Comeback Effort Falls Short in 34-27 Loss at Youngstown State
Matt Brown

Matt Brown

Sept. 17, 2011

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio. - Illinois State running back Ashton Leggett rushed for 125 yards on 26 carries and scored a touchdown, but Youngstown State scored on its first five possessions Saturday to defeat the Redbirds, 34-27, at Stambaugh Stadium.

The Redbirds drop to 1-2 overall and 0-1 in the MVFC, while Youngstown State improves to 2-1 and 1-0 in the Valley. Redbird quarterback Matt Brown was 16-for-26 with 155 yards and three touchdowns in the losing effort, while Penguin quarterback Kurt Hess finished 21-for-29 with 293 yards and four touchdowns. Defensively, Mike Zimmer amassed a team-best eight unassisted tackles and nine total, while YSU's Josh Garner totaled 11 tackles.

The scoring started early, as the Penguins got on the board during their first possession of the afternoon on third down and eight, with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Hess to Christian Bryan. The 11-play, 77-yard drive was capped by David Brown's kick, putting Youngstown State ahead 7-0 early. But the Redbirds responded immediately, marching 85 yards on eight plays, and scoring their first touchdown on a 12-yard pass from Brown to Tyrone Walker. The ensuing extra point kick attempt was blocked by the Penguins, allowing Youngstown State to remain in front by one.

YSU added to its lead just before the end of the first quarter with another touchdown completion from Hess, this time a 10-yarder to Kevin Watts. Brown's extra point kick was good, increasing Youngstown State's lead to 14-6 after one quarter. After the Redbirds were forced to punt on their next possession, the Penguins scored again on a one-yard touchdown run by Hess. Brown's kick made the score 21-6, with 7:20 remaining in the first half.

The Redbirds reduced their deficit later in the second quarter with a five-yard touchdown pass from Brown to a diving Matt Younger. The 10-play, 64-yard drive ended with a Nick Aussieker extra point, which pulled Illinois State within 21-13, with 2:25 to play in the first half. However, it took Youngstown State just over two minutes to regain a 15-point lead with a 20-yard touchdown completion from Hess to Andre Barboza. The extra point gave the Penguins a 28-13 halftime advantage.

Illinois State received the ball to start the second half, and the Redbirds capitalized with a 12-play, 67-yard drive that resulted in a one-yard touchdown-smash up the middle by Leggett, with ISU facing fourth-and-goal. Aussieker connected on the point-after kick to trim ISU's deficit to 28-20. The Penguins wasted no time in responding, as Hess hooked up with Barboza two minutes later for a 44-yard touchdown pass. Following the five-play drive, the Redbirds blocked Brown's extra point attempt.

The Redbirds faced fourth-and-one from the Youngstown State 14-yard line to start the fourth quarter, and Leggett was able to get just enough for the first down to keep the drive alive. Illinois State proceeded to capitalize with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Brown to Marvon Sanders to cap a 14-play, 88-yard drive. Aussieker's extra point reduced the Penguin's lead to 34-27 with 13:18 to play.

On Youngstown State's next possession, the Redbird defense stepped up, forcing the Penguins to punt after going three-and-out. However, the Redbirds could not move the ball beyond their own 46-yard line, and ISU punted. Youngstown State again had to punt, and Illinois State started from its own 14-yard line. Two yards and four series later, the Redbirds again punted.

Illinois State's offense got another chance with less than five minutes to play, as the Penguins punted and the Redbirds started the next drive at their own 18-yard line. But YSU held ISU to its own 35-yard-line, and with 2:23 remaining, Illinois State punted. Youngstown State sealed the game with a 35-yard pass from Hess to Jelani Berassa for a first down with under two minutes play, allowing the Penguins to run out the clock.

Illinois State continues Missouri Valley Football Conference play next Saturday with a home game against South Dakota State scheduled for 6 p.m. at Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill. Your online source for Illinois State Athletics, tickets, Weisbecker Scholarship Fund gifts, multimedia, Redbird merchandise, photos and more.