It was not the season Youngstown State had hoped for and there is a lot of work to be done. However, nothing is quite refreshing as getting a road win in the regular season finale against the 15th ranked Salukis. As the Penguins end 2021 with a strong win over Southern Illinois, it was the last game for the seniors and the first road win since 2017, winning by the final of 35-18.
The first quarter saw Youngstown State start off on the right footing. The Penguins drove down the field only on 12 plays for 76 yards and capped it off with a Jaleel McLaughlin six-yard touchdown run making it 7-0 early. After a Southern Illinois fumble forced by safety Zaire Jones, the offense stepped up for the second drive in row.
This time, it was the true freshman, Demeatric Crenshaw finding Bryce Oliver in the end zone for a five-yard touchdown strike. Southern Illinois only score in the first quarter would be from a Nico Gualdoni field goal from 30-yards out.
Youngstown State’s second quarter drive started with Christian Turner in his final game getting a few carries. That led to Crenshaw opening up once again in the passing game. Crenshaw connected with Oliver for the second time in the afternoon as in the later half of the season, the chemistry has been up to par. This made it 21 to 3.
The Salukis didn’t flinch once and fought right back. The Penguins defense nearly had them at a goalie stands, but couldn’t convert the turnover on downs as Ja Williams Jr., rushed to the left side and scored making it 21 to 10. Both teams fought back with offensive punches left and right. First, McLaughlin scored up the middle with a 38-yard touchdown run. Now, with just under three minutes to go, Nic Baker and the offense would need a three minute drive fast to avoid an upset. Baker connected with Justin Strong in the end zone from four-yards out. Strong then scored the two points now making it a 10 point 28 to 18 game going into the half.
This season has shown first half offensive strength for the Penguins, but whenever the second half came, they flustered and just like a Penguin being a flightless bird, fall. This time, the goal was to finish and get a taste for 2022.
3rd and 4th Quarter
Youngstown State did not let up to open their third quarter drive. In only seven plays, the goal was run the ball and the clock. Jaleel decided to do both and then extra with a 35-yard touchdown making it 35-18. With that being the last score, other key plays in this half were Jones intercepting Baker and Grant Dixon along with D’Marco Augustin hitting strong in the backfield for a three-yard loss.
Both Paddy Lynch (who converted a fake punt early on) and Nick DeSalvo had punts that were 33-yards or over too as both showed what can be expected going into the 2022 season on special teams. Southern Illinois had a drive going but was now in fourth down territory and had no choice but to go for it. The fourth and four turned into a 4th and 19 now after a unsportsmanlike conduct on Jake Green. This meant instead of trying to run with power, they’d be now force to throw.
Baker was picked off by Isaac James-Gray, the Ball State Cardinal transfer with his first interception too according from the game and his stats. All of Youngstown State’s wins this season was against ranked opponents or ones who made or just missed the playoffs the past season. First being Incarnate Word who won the SouthLand conference. The second against Bobby Petrino and the Missouri State Bears and now the third being against Southern Illinois with the 35 to 18 victory.
Demeatric Crenshaw: 11 of 15 for 91 yards and two touchdowns. 12 rushes for 30 yards
Jaleel McLaughlin: 25 rushing attempts for 185 yards and three touchdowns. Two catches for 18 yards.
Christian Turner: 10 rushing attempts for 38 yards
Bryce Oliver: three receptions for 17 yards and two touchdowns.
Andrew Ogletree: two receptions for 23 yards
CJ Charleston: three receptions for 22 yards.
Southern Illinois Stats
Nic Baker: 11 of 34 for 126 yards one touchdown and two interceptions.
Justin Strong: nine rushing attempts for 107 yards and a two point conversion. Two receptions for 18 yards and a touchdown.
Ja Williams Jr., eight rushing attempts for 72 yards and a touchdown.
Tyce Daniel: one reception for 47 yards
Avante Cox: three receptions for 30 yards.
Youngstown State finishes their fall 2021 campaign with a record of 3-7 overall and 2-6 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. They were 2-3 at home as well as 1-4 on the road. The positive takeaway is they end the winless road drought since 2017 and will look for a rebound in coach Doug Phillips second full time season, third as head coach in 2022.
Southern Illinois (7-4, 5-3 in MVFC) does drop spots. because of this, they will not have a home game in the FCS playoffs and will have to face conference rival South Dakota Coyotes. Kickoff is set for November 27th at 6pm.