Youngstown State University (3-5, 1-4) is not going to throw away the rest of their season to focus on the future. This team has been in transition since Eric Wolford was hired. Guys have quit, transferred in, transferred out, redshirted, adapted, walked on, and have all played a part in the rebirth of football at Youngstown State. The seniors who had to accept changes are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This team is so much better than the record indicates.
Northern Iowa comes to town ranked 19th with only one loss in league play, and in sole possession of first place. The Panthers are 4-3 overall and have remained a consistent winner for years. In fact, Northern Iowa vs Youngstown State has had a consistent theme for the past nine seasons, a Panther win in every contest since 2000. Throw in the fact that YSU has lost four straight Homecoming games, and the writing should be on the wall.
Here are some things to consider before throwing this game into the loss column for the Penguins. Eric Wolford has never lost to Northern Iowa or Mark Farley. Three of the nine consecutive losses have been by two points or less. The last time they met in Youngstown, a blocked extra point late in the game preserved a 21-20 win. Last season, the Panthers pretty much had their way and handed the Penguins a 28-7 setback.
Youngstown State’s Defense needs to put forth a great effort to have a shot at a win this week. Losing Andre Elliott has really hurt a secondary not expected to have problems this season. Brandian Ross has been bouncing everywhere but teams have learned over the past few weeks to keep it away from him and pick on the young guys. Will Shaw, Randy Louis, and Donald D’Alesio are contributing but also getting picked on at crucial spots of games. Louis is now out indefinitely with shoulder problems.
Secondary Coach Ron Stoops talked about the defensive lapses. ”Andre Elliott is hurt and we went into the first game with Nick [Gooden] and Shaw rotating. Really, its not been the personnel, there is a pass rush, linebackers, underneath coverage and all kind of factors to consider. We are not getting beat deep, more underneath and not tackling well as a defense. Bottom line is that we do have some youth in the secondary and inexperience can also be a part of it.”
Offensively, the Penguins are scoring. Senior Dominique Barnes set a record for catching a pass in 31 consecutive games and has more personal awards within reach. Barnes is a team guy and personal records remain secondary. The young “quad of doom” (Kurt Hess, Adaris Bellamy, Jamaine Cook, and Jordan Thompson) have produced as a group all year. Not at all what you would expect from a sophomore and three freshmen. Eric Rodemoyer has also been a force on the line.
Northern Iowa could care less about it being the 70th year of YSU Football, the WATTS, or Homecoming. Their mission is to keep winning to make the postseason playoffs again. The Panthers are led by QB Tirrell Rennie who likes to run. Rennie had four rushing touchdowns last weekend against Illinois State and leads his team with 754 yards on 129 carries. The Panthers also boast a very strong run defense that has only given up 100 yards twice this season. They are a methodical and well-coached team.
Homecoming Festivities incude a pre-game parade to start jus before 11 a.m. and proceed to the stadium. The court will be announced at halftime and a new king and queen will be crowned. Kickoff for the game is 1 p.m. and the radio telecast can be heard on AM-570. The game will also be shown on myTV at 10 p.m.