The Youngstown State football team had a productive two-hour scrimmage on Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium. Anyone not living under a rock knows that all of the pieces from last season are back on offense this season. However, a young defense with lots of new faces will continue to thrive and improve. The defensive unit, unfortunately, is competing against an offense that practically rewrote the record books in 2011.
The Penguins worked on moving-the-ball, red-zone, third-down, four-minute and two-minute situations during the workout, and the offense opened the scrimmage with three consecutive crisp scoring drives.
On the first sequence junior quarterback Kurt Hess engineered a 11-play, 70-yard scoring drive. On the drive, Hess was 5-for-5 while senior tailback Jamaine Cook (above) ran for 22 yards on five carries. Cook rushed for six yards on a fourth-and-two play from the 33 to extend the drive. Three plays later, Hess connected with Christian Bryan on 17-yard scoring toss.
On the second drive, sophomore quarterback Patrick Angle and junior tailback Torrian Pace went to work. Pace carried the ball four times for 16 yards while Angle was 5-for-5, including a 36-yard strike to tight end Nate Adams. After the defense forced a third-and-goal from the eight, Angle found Jelani Berassa (below) in the back of the end zone for a score capping a 10-play 70-yard march.
Angle led the offense on a 65-yard drive on the following possession. Cook opened the drive with a 25-yard rush while Jordan Thompson followed with carries of five, 18, 13 and three yards. On 3rd-and-4 from the 11-yard line, Angle went to Berassa again for nine yards to pick up a first down. Thompson then found a crack of daylight, scoring from two yards out.
“We are going to start to solidify positions”, said Head Coach Eric Wolford. “We are pretty deep into this thing. I was encouraged by things that I saw on both sides of the football. Overall, we are getting better and there are still missed tackles and things we need to improve on. Jeremy Edwards did a very good job on Will Shaw downfield today. Will can run and Jeremy kept him in check. It’s just an example of the expectations and that we are getting better on that side of the ball.”
“This is a process”, echoed Defensive Line Coach, Tom Sims. “Last season, Andrew Johnson was a leader on defense, but there really was not much leadership from the linebackers and defensive backs, partly because they are so young. Ultimately, we want competition. If the ones get hurt, we should not have to worry about a two going in, the one should worry about the two going in and taking the ones spot.”
The defense held on the next series and then Jimmy May intercepted a Dante Nania overthrow to quickly end the fifth drive.
The Penguins ran four-minute situations with both the top and reserve units. The scrimmage was capped off with a two-minute drill. Hess found Bryan again for a 30-yard scoring toss with 31 seconds left on the first try. The defense held the reserve offense out of the end zone when Angle’s desparation pass fell incomplete on the final play of the workout.
Here are some statistics from the first portion of the scrimmage: PASSING – Hess 7-of-7 for 66 yards and two touchdowns, Angle 6-of-7 for 70 yards and a TD, Nania 3-of-7 for 22 yards and one interception. RUSHING – Thompson 9-81; Cook 8-53; Pace 6-21. RECEIVING – Bryan 3-54, 2 TDs; Berassa 3-23, TD; Andrew Williams 2-22.
YSU returns to the gridiron on Monday for its 12th practice of the spring. Next week the Penguins are slated to hold workouts Monday and Wednesday before Friday’s annual Red-White Spring Game. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.