In what seemed like an eternity since the last game Youngstown State falls to NDSU. It was 457 days since the last game. Now, Youngstown State and FCS football finally returned to the spotlight. The new-look YSU Penguins with a brand new coaching staff led by first-year head coach Doug Phillips took the field at Fargo in hopes of upsetting the defending champ North Dakota State Bison who were now led by their new quarterback Zeb Noland who was replacing Trey Lance after he declared for the upcoming NFL Draft.
The last time the Penguins defeated the Bison was nearly 10 years ago under head coach Eric Wolford. YSU came into that game with a record of five and four while North Dakota State was undefeated. The Penguins shocked the Bison at Fargo and were hoping for the same scenario here. But it was not to be as Youngstown State falls to NDSU, 25-7 in the season opener, ironically played in February.
Youngstown State Falls To NDSU, 25-7
The first six minutes of the first quarter saw both teams go back to back on the defensive side. It was hard for Noland to pass much, sometimes overthrowing his receivers. Meanwhile, Youngstown State had trouble on the ground with London Pearson, Christian Turner, and Jaleel McLaughlin. The North Dakota State defense was closing up the holes fast. The first score came with 4:20 left as Noland gave the ball to Kobe Johnson who broke a couple of tackles and found the hole from 15-yards out for the score. The Bison converted on the two-point conversion to go up were up 8-0.
Meanwhile, the Youngstown offensive struggles continued as the Bison kept reading the Penguins passing game, with Joe Craycraft and Mark Waid trying to find some rhythm. The quarterback running game was stopped too.
Just like in the first, the second quarter was once again a defensive battle between the two teams. The Bison were driving as Noland connected for two first-down completions. One was to Jake Lippin for 11-yards and the other was to Cole Jacob for 13-yards going all the way into YSU territory. The Penguins got some stops from Vinny Gentile and James Jackson. North Dakota State would be only held to a Jake Reinholz field goal making it 11-0 as both teams needed adjustments going into the half.
The Penguins only had 41 yards of total offense in the first half. The passing game was non-existent. They were plagued with poor field position much of the half due to good North Dakota special teams play. Meanwhile, North Dakota State could get first down after first down but struggled to finish drives.
Youngstown State had deferred the opening coin toss. That would give them possession to start the second half, giving them a chance at fresh life, down 11. Opening up the passing game was going to have to be a priority.
It looked like that early on. Craycraft opened the second half as the starter finding Josh Burgett and Christian Turner for a couple of completions. Craycraft tried to then go to Jake Coates. The coverage was tight and Bison defensive Nick DeSalvo pulled the ball away.
On North Dakota State’s first possession of the second half, they would open up with a big 54-yard breakout run by Johnson. A few plays later, it was Bussey taking it 22-yards for the score. The PAT was good making it 18-0.
Youngstown State got their first touchdown on their next drive, going 75 yards in 15 plays. They burned eight minutes as Waid found Coates wide open in the end zone cutting the NDSU lead to 18-11 at the end of three.
The fourth quarter had two different tactics for both teams. For Youngstown State, it was about relying on that powerful defense that had been doing a decent job to stop the rushing game of Johnson and Bussey. It didn’t work. Bussey would get a seven-yard touchdown and the Penguins were unable to do anything on offense. The Bison tacked on one more touchdown late in the game for the 25-7 final. Even with the COVID reduced audience of 9,500 fans, it felt like a packed stadium.
North Dakota State Stats
Zeb Noland finished nine of 18 for 74 yards. Kobe Johnson finished with 16 carries for 114 yards and a touchdown. While Jalen Bussey finished with six carries for 43 yards and two touchdowns in the game. Cole Johnson had three receptions for 28 yards.
Mark Waid finished eight of 11 for 75 yards and a touchdown. Joe Craycraft was four of 11 for 45 yards. Jaleel McLaughlin finished with nine carries for 25 yards. London Pearson finished with 10 carries for five yards. Natavious Payne had two receptions for 39 yards. Jake Coates was targeted a few times and returned punts. His only reception was a 12-yard touchdown.
Youngstown State (0-1) hosts Northern Iowa (0-1) at 12 pm at the Ice Castle on ESPN Plus. They will allow 3,500 fans in attendance. North Dakota State (1-0) heads to Saluki Stadium to take on Southern Illinois (0-1).
Main photo courtesy Fargo Forum