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Penguins pounded by ND State, 56-17

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes North Dakota State QB Trey Lance, right, shakes off YSU’s Justus Reed before throwing a 6-yard touchdown pass early in the Bison’s 56-17 rout of the Penguins.

YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown State football team decided to wear throwback helmets from the 1980s for its showdown with top-ranked North Dakota State University.

The undefeated Bison followed suit by blasting the Penguins back to the past.

The reigning FCS champions dominated YSU in a 56-17 Missouri Valley Football Conference victory Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium.

“We got our (butts) kicked in all three phases of the game,” Penguins coach Bo Pelini said. “They were a lot better football team than us tonight. We didn’t do anything well.

“They’re a good football team, and tonight we weren’t.”

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Mark Waid, center, from Girard, tries to find running room during the third quarter in the Penguins’ 56-17 loss.

YSU’s downfall started early. The Penguins (5-4, 1-4) forced a three-and-out on NDSU’s initial possession, but Jacob Coates fumbled the ensuing punt when he was hit hard moments after fielding the kick. The Bison (9-0, 5-0) recovered, and quarterback Trey Lance scrambled away from pressure and then into the end zone from 9 yards out.

The early issues were a sign of things to come for YSU. Starting quarterback Nathan May suffered a gruesome injury on the Penguins’ second drive of the game. He ran for 3 yards, but his foot got caught underneath him as he attempted to slide to the turf while being tackled.

A few players had to turn and run away because of how mangled Mays’ leg was as he lay on the turf.

“It’s kind of a nasty break and dislocation,” Pelini said. “I think it was right above his ankle, and it was pretty nasty. Then they had to reset the thing. He was in pretty serious pain. It’s too bad. He could deal with the pain, but he’s pretty sad. His career is over.”

The game was essentially over as well.

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes A throng of Penguins tackle Ty Brooks of NDSU during the first quarter in YSU’s 56-17 loss to the Bison at Stambaugh Stadium.

YSU was already down 14-0 at that point, with Lance launching a perfectly placed pass to Christian Watson for a 69-yard TD minutes before the injury. The long TD came a few plays after the Penguins missed a chance to recover a fumbled punt by the Bison.

NDSU made it 21-0 when Lance shrugged off what looked to be a sure sack by YSU standout defensive end Justus Reed, and Lance then fired a short pass to tight end Josh Babicz. The Bison were up 35-0 before back-up QB Joe Craycraft tossed a nice pass to tight end Miles Joiner for a 23-yard TD.

The positivity didn’t last long. The Bison returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a TD and took a 42-7 lead into halftime.

It was a night on which not much went right for a Penguins team that came in desperately needing a win.

“You’ve got to do your part,” Pelini said of the mistakes. “Then we didn’t get guys on the ground. The tackling was horrendous. From a defensive standpoint, and I’m a defensive coach — that’s where I made my hay — that was an embarrassment. That performance was a joke.”

There may have been one bright spot, although it came via another injury.

Craycraft endured a rib injury early in the second half, and true freshman quarterback Mark Waid, a star at Girard High School just last year, came in and played well. Forced into action, Waid completed 5-of-10 passes for 51 yards. He also led YSU in rushing with 79 yards (including a 27-yard TD) on eight carries. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Waid led two second-half scoring drives.

The Penguins planned on redshirting Waid, a highly-touted recruit who switched his commitment to YSU at the last minute, but with Mays out for the year and Craycraft’s status uncertain, he may be pressed into action.

“Joe got a bruised rib or something,” Pelini said of Craycraft. “I’m not exactly sure of the extent of it. They didn’t think it was broke, but you could see he was in pain. We’ll have a decision to make on what to do with Mark if that’s the case (and Craycraft is seriously injured). Hopefully Joe’s OK.

“Mark did a nice job,” Pelini later added. “He’s one of the few guys that played well.”

Waid was excited to play, but much like his teammates, he was disappointed in the overall result.

The Penguins had played well in their last two home games against the Bison (both 27-24 losses), and with a playoff berth seemingly on the line for YSU, there was hope for an inspired effort. That didn’t happen, but Waid isn’t dismayed.

“It felt great to be on the field again, but we have a lot of work to do,” Waid said. “We need to bounce back next game. Take it one game at a time. South Dakota is our main focus. We’re going to learn from this game, fix our mistakes and we’ll be ready to go.”

YSU travels to South Dakota for a 3 p.m. matchup in the DakotaDome.

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