on the next drive, McLaughlin struck again, this time on a 60-yard rush to extend YSU’s lead to 34-20. The Bears answered with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Shelley to Tyrone Scott to draw within 34-27 with 1:06 to go.
On YSU’s ensuing drive, the Penguins faced a third-and-3 and needed just a first down to put the game away. Instead, Crenshaw broke loose on a run down the left sideline and rumbled 73 yards for a touchdown to extend the lead back out to 41-27.
The quarterback admitted he should have gone down on the play, but the score effectively sealed the game regardless. MSU got its final score on a 12-yard pass from Shelley to Cairo Payne as time expired.
Though the ending was explosive, the beginning was not.
While the Penguin offense took some time to get going — YSU led 6-0 after the first quarter — the defense kept the game under control. Youngstown State forced three turnovers in the first half that kept a potent Missouri State offense stuck in neutral and gave YSU a 17-3 lead at the intermission.
Keyon Martin forced a fumble and picked off a pass, while Jordan White came up with a pick.The other turnover was a fumble forced by Chris Fitzgerald and pounced on by Isaac James-Gray.
Meanwhile, YSU’s front seven turned in its best performance of the year in terms of quarterback pressure, as Shelley was sacked four times and pressured throughout the game. Griffin Hoak led that effort with a pair of sacks and two tackles for loss, while Grant Dixon and 1.5 tackles for loss and an assisted sack.
“Huge point of emphasis in practice,” Hoak said of the takeaways. “On Wednesday, we went into our practice and (defensive coordinator) Coach (Joe) Schaefer wanted four turnovers per period of practice, so we were really stressing ball awareness. Their ball security we saw on film, we were just going to try to pick that out and get it off the whole game.”
Midway through its 2021 campaign now, YSU is off next week before returning to action Oct. 23 at Indiana State.
Phillips says this can be a building point for the Penguins as they get ready for the home stretch.
“Our big word this weekend was … about fire, about a spark and what that can do to a football program,” he said. “To beat the 15th-ranked team at home can give us a spark if we continue to work.”