The season may have not gone as planned for the 2019 Youngstown State football team, but on Saturday, they wanted to go out on top for the seniors. They did just with 21-3 upset over Illinois State.
The Penguins, who where coming off of their third straight loss, hosted the 8-3 Illinois State Redbirds who were fighting for a playoff position.
YSU Upsets Illinois State
Penguins Tough Defense
However, the Penguins came to play defense. On Illinois State second possession, quarterback Jack Baltz would be picked off by Terray Bryant. Both teams would still remain scoreless as neither could mount a sustained drive.
Youngstown State got on the board a possession later led by Redshirt Freshman quarterback Mark Waid, and running back Braxton Chapman. Both of their running games worked and Chapman finished the 12 play drive with a six yard touchdown making it 7-0.
However, the talented freshman Waid made a rookie mistake as he threw the ball right into Redbirds linebacker DeMarco Washington’s hands. Illinois State’s offense went down the field, all the way to the five, but were held to a Sam Fenalson field goal.
The Redbirds defense seemed to have stopped the Penguins offense from getting the first down. That is until Craycraft found wide receiver Ryan Emans on a fourth and six. Emans would gain eight yards for the first down.
A few plays later, Youngstown State was in striking range to make it a two possession game thanks to a pass interference penalty. Craycraft rushed it himself for a one yard touchdown making it 14-3 going into halftime.
It seemed as if the Youngstown State players and coaches were trusting each other more. Not only that, but they were playing for these seniors, especially quarterback Nathan Mays who got hurt during the game against North Dakota State, and had a few injuries before hand too.
The Second Half
After the Penguins failed to convert on fourth down, Illinois state looked to get some momentum going. Baltz was sacked by Reed once again in this game. Reed finished with six tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble.
The defense got another turnover as Baltz was picked off by Zaire Jones who took it 30 yards to the house. This would make the score 21-3.
The Redbirds tried to make something happen late in the game, but the strong penguins defense stopped them securing the 21-3 victory. There was also a special moment as Nathan Mays came onto the field for one last kneel down with his teammates as they helped him on and off the field. Mays would be named Co-offensive player of the week for the Youngstown State football team.
Youngstown State Stats
Offensively, Youngstown State was up and down with their quarterback play. Joe Craycraft finished six of ten with 61 passing yards, and an interception. Mark Waid finished two of five with 21 yards and one pick. Waid rushed for 58 yards on 13 carries. Craycraft 10 yards on six carries and one rushing touchdown.
Nathan Mays took the final kneel down, and finishes his Youngstown State football career with 2,619 yards, 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Mays rushed for 990 yards and 10 touchdowns.
In his final game as a penguin, Joe Alessi rushed for 103 yards on 18 carries. Alessi finishes his career at YSU with 1,355 yards on 179 carries and 12 touchdowns. He also finishes with 118 yards on 11 receptions. Braxton Chapman rushed for one touchdown early on, and had 18 yards on eight carries.
Ryan Emans had four receptions for 46 yards. His longest went for 17 yards. Tight end Miles Joiner finished with two receptions for 25 yards. Running back Christian Turner had two receptions for 14 yards after he struggled in the run.
Illinois State Stats
Illinois State had their worst game of the season passing wise. Jack Baltz finished the game only completing one pass for seven yards. He also threw two interceptions. Bryce Jefferson also got playing time, but two of seven with 23 yards and one interception. Jefferson rushed for 22 yards on six carries during the game.
James Robinson had 22 carries and rushed for 82 yards with his longest being a 13 yard gain. The other running back in Kevin Brown had two carries for eight yards. Robinson was also their highest receiver with one reception for 15 yards.
Aftermath And Looking Towards The Future
Even though Illinois State had their worst game on offense and struggled a bit on defense, they were still able to make it into the FCS playoffs with a record of eight and four. The Redbirds will play the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks in the first round of the playoffs. Kickoff is 2pm on ESPN3.
Youngstown State (6-6) ends their season with a .500 record. This is head coach Bo Pelini’s 100th career win, and his 33rd in five years at YSU. The team is looking forward to 2020, and to take on an old rival to start off the season in the Akron Zips.
Pelini, told the Tribune Chronicle that the season was frustrating but that he was not worried and that fixing the program will come at another time. For now he said, let’s enjoy the win.