YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — As the errors mounted, so did Youngstown State's lead.
Eventually all of Northern Iowa's mistakes added up to a mountain the Panthers could not scale as No. 22 UNI dropped a 31-10 Missouri Valley Football Conference game Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium.
In a game that had a lot riding on it for the Panthers as far as driving toward a FCS playoff berth, UNI (5-5, 4-3 MVFC) could not get out of its own way.
Two bad snaps with UNI at the YSU 1 thwarted potential touchdown plays, and a fumble inside its own 5 took a potential 14 points off the Panthers' side of the scoreboard, and helped add seven for the Penguins.
"Exactly. There is no question," Panther head coach Mark Farley responded if UNI made far too many errors. "Just too many errors."
A muddled first half saw the Panthers trailing 14-7, then YSU (4-6, 3-4) took just two plays to take a 21-7 lead in the third quarter. That in itself did not do in UNI.
After falling behind by two scores, UNI got a 55-yard kickoff return from Xavior Williams to the YSU 40. Five plays later, the Panthers were facing a third-and-inches at the Penguin 1 when a high-snap sailed over Marcus Weymiller's head forcing UNI to settle for a 34-yard Austin Errthum field goal.
On YSU's next possession, a third-and-16 pass from its own 16 was sailing high when UNI safety Christian Jegen laid out the intended receiver early, resulting in a pass interference penalty. The Penguins took the new life, and 10 plays later Tevin McCaster scored his third rushing touchdown of the game for a 28-10 lead with 1:59 left in the third quarter.
Minutes later, UNI looked once again to have gained a spark when Williams picked off a Montgomery VanGorder pass and returned it 61 yards to the YSU 4. But on a second and goal from the Penguin 1, another bad snap sailed over the head of Panther quarterback Eli Dunne, and YSU's Ray Anderson recovered it, returning it all the way to the UNI 36.
"The two snaps factored into it. The fumble at the 5-yard line, those are ... that is 21 points right there," Farley said. "You are inside the 5-yard line going in and coming out and you have three errors.
"Then the penalty on the pass on the third and forever, and we are off the field and they continue that drive and score. It is those type of things you have to overcome, particularly on the road. You can't let it affect you, and we did today. "
Zak Kennedy would add to the Penguins lead, now 31-10, with a 28-yard field goal.
In the first half, UNI fell behind as the Penguins scored on a 62-yard pass from Montgomery VanGorder to Darius Shackleford in the first quarter. Shackleford caught a short pass 5 yards down field, ducked a UNI tackler and ran untouched to the end zone.
Then YSU took a 14-0 lead after recovering a Marcus Weymiller fumble at the Panther 5. McCaster scored on the next play with 12:37 left to halftime.
McCaster finished with 136 yards and three sores on 32 carries.
"I don't know. It is tough to explain," senior linebacker Duncan Ferch said. "We had a good game plan. We have to be more consistent."
The Panthers finally got a first-half spark when Jalen Rima returned a YSU punt 26 yards to the Penguin 34. Tyler Hoosman had a big third down run, and a Marcus Weymiller 14-yard run set up a 4-yard touchdown pass from Eli Dunne to Briley Moore with 55 seconds left to halftime.
Moore, UNI's leading receiver, was injured with 9 minutes and 51 seconds left in the fourth quarter while blocking on a kick return. After a lengthy delay, Moore was strapped to a stretcher and transported to a Youngstown area hospital.
Moore, who has 35 catches for 479 yards and four scores, gave a thumbs up to the crowd as he was wheeled out of the stadium.
UNI managed just 192 total yards. Weymiller lead the way with 89 yards on 19 carries. Freshman Tyler Hoosman added 71 yards on 10 carries.
Quarterback Eli Dunne finished 8 of 22 for 73 yards.
"I thought we could've thrown the ball a little better than what we did," Farley said. "That was a surprise. The weather didn't help us. It was windy. It was cold. The ball didn't seem to have any zip when it was flying today."