YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Youngstown State rushed for 182 yards in the fourth quarter and broke open a tie game in the final four minutes as part of its 41-33 upset of No. 15 Missouri State here Saturday in Missouri Valley Football Conference play.
The Bears (3-2, 2-1 MVFC) rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to knot the score, 20-20, with just 4:38 remaining and seemed to have momentum on their side in the deciding moments. But the home-standing Penguins used the big play to capture their first league win of the season, using a long kickoff return, a 60-yard touchdown run and a 73-yard touchdown run in the deciding moments to come away with the win.
For its part, Missouri State’s four scoring drives in the fourth quarter were just as impressive with quarterback Jason Shelley manufacturing points in four of the Bears five possessions.
“I think our players just focused and concentrated, and played better,” said head coach Bobby Petrino. “We had to spread the ball out and throw it. We did a pretty good job distributing there, and Jason did a good job running around, but our defense didn’t get the stops it needed in the second half.”
Shelley finished 27-for-48 for career-highs 372 yards and 4 touchdowns. He was also the Bears’ top rusher with 11 carries for another career-high 71 yards.
YSU (2-3, 1-2) was led by QB Demeatric Crenshaw who passed for 99 yards and rushed for 195 more, while Jaleel McLaughlin finished with 156 yards on 19 carries and a pair of key fourth-quarter scores.
The Bears fell behind early in the game after turning the ball over on their second play of the afternoon, but were finally able to claw their way back into it in the fourth and tie it up, 20-20, with 4:38 remaining. A seven-yard pass from Shelley to Ron Tiavaasue capped a 71-yard march by the visitors and made it a new game down the stretch.
But on the ensuing kickoff, YSU’s Sam St. Surin scampered 75 yards down the Bears sideline all the way to the Missouri State 22. The Bears contended that St. Surin had stepped out of bounds, but the replay review upheld the return. McLaughlin found paydirt on the very next play to give YSU a 27-20 lead with 4:17 to go.
Missouri State was held to a three-and-out on its next drive, and the Bears punted it back, opening the door for the Penguins. Two plays later, McLaughlin scampered 60 yards for his second TD of the quarter, which made it a 34-20 game at the 2:08 mark.
Shelley and the Bears returned fire just over a minute later, as the Utah State transfer hit Tyrone Scott with a TD strike from 19 yards out to get MSU within 34-27. The drive was kept alive on a 17-yard completion to Cairo Payne and later on an 18-yard pass to Tiavaasue.
In the final minute with YSU facing a third-and-two from its own 27, Crenshaw broke loose for a 73-yard touchdown run to put it out of reach. His career-long run from scrimmage made it a 41-27 game with less than a minute to go.
Missouri State never conceded victory, however, as Shelley used his arm and legs to cover 75 yards on MSU’s final drive before the final horn. The final drive of the contest culminated on a last-second score with a 12-yard pass to Payne as the final horn sounded.
The Bears finished with a pair of receivers with over 100 yards for the first time this season as Xavier Lane had a career-best 10 catches for 114 yards, and Scott snagged 8 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
Missouri State had 30 first downs and racked up 503 total yards in suffering their first conference loss of the year.
Missouri State had trouble getting out of the blocks early, falling behind 17-3 in the first half and giving up 209 yards and a dozen first downs to the Penguins. But a deeper dive into the numbers showed the Penguins being more opportunistic than efficient, turning two of Missouri State’s three first-half turnovers into a pair of scores.
The Bears survived a sloppy first quarter with minimal damage, despite an early Shelley interception that led to a YSU touchdown two plays later to give the home side an early 6-0 lead. Tylar Wiltz accounted for eight first-quarter tackles for the Bears who limited YSU to just 47 yards on 17 plays after its initial possession but turned the ball over twice.
In the second quarter, YSU’s only scoring drive that didn’t follow a Bears turnover resulted in a 45-yard field goal by Colt McFadden that made it a 9-0 game with 10:56 left in the half. The Penguins 72-yard drive took 13 plays and included two key third-down conversions on passing plays from Demeatric Crenshaw.
Missouri State got on the board for the first time on its very next possession, though the drive stalled deep in YSU territory in part due to a Bears personal foul that appeared to follow a first-down run by Kevon Latulas. Instead, MSU faced a third-and-seven at the 19, and the ensuing incompletion from Shelley led to a 36-yard field goal by Jose Pizano to make it a 9-3 game.
Late in the second quarter, Youngstown State made it a two-score game again, covering 66 yards on 11 plays before an 8-yard pass from Crenshaw to Jorge Portorreal and a two-point conversion made it a 14-point game at the midway point. The drive came on the heels of Shelley’s second interception of the day and was extended on a Missouri State personal foul in the red zone.
Missouri State came out of the locker room in the third with a sense of urgency and got within 17-10 just over three minutes into the second half. A 21-yard pass from Shelley to Scott capped an 82-yard MSU scoring drive and kept the visitors within reach of the home side.
Next week, the Bears have a homecoming date with Indiana State at Plaster Stadium. Saturday’s kickoff is at 2 p.m.