Posts Tagged ‘Adaris Bellamy’

YSU Starts With A Win Over Dayton, 28-10

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Youngstown State kicked off the 2013 campaign with a 28-10 victory over a scrappy Dayton team.  The defense did a great job of shutting down an experienced spread offense.  The offense looked a bit out of sync, but put together drives when they needed to.  Adaris Bellamy rattled off 203 rushing yards on just 17 carries.

“It is always good to get a win”, said coach Eric Wolford.  ”We played very sloppy at times, we had some turnovers and a penalty that hurt us.  We did things, but we have to play better than we did tonight.”

Youngstown State established a strong ground game in the first half by picking up 176 rushing yards.  The Flyers were only able to pick up 27 yards on 16 first half carries.  Andre Stubbs (below) had 2 carries for 66 yards, most of it coming on a 60-yard scamper before the half.

Torrian Pace scored a pair of first half touchdowns.  The first touchdown, from two yards out, came on the Penguins opening drive which covered 75 yards on 15 plays.

Pace again scored for the Penguins with 2:33 left in the first half to stake the Guins to a 14-0 halftime lead.  The eight-yard touchdown was set up by the 60-yard run from Stubbs.

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In the second half, Dayton got on the scoreboard as Stubbs fumbled a punt.  The Penguins defense did not allow much penetration, keeping Dayton out of the red zone, and the Flyers had to settle on a 37-yard field goal by William Will.

Bellamy took over on the Penguins next possession.  Bellamy dashed for 30 yards on a first-and-ten from the Flyers 40-yard line.  He got the ball on the next two carries and plunged into the end zone from three yards out at the 6:08 mark of the third quarter.  The touchdown by Bellamy made it 21-3 in favor of the Penguins.

“I felt good coming back, but don’t want to say it felt too good, as we were inconsistent and have to do a better job as a running back core.  We can do better”, said Bellamy.

Kurt Hess (below) did a good job controlling the flow of the game.  Hess, however, did not have his best night ever passing the football.  The senior quarterback threw a first half pick and looked to be on a different page than his receivers at times.  Hess did manage to complete 8-18 passes for 68 yards.

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Down 21-3, the Flyers engineered their best offensive drive of the game.  Quarterback Will Bardo found Robert Washington from 19 yards out to cut the Penguins lead to 21-10.

On the next Penguin possession, Hess was picked off by Matt Blanco at the Penguin 48-yard line.  Blanco returned the interception 36 yards to the YSU 12-yard line.  The Penguins defense was faced with a first-and-goal from the three.  Kyle Sirl made back-to-back tackles for no gain and a third and goal pass was incomplete.  On fourth and goal, Bardo tried to pass rolling right but was intercepted by Ali Cheaib.  The Penguins took over after the impressive goal line stand, a definite momentum killer.

“We blitzed the edge”, revealed Cheaib.  ”I adjusted my course and when he threw it, I was able to change my course and come up with it.  The goal line stand was big because we showed we can make some plays on defense.  We kept encouraging each other to stop them and not let them score and we came up big.”

The Penguins put an exclamation point on the win when Bellamy broke an 80-yard run on third-and-one and got caught on the three.  The drive was punctuated on Martin Ruiz’s first ever touchdown that made it 28-10 with 6:58 to go in the game.

The most impressive part of this victory was the job that the Penguins defense did against a potent spread offense.  Excluding a drive that the Flyers scored on in the third quarter, Coach Tresey conducted quite a performance with a young defense.  There was constant pressure on Bardo, who proved to be very elusive.

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The Penguins did plenty on the ground, finishing the game with 348 yards on 40 carries.  Bellamy had 203 yards on 17 carries.  Bellamy only had 129 yards in the whole 2012 season which was cut short by injury.  Pace added 47 yards on 11 carries.

For the Flyers, Bardo had a nice game and looked every bit the leader of the experienced Flyer spread offense.  He finished the game 17-33 for 172 yards.  He will have a good season for Dayton.

Nick Liste boomed punts of 62 and 64 yards that helped YSU in the battle of field position.

“I think I had a 69 yarder at Missouri, but that was in 40 mile an hour wind gusts, so it wasn’t so legit.  Credit the blocking that gave me time to use the proper mechanics to kick the ball”, comment Liste.

“You saw what a weapon Nick Liste is tonight”, remarked Wolford.  ”He had two huge punts for us tonight and a good kickoff that they {Dayton} tried to bring out, but we were able to swarm them.  I was unhappy with the botched fair catch, and we have to work on eliminating those mistakes.”

 

YSU Football: Camp Closes, Depth Chart Solidified

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Saturday’s practice marked the end of camp for the Youngstown State football team. The Penguins open the campaign hosting the Dayton Flyers on Thursday.  They will now transition into a weekly routine… sort of.

“Today was like a Tuesday practice because we are only that many days from Thursday already”, said Penguins Head Coach, Eric Wolford.

“I gave the guys a day off yesterday and we were out here banging pretty good today, but this will be the end of the banging until Thursday.”

Wolford and staff have solidified their depth chart to start the season.  Kurt Hess remains the number one quarterback and will have Torrian Pace (below) and Adaris Bellamy lining up behind him as backfield starters.

The wide receivers to start will be Andre Stubbs, Christian Bryan, and Michael Wheary.  Jelani Berassa, coming back from major surgery, will get some reps on a limited basis in the opener.  Kevin Watts, Marcel Caver, and Andrew Williams are listed as the second group of receivers.

“Whether or not I start or play, we are unselfish and unified as a team.  In order for us to be successful, we must remain selfless”, said Pace.

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Up front, preseason All-Conference pick, Chris Elkins, anchors a raw offensive line at center.  Wolford has repeatedly said that this is the most athletic offensive line he has had to work with since he got here.  The rest of the offensive line named as starters are Andrew Sinko and Kyle Bryant at tackle, Brock Eisenhuth and Fred Herdman at guard and Nate Adams and Carson Sharbaugh to pretty much interweave at TE.

Joey Cejudo offers a very strong leg as the Penguins placekicker.  Even though seven is greater than three, Wolford seems like he is comfortable with Cejudo and will use him more than he has used a kicker in the past few seasons.  Nick Liste resumes his duties as the punter and kickoff specialist.

Stubbs and Bryan will return punts and kicks to round out the special teams for the Penguins.

Defensively, Joe Tresey (below) has the defensive units working in the right direction. Tresey is one of the most animated and vocal coaches I have had the pleasure of watching and to his credit, never quits coaching.  After practice on Saturday, Tresey was out there running suicides with his defense after practice.  He is a stand-up guy who is accountable and accepts when all is less than perfect as his responsibility.

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Teven Williams, Travis Williams, and Dom Rich comprise the most experienced and battle-tested part of the defense at the linebacker spots.  Ali Cheaib should see some time as well.

Up front, Terrell Williams and Eric Myers will start at the defensive end spots. Emmanuel Kromah will be the tackle, and Octavius Brown will start at nose.  D. J. Moss is a little banged up but should see action at nose for the ‘Guins on Thursday. Kyle Sirl, the Penguins wildcard on defense can line up just about anywhere and contribute.

The question marks that raise the biggest concern are the secondary spots.  Donald D’Alesio was banged up for most of camp but is working hard to get into game shape and is listed on the depth chart as the #1 strong safety.

“I’m not a hundred percent yet, but getting real close to it”, said D’Alesio.  ”We have had a great camp and we are really looking forward to hitting someone else besides our own guys.”

Jamarious Boatwright is still a little wobbly but closing in on a return.  While he mends, Jameel Smith will handle the work at free safety.  Julius Childs and DeVon McKoy (below) will start at the cornerback positions.

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McKoy, a transfer from Bowling Green, has had to learn the Penguins defense at a rapid clip.  The capable native of Columbus has met the challenge head-on and is excited with the opportunity.

“Right away, when I got here, I was thrown into the mix”, said McKoy.  ”When I talked on the phone with the coaches, they told me there would be opportunities to step right in and here it is.  They threw me right into the fire, and I still have some little technique things to brush up on, but I am very excited with this chance.”

Wolford said that the coaching staff did something different in the locker room setup that he hopes will help keep the team unified.

“A lot of people don’t know that we arranged the locker room differently this season. We tried to put people from different positions next to each other, guys that would not normally talk much are now next to each other in the locker room.  I like the move in the sense that it has strengthened the unity of the guys and really helped them grow as teammates.”

YSU Football Preview, 2013 Prediction

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Youngstown State University will uncork a brand new season a week from Thursday when they host Dayton.  The Penguins have never beaten the Flyers in a football game (0-9), but the last contest was played way back in the seventies.  Things have changed, and it is a mark of progress to see how the Youngstown State team has advanced almost 40 years later.

There have been National Championships and years to brag about.  This is the year that YSU Football gets back into the playoffs, and regains some of its national charisma.  I will not wait to tell you I am predicting a 10-2 season for the Guins.  If you do not think the Missouri Valley Football Conference is tough, you have not been keeping up for the past decade or so.

So why two losses?  Why doesn’t the “homer”, as I have been affectionately named by other members of the media, pick these Penguins to run the table and put up a perfect season?  I will tell you why…

Michigan State is a program that is in much better shape than Pitt was last year.  They have an established coach using his own recruits.  Last season Pitt was ripe.  They had a new coach and little motivation as they were just trying to find a team identity.  That does not take away from the fact that the win was still considered a big upset, and a notch in the program’s belt.  Keep in mind, those same Panthers ended up getting their act together and taking Notre Dame to the wire.

I believe that the Michigan State game, win or lose, is a good measuring stick to see what  level of competition YSU can provide.  Don’t think for a minute MSU will not use the Penguins win over Pitt as motivation.  They got a taste in East Lansing two years ago, and Youngstown State was in the game until midway through the fourth quarter. I’m not saying it can’t happen again, but it would have to be a flawless effort this time around.

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The Penguins should, in all probability, be 3-1 after the non-conference games.  I think the average margin of victory against Dayton, Morehead State, and Duquesne could be in the thirty point range.  After that, the conference games start and anything seems to happen at some point every year.

The hardest part of the conference schedule seems to be at the end, beginning with a road game against Northern Iowa.  That game is followed by two home games against last years #1, North Dakota State, and a good South Dakota State team.  To make my 10-2 prediction valid, the Penguins have to win two of these three games.

The other game to put a mark next to is the November 2 contest at South Dakota.  The reason why is because it follows a bye week, which is when everything fell apart last season.  Eric Wolford knows he will have to keep his team in rhythm through that two week stretch, and it did not go so well last season.

“We talked about maybe doing a little scrimmage in between, to kind of keep our edge this time”, said Wolford.  ”I want to keep guys healthy, at the same point, but we are going to have to get into a little more active situations out here.  The most glaring thing after the bye week last season, even though we coaches harped on it, was that we lost our edge.  We had eleven turnovers in three quarters of football, and you just can’t do that.”

Wolford critics are circling Stambaugh Stadium more rapidly in our constant “win right now” atmosphere.  Some say Wolford has to make the playoffs to keep his job this season.  Get your pen ready coach.

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Timing and mistakes will go away with repeatability.  This is obviously a very young offensive line and a very young defensive front.  A healthy Kyle Sirl and Steve Zaborsky will pay dividends on the defensive side of the ball.  With a rash of injuries and legal problems in the secondary, Coach Davis has his work cut out.  However, anyone who knows the game will tell you that the best pass coverage is a good rush on the opposing quarterback.

The strength of the offense is Kurt Hess, period.  Hess has the tools to carry this offense following the blueprint.  He can throw accurately and takes care of the ball.  He has the experience to find a fourth read, and he can tuck it and go if he has to.

New running backs coach, Eric Gallon, has the difficulty of figuring out which running backs to recommend to get playing time.  Torrian Pace, Adaris Bellamy, and Demond Hymes were the three that figured to get the reps.  An injury to Hymes has made everyone look deeper to where at least two more backs have stuck their flag in the dirt. Redshirt freshman, Jody Webb, has had a great camp and has turned heads.  True freshman, Ryan Mosora has also made a good impression.

Don’t be surprised to see all five running backs get reps against first-team defenses all season.

Keep an eye on Carson Sharbaugh at tight end.  Under the tutelage of Coach Mangino, Sharbaugh will prosper.  Sharbaugh is already a very good blocking tight end who would sneak out into the open spot of a zone once in the while to catch a pass.  This season, he will be utilized more as a threat to score.

The new coaches (four in all) have seemed focused and have experience in pressure situations.  Gallon and Mangino are joined by Kurt Beathard and Jamie Bryant. Beathard was with Wolford at Illinois when a Rose Bowl berth was captured.  Bryant was a defensive coordinator in the SEC spending nine years at Vanderbilt.

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Last Summer, things looked too good.  The team seemed to max out against Pitt, and never really recovered their demeanor until Indiana State toward the end of the schedule when they decisively won a “must-win” game to have any chance of a playoff berth.

Some feel the Penguins should have made the playoff field, others felt that they blew the chance and did not.  Either way, Coach Wolford knows that winning can take the guesswork out of the equation.

“Our approach is going to be that we control our own destiny.  We can’t leave it up to some jury, to some committee, sitting in some room.  There is nobody on that committee that wants Youngstown State back in the playoffs.  We can’t bank on beating Pitt counting for two wins because it is a BCS team.  We are done relying on that system.  All we can do is strive to get better every day, play hard, and take care of our bodies.  That is what we control.  As of today, we control our destiny.  If we start losing, we give up that control.  We control our own destiny, and I plan on not giving that up.”

Wolford recently had to suspend Dale Peterman because of legal problems.

“In this day and age, you have to be accountable for your own actions”, said Wolford.

“We are under the microscope now more than ever.  Hopefully they change some of these NCAA rules moving forward.  We are not allowed to be around our players in the Summer.  You don’t read about college basketball players getting in trouble over the Summer because they are allowed to be around their coaches, they changed that rule.  We need to change the rule for football.  You mean to tell me that all of these kids that got in trouble over the Summer would have been in trouble if their coaches were allowed around them on a regular basis?  I don’t think so.  Changes need to be made.”

Penguins Methodically Dismantle Western Illinois To Keep Playoffs A Reality

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Youngstown State (6-4, 3-4) kept their playoff hopes alive with a 31-7 victory at Western Illinois.  The Penguins played a very methodical game and had a big edge in the time of possession, 39:52 to WIU’s 20:08, nearly a twenty minute difference.

Jamaine Cook (above) carried the ball 32 times for 113 yards in the win.  Cook scored the first Penguins touchdown on the opening march of the game with a two-yard plunge to give the Penguins an early 7-0 lead.

Western Illinois freshman QB, Hayden Northern scored on a fourth-and-goal from the one to tie the game.  The touchdown was the first for the Leathernecks since October 6.

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YSU’s defense buckled down after the Leathernecks scored.  The defense played well in the win, limiting Western Illinois to 142 yards of total offense for the afternoon.  The numbers do not lie, 52 yards on 23 carries is a damn good defensive showing.

Meanwhile, the Penguins run game was in high gear.  YSU would finish the game with 225 rushing yards on the ground.  Kurt Hess and Torrian Pace scored touchdowns on the ground.  Adaris Bellamy looked healthy as he tacked 60 rushing yards onto the total.  The offensive line blocked well and their lone blemishes were a couple of penalties for false starts.

Hess had some problems with his passing as he was picked off to give Western Illinois the starting field position of YSU’s 17 on their lone scoring drive.  Hess did make some good passes in the win, however,  and finished the game 14-22 for 152 yards.

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So the stage is now set for a meaningful war with Indiana State at Stambaugh Stadium next week.  If Indiana State wins, they will get in.  If YSU wins, there is a good chance that they will get in.  The loser of this game will definitely see their season end.

The Sycamores had a bye week, giving them a couple of weeks to prepare for the Penguins.  The vanilla ball-control offense Eric Wolford used to defeat the Leathernecks with was a perfect script of simplicity that Indiana State will learn little they already didn’t know when reviewing it.

The last two games against Western Illinois and South Dakota could be called cupcake games, but it should be noted that the teams ahead of YSU in the standings played one, or both, at some point this season as well.  The timing couldn’t be better though for the Penguins, as getting on a little roll is huge going into a game that definitely puts the season on the line next week.

Penguins Shoot Themselves In The Foot, Dropping 38-21 Game To Southern Illinois

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Eric Wolford started a new practice week like a politician, promising change.  Wolford made good on the promise of a more stubborn defense.  Something Wolford can’t scheme against or plan differently are the mistakes that doomed his Penguins.  Southern Illinois blocked a punt for a score, landed on a loose ball in the end zone, intercepted passes and recovered a fumble to defeat the Penguins, 38-21.

“We didn’t play very well.  There are three phases and we only played good defense”, said Eric Wolford.  ”We know we are capable of being a good football team but we have been shut out the last three games on offense.  We need to simplify some things.”

YSU started the game in very workmanlike fashion.  The Penguins marched 55 yards in ten plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard Jamaine Cook plunge.

The Salukis scored by the end of the first quarter on a 26-yard Austin Johnson field goal that cut the YSU lead to 7-3.

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Cook garnered his second touchdown of the game on a 4-yard scamper that would increase the lead to 14-3 for the Penguins.  The touchdown came with 11:43 left in the first half and capped off a ten play, 65-yard drive.

Big special teams plays by the Salukis hindered YSU’s improved defensive effort in the first half.  Southern Illinois blocked a punt with 5:36 left in the half and Courtney Richmond pounced on the loose pill in the end zone to close the gap to 14-10.

YSU would again retaliate with a good drive.  Cook had his third rushing touchdown of the half when he dove in from a yard out to increase the Penguin lead to 21-10.  It marked the third successful scoring drive of the half, this one covering 76 yards.

As a steady mist fell, Southern Illinois would cut the lead to 21-17 when Kory Faulkner spotted LaSteven McKinney for a 10-yard touchdown.

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On a third-and-short, Southern Illinois used play-action to catch the YSU defense out of position.  MyCole Pruitt was pretty much by himself, catching a Faulkner pass on about the ten and jogging into the end zone to give the Salukis their first lead of the afternoon at 24-21.

On the next YSU possession, with the Penguins trying to drive and get their lead back, an errant snap exchange between Hess and center Mark Pratt from the shotgun formation rolled into the Penguins end zone and Southern Illinois’ Tyler Williamson landed on the ball for a 31-21 Salukis lead.

With five minutes left and YSU driving, Hess was stripped of the ball while trying to make something out of nothing.  Southern Illinois recovered with a 10-point lead.

The final straw was a last gasp drive that ended in Hess getting picked off in the end zone and running 100 yards for a game-sealing touchdown.

The Penguins fell to 1-3 in the conference and probably can’t lose again if they want into the postseason.

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“It hurts [the loss] just like the rest of them.  Our defense played a great game and as a leader, I can take the blame, our offense did not get the job done”, said YSU’s Cook after the game.

Aronde Stanton, another captain, gave his views.  ”We lose as a team, so it doesn’t matter who plays better, offense or defense, it is a team loss.”

“I will be thinking all night about how to keep this team loose”, said Wolford.  ”We play South Dakota next week and we have not beaten them since I got here, so we have to really focus.”

YSU’s Defense, Not Offense, Looks Strong In First Scrimmage

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Coming into this season, no one was sure what to expect from a defense filled with new faces.  In Saturday’s first scrimmage action, the defense did things that they failed to do last year in all situations, and they did those things consistently.  In fact, for the last couple of seasons, these same scrimmages looked like offensive track meets.  Not on Joe Tresey‘s watch.

Early on, the offense tried to run a reverse.  Last season that same reverse was a guaranteed minimum ten yard gain.  This season the contain was there, the reverse was turned in, and the pursuit caught up to the play for a three-yard gain.

Another glaring thing that stood out was the run defense.  By looking at the top picture of this article and counting the white jerseys tackling the red jersey, you get a good idea of how well the defense reacted.  Everyone at every position has a job to do and new defensive coordinator Joe Tresey had to be happy with what he saw.

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One of the other impressive things was that the defensive backs, who are healthy right now, did a great job reading their keys.  They were taking a step forward to respect the run and participating in many group tackles, but they were also doing something they couldn’t last season – stuffing the pass.  Even play-action passing plays did not fool the corners and safeties.  Kurt Hess and the receivers looked out of rhythm because the defense was on their game.

So is it time to panic on behalf of the offense?  No.  It is just a measure of the strides that the defense has made under Tresey.

“Recruiting solves a lot of problems”, said Eric Wolford.

Wolford was answering a question about filling the biggest cracks on a defense that was not up to standards last season.

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During the drive sequences, the defense allowed just two plays of more than 10 yards. One of those plays resulted in a takeaway for the defense.

Newcomer Parnell Taylor was looking downfield when he dropped a sure interception that would have resulted in six defensive points on a Hess swing pass.

The defense made two big plays on consecutive snaps. First, transfer Dale Peterman intercepted a Hess overthrow and returned it 50 yards on a second-and-12 play. Then, Marcel Caver was stripped of the football by new arrival Quamane Bryant and fellow newcomer Jameel Smith recovered it.  New faces, new results.

Hess was 9-of-15 for 75 yards and had one touchdown and one interception.  The touchdown was a 20-yard strike to TE Will Shaw.  Adaris Bellamy had nine carries for 41 yards and Torrian Pace had nine chances for 19 yards.

Defensively, newcomer  Julius Childs had seven tackles while returning DB Jeremey Edwards had five.

“We want to continue to diminish our weaknesses and accentuate our strengths”, said Tresey after the scrimmage.

“The first scrimmage was probably a little cleaner than what I would have expected”, said Eric Wolford.  ”There were no silly penalties like personal fouls and those sorts of penalties, and I was happy about that.  The defense didn’t surprise me.  This was practice number eleven today, and I know that we are faster and recruited well. It is very clear that we recruited well, we are flying around.”

Red Defeats White, 28-14, In 40th Annual Spring Game

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Kurt Hess threw two first-half touchdowns, and fellow quarterback Patrick Angle had 158 passing yards and a touchdown as the Red Team beat the White 28-14 in the 40th Annual Red-White Spring Game on Friday evening at Stambaugh Stadium.

The Red offense and White defense were comprised of first-string players, and the Red defense and White offense were the second-stringers. The first half featured standard timing rules, and the second half had a running clock.

Hess finished 11-for-19 for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, and the junior-to-be spent the second half on the sideline. Angle was 7-for-14 for 94 yards in the first half for the White team, and he was 4-for-8 for 61 yards and a touchdown in the second half for the Red.

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Angle and White quarterback Dante Nania connected with wide receiver Andrew Williams nine times for 135 yards, which was a game high. Jelani Berassa led Red with 82 yards and was one of four players to catch a touchdown pass. Carson Sharbaugh and Kevin Watts added scores through the air for the Red team, and Nate Adams had a touchdown reception for the White.

Jordan Thompson rushed for a game-high 67 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, and Jamaine Cook had 64 yards on 12 carries for the Red. Torrian Pace headlined the White rushing attack with 51 yards and a score on 12 carries.

Pace impressed offensive coordinator, Shane Montgomery.

“Torrian has had a really good Spring for us”, remarked Montgomery.  ”He is faster than he was last year.  We know we can’t keep Jamaine [Cook] on the field as much as we have the last two seasons.  With Adaris Bellamy recovering, Jordan [Thompson] and Torrian got some good reps, I feel real good about our depth at that position and at tight end.”

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Travis Williams had 10 tackles, including seven in the first quarter, for the White defense.  Josh Garner and Jeremy Edwards played pretty well for the White defense.  That trio of defenders will play a big role in the defensive turnaround efforts targeted for this season.

With the running clock, Angle put the game out of reach on the Red team’s first drive of the fourth quarter. He connected with tight end Will Shaw for a 25-yard gain on third-and-19 to get the ball down to the White 22, and he found Watts for a six-yard score on the 13th play of the drive.

Shaw and the other two tight ends combined for 114 yards and two touchdowns on six catches.

Jimmy May, Jr. intercepted Angle in the second quarter for the game’s lone turnover. The Red team fumbled twice but recovered each. Brandon Neal and Julius Childs both had pass breakups for the White defense.

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Kicker David Brown missed a field goal.  We already know that Coach Wolford likes the math sounds of seven being greater than three and if the Penguins will have a weakness in the red zone, it will be the kicking game.

The Penguins will have a light workout on Monday to finish up the spring practice season.

Penguins Do Little Wrong In 49-23 Win Over Saint Francis

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Sometimes Youngstown State University starts a game slowly, something Coach Eric Wolford claimed needed addressed.  Other times the Penguins had problems on both sides of the ball with missed assignments, lining up wrong, and fundamentals.  Against Saint Francis, a game which the Penguins won, 49-23, the maturity of this young team continued to take place.  There were few missed assignments, little that was not properly executed, and everyone looked fundamentally sound for the Penguins.

Jamaine Cook came into the game 4th in the FCS in rushing with 131.2 yards per game.  One of the backs ahead of him at number three on the list was Saint Francis’ Kyle Harbridge.  Cook put on a show, racking up four first half touchdowns and gaining 162 yards on 19 carries.  Harbridge managed to crack 1,000 for the year, but the Penguins RB had the much more productive day.  What was more impressive of Cook’s day was that Saint Francis runs a plus one defense most of the time, meaning they have nine guys in the box.  The line did a great job of picking up the extra man and sprung Cook, Adaris Bellamy, and Jordan Thompson for good yardage all day, to the tune of 450 yards combined on the ground.

“We came out to play up to our standard”, said DT Aronde Stanton.  ”We prepared for this game like it was a conference game.  Because there are so many good running backs in our conference, we were prepared to face this kind of an offense that runs the ball.”

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The Penguins (4-3, 2-2) never punted in the first half.  Cook had touchdown runs of 1, 4, 8, and 26, to account for his four first half scores, which marked the first time a Penguin scored four times in a game since PJ Mays did it in 2001 against Indiana State.  The Penguins also got a 5-yard touchdown from Bellamy, and Kurt Hess hit Christian Bryan for 19-yard score to account for the 42 first half points for Youngstown State.  Saint Francis managed a 35-yard Josh Thiel field goal.

In the second half, the Penguins sat the starters and Coach Wolford got the depth chart some playing time.  Saint Francis scored a few touchdowns in the second half to salvage some pride on offense.  The damage was pretty well done in the first half though and the Penguins and Wolford can be content with the first unit’s play on both sides of the ball.  The Penguins, however, put some icing on the cake when Jordan Thompson tore off a 95-yard touchdown run, off right tackle, tying a school record.  Thompson will be a force to be reckoned with going forward and he is finally 100% after suffering a shoulder injury early in the season.

“I didn’t know I had tied a record”, said Thompson.  ”We have a bunch of talented backs and we were able to make some plays against a plus one defense, forcing misses.  I am happy to get the ball and contribute.”

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For Saint Francis (1-6), Harbridge finished the game with 117 yards on 28 carries (he had 52 yards in the first half).  John Kelly threw for 288 yards on 16 completions in 28 attempts (including a 70-yard TD) and had 5 rushing yards and a score on the ground.

The Penguins really distributed the ball well in both halves.  Cook finished with 162 yards on 19 carries.  Thompson, aided with his 95-yard score, finished with 135 yards on 4 carries  (33.8 ypc).   Hess was 11-14 for 172 yards and a touchdown again doing a very efficient job of managing the offense.  Bryan finished with four catches for 49 yards and a score.  Torrian Pace got 15 carries in the second half and finished with 81 yards.

Defensively, Josh Garner and Aronde Stanton finished with five tackles each an Andrew Johnson recorded a sack. Sir Taylor nabbed an interception and returned it 42 yards, just missing a 65-yard touchdown when the last possible tackler tripped him up near the YSU sideline.

The first meeting of these two teams since 1953 ended sort of lopsided, but both coaches will have things to build upon despite the wide scoring differential.  Youngstown State will jump back into conference play when they welcome Western Illinois to town for Homecoming next weekend.  Saint Francis will host Central Connecticut State.

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Coach Wolford talked about the victory at the postgame press conference.  ”You always worry that the team will look at the record of the other team and have preconceived notions of chalking up a win.  Upsets happen all of the time and this team posed some challenges with a solid running game.  We did good things in the first half against the ‘plus one’ look, and defensively, the only thing that had me worried was the abundance of penalties.  We continue to strive though, and are putting things further behind us.  We now have to get ready for Western Illinois.”

One of the things about Wolford that has become more obvious to me over the past couple of weeks is his character.  I knew he had a big heart because of his ‘paying ahead’ attitude and charitable contributions through No Stone Unturned.  However, what I learned about this guy in the last 48 hours is that he worries about the personality and character of his players as responsible young men.  Everything from what they eat the night before a game, to what they do in their spare time, to the value of their education.  Wins and losses aside, Eric Wolford is now a better fit, in my mind, more than I ever could have imagined.  He is honest, refuses to make excuses, has tackled adversity head-on several times in just his second season, and more than anything — finds time for everyone.

Call me a mark.  Call me a homer.  Call me anything you would like.  Facts are facts.  Wolford is solid.

YSU Gets Complete Team Effort In Quality 35-23 Win At Southern Illinois

Edwards

For the first time under Eric Wolford, Youngstown State University won a game on the road.  In a must win for both teams, YSU outplayed Southern Illinois in the second half and got their first win at Carbondale in ten years, posting a quality 35-23 win over the Salukis.  The defense played arguably their best game of the season to protect the lead and maybe showed some signs of maturation.

The first half was filled with more of the frustration shown in the Penguins previous two losses.  Earlier in the week, Wolford said that his Penguins (3-3, 2-2) were getting beat on four or five plays where players were not lining up right or missing assignments.  The first half produced two such plays where fumbles killed drives and momentum.

Halftime adjustments and better protection of the football resulted in keeping momentum and putting points on the scoreboard.  The defense really strapped it up all day.  Jewel Hampton was held to 70 yards on 20 carries.  Hampton posed the biggest threat to YSU entering the game, neck-in-neck with Jamaine Cook atop the conference rushing leaders list.  However, Cook emerged in the second half with a couple of long runs, his sixth touchdown, and his fifth 100-yard game of the season.  Kurt Hess played a good game and really controlled the pace regardless of the situation.  Hess played like a captain for those who questioned a sophomore garnering such a title.

“Nothing comes easy for us”, said Wolford.  ”We will keep sawing wood and working hard.  Take your hats to our defense today, they really stepped up and played hard.”

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Southern Illinois scored first when they marched 43 yards in eight plays, punctuated by a Hampton two-yard run.  The Penguins evened the score in the second quarter when Adaris Bellamy (below) plunged in for a two-yard score.  The YSU scoring drive, which covered 42 yards only took five plays.

The Salukis would capitalize on a turnover and take a 14-7 lead in the second quarter.  Hampton got his second touchdown on a six-yard scamper to increase the margin.  Jackson MacLachlin booted a 34-yard field goal to increase the Saluki lead to 17-7 at the half.

In the second half a couple of long-awaited answers came for the Penguins.  A receiver, Christian Bryan, has stepped up as a go-to guy for Hess.  Bryan made a couple of leaping, full-extension grabs to set up the Penguins in Saluki territory at crucial times.  The other question mark that can be erased was the ability of the defense to finish a game.  Give Davion Rogers the Derek Pixley Hit of The Week now, he earned it when he crushed MyCole Pruitt late in the game, dislodging the ball before the TE could gain full possession.

The Penguins scored the first two touchdowns of the second half to take a 21-17 lead.  Hess found Bryan alone in the corner of the end zone for the first score.  Cook scored the go-ahead touchdown on a hard two-yard run.

The lead would be short-lived as SIU reclaimed the lead on a 20-yard dash from the Iowa transfer, Hampton.  However, the Penguins were able to dig deep and take the lead for good with 1:11 left in the third quarter.  Hess found Jelani Berassa amongst a sea of Saluki defenders in the middle of the end zone and hit him with a hard pass that Berassa hauled in.

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After a couple of empty possessions for both teams, the Penguins special teams made a difference.  Josh Lee pounced on a muffed punt that rolled beyond the goal line and into the end zone to put the Penguins ahead by the score of 35-23 with 2:48 left in the game.  Special teams were a problem to that point of the game for the Penguins.  The kickoff coverage unit let Steve Strother gain 195 yards on five returns, and Nick Liste had a couple of punts nearly blocked.  The defensive effort is even more praiseworthy based on the fact that Southern Illinois started most of their drives with great field position.

Hess finished the game 16-21 for 264 yards with two scores and no picks.  Bryan again took top receiving honors for YSU, catching five balls for 131 yards.  Cook had a sluggish first half statistically, but finished strong posting 179 more rushing yards to his growing resume.

Pruitt was a thorn in the Penguins sides all day and the freshman TE finished with 124 yards on eight grabs. Kory Faulkner was 20-35 for 184 yards for the Salukis (2-4, 1-3).

Wolford finally has the road monkey off of his back and this team is going to keep getting better with experience.  Quality win!

The Penguins return home for two games against St. Francis and Homecoming against Western Illinois.

*Photos courtesy of Ron Stevens / YSU Athletics

YSU Comeback Falls Short, 35-28, To South Dakota State

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Youngstown State seems to be struggling for answers to this point of their season.  For the second conference game in a row, YSU played a very strong second half on both sides of the ball, but came up short, falling 35-28 to South Dakota State.  The loss marks the fourth time the Jackrabbits have got by the Penguins (2-3 ,1-2) since they joined the conference four years ago.

“We settled down a little bit in the second half.  It is very difficult when you take a lead.  We just haven’t arrived yet and we are going to have to make some changes, put some different guys in spots and do something different.”, said coach Eric Wolford.  ”There is plenty of blame to spread around, but there is plenty of football left.  We have had so many losses and I have coached a lot of football, and this was a difficult loss.  Give them credit, they played hard.  They recruit too, they have scholarships too.”

YSU put the first points on the scoreboard when Jamaine Cook tallied for a seven-yard strike capping off a nice eleven play, 75 yard drive which featured some new wrinkles.  Those new wrinkles included using a three-back set with TE David Rogers lined up in the backfield and Adaris Bellamy motioning out of the backfield.

The Penguins lead would be short lived as the Jackrabbits put up two touchdowns by the end of the quarter to hold a 14-7 lead. Tyrel Kool punched in the first score from a yard out.  On their next possession, Dale Moss hauled in a 27-yard pass from Austin Sumner to give the Jackrabbits the seven point advantage.

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In the second quarter, Youngstown State scored when Kurt Hess found Christian Bryan for the first time in the game on a 51-yard completion.  The scoring drive took four plays and covered 75 yards.  South Dakota State managed to put up another touchdown before intermission when Sumner found Brandon Hubert with 16 ticks left on the clock.

Once play resumed, the Penguins came out looking like a different team. Jelani Berassa hauled in a 48-yard pass from Hess to tie the game at 21.  On the ensuing possession, Sumner made a bad read and found the Penguins Sam LB Davion Rogers who returned the pick 27 yards for a score and a 28-21 YSU lead.

In the final quarter, SDSU manufactured an 88 yard scoring drive in 14 plays.  The drive was capped off when Sumner threw his third TD of the day, this one a five-yarder to Aaron Rollin, to tie the game, 28-28.

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The Penguins went to work in the fourth quarter of a tie game.  Hess led the offense on a nice drive in which the Penguins converted a fourth-and-two on SDSU’s 41 to keep the drive going.  The Penguins would settle for a field goal attempt by punter Nick Liste , not kicker David Brown, that was unsuccessful.  The 44-yard try sailed just to the right of the goalpost.

On the very next play, Sumner found Rollin with an out-and-up pump fake that froze Jimmy May.  Rollin caught the ball at about YSU’s 25 and trotted in giving the Jackrabbits a 35-28 lead.

YSU got the ball back with 5:55 left in the game.  The drive started on their own 45 yard line thanks to an excessive celebration penalty on South Dakota State’s touchdown, and the actual kickoff going out of bounds.  Cook rattled off 18 yards on the first play to get down to the SDSU 37.  A holding penalty against YSU’s Chris Elkins backed the Penguins up into a 2nd & 16 situation, and the Penguins would fail to convert the opportunity into points.

The Penguins got the ball back with 2:30 left in the game.  Hess, again, led a poised drive down the field, this one with no timeouts.  YSU got all the way to the Jackrabbits 17-yard line but could not convert a fourth-and-ten, losing the ball on downs.

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Kurt Hess finished the game 18-34 for 243 yards, was picked off twice and had a couple of touchdowns.  Jamaine Cook finished with 107 rushing yards on 18 carries, he also caught four balls for 40 yards.  Teven Williams had 10 tackles, six solo, for the Penguin defense.

Andrew Johnson, another captain, commented on the loss.  ”Words can’t explain it.  We started slow and we are a lot more talented than we were last year.  I can’t really explain it.  We go hard and try our best.”  Johnson finished the game with two sacks.

“We had them”, said Cook.  ”We got in some third-and-long situations and Kurt had to try to come out and scramble around to try to make plays.  We have to keep things from falling apart.  As a captain, I am committed to doing that.”

For the Jackrabbits, Sumner was 22-35 for 345 yards.  Aaron Rollin finished with 155 yards on 8 catches.  Zach Zenner led the ground attack with 97 yards on 16 carries.