Posts Tagged ‘Eric Wolford’

Eric Wolford Staying Home

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Youngstown State University has confirmed that Head Football Coach, Eric Wolford, will remain in charge of the football program.  Wolford has compiled a 24-21 record since taking over for Jon Heacock four seasons ago.

Wolford, a tireless recruiter, has surrounded himself with good people to revitalize the Penguins football program.  He has often been quoted as saying that nothing except winning a championship is acceptable.  The Penguins inched closer to that goal in 2013, narrowly missing a playoff bid.

Trevor Parks, the Sports Information Director at YSU commented on the recent developments.

“Details by both sides will be worked out soon”, said Parks of the extension.  ”Coach Wolford will be YSU’s football coach moving into the foreseeable future.”

Congratulations Coach Wolford!

YSU Football Winter Notes

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Now that the 2013 season is well-behind, reflection and awards are handed out. Youngstown State University fell just short of the goal – making the playoffs, but there was plenty of positive that needs to be recognized.

For starters, the Penguins finished the season 8-4, winning two of every three games they played.  More impressively is that the Penguins four losses, in hindsight, were to the team that won the Rose Bowl (Michigan State), the team that won the FCS Championship (North Dakota State), a team that advanced past the first round of the FCS Playoffs (South Dakota State), and a team that lost three conference overtime games in a row setting a record (UNI).

If the UNI loss seems like the one that got away, we later learned that Kurt Hess played the entire second half hurt, forcing the Penguins into a one-dimensional attack of just running.  Coach Eric Wolford never pinned that loss on his quarterback, he took the blame for it, saying “This one is on me”.  It came to light almost a whole week later that Hess was indeed injured.

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This group of seniors (above) will be a tough bunch to replace.  Hess started all four years he was here.  But some of the unheralded players – the limping DJ Moss, the banged-up Dom Rich, the falling out of grace, yet remaining a team player, Torrian Pace, and the versatile Carson Sharbaugh will all be missed.  Kyle Sirl ended up being one of my favorite all-time Penguins because he was fighting no matter what the score.

It was at East Lansing that I started developing such a respect for Sirl.  Trailing Michigan State 35-10, Sirl came toward the sidelines, winded, beat up, and looked at me saying something along the lines of “We are going to make a run”.  It would be understated to say he wasn’t giving it his all.  YSU ended up losing 55-17.  They did however, gain almost 100 yards more on the ground than Michigan would against a stingy Spartans defense.

On to the awards.  As recently as today, several Penguins have received postseason awards.  Hess was named to the FCS ADA Academic All-Star Team.  Chris Elkins was named a Second-Team-All American by The Associated Press and Third Team by The Sports Network.  Kyle Bryant was selected to play in the prestigious East-West Shrine Game, Elkins would later be named to join Bryant.  Jelani Berassa was given another year of eligibility.  Martin Ruiz, who finished tied for third for the Jerry Rice Awardand Jameel Smith made it onto the MVFC All-Newcomer team.

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The coaching staff for the Penguins, seems to remain in place, for now.  Ron Strollo has given Wolford a vote of confidence by publicly stating that he hopes Wolford is coaching the Penguins for a very long time.  Wolford’s biggest steps of growth as a head coach were made this season.  He seemed to be looser with the players, less vocal with the media, and was able to pinpoint his teams strengths from week-to-week with pretty good accuracy.  Injuries are a part of the game, and adverse injuries, like the Hess situation the last three weeks, cannot be the grounds for calling Wolford or any of his coaches unworthy.  Ride the horse that got you there.  Hess was the horse, he just had bad timing with an uncontrollable injury.

The four new coaches – Mangino, Gallon, Beathard, and Bryant did good work for Wolford.  Bricillo, Cochran, Stoops, Montgomery, Kopp, Davis, And Sims are a great supporting cast and the new guys enhanced the overall product.

2014 is right around the corner.  Shane Montgomery is going to have the hardest assignment as an offensive coordinator losing Kurt Hess.  As they recruit, they know what they need.  Best of luck signing the players to push it to the next level.  Oh, and 8-4 really wasn’t too bad!

Penguins “Snowballed” By South Dakota State

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Youngstown State University closed out their regular season losing its last three games including a 42-13 setback to South Dakota State.  The Ice Castle could have been called the Snow Globe as the flakes fell hard making vision a challenge.  Now all YSU can do is sit back and hope that a selection committee deems them good enough to make the postseason field.

“We congratulate South Dakota State.”, said coach Eric Wolford.  ”We had no control at the line of scrimmage.  They were much more efficient than us on third down.  At this point we have to hope that finishing third in the conference, unfortunately it is out of our hands.  As of last week, we were eleventh in overall rating.”

Zach Zenner seemed unaffected by the inclement weather.  Zenner shredded the YSU defense for 186 yards on 29 carries for the Jackrabbits.

South Dakota State (8-4) marched the opening drive 81 yards in seven plays capped off by a Reggie Gandy 22-yard scamper.

The Penguins got a break when a Nick Liste punt hit a South Dakota State blocker.  The Penguins recovered the live ball and went 20 yards in six plays to score the apparent game-tying touchdown.  However, Christian Bryan was not on the field for the extra point, and the problem was that he had taken over as the holder on PAT’s since Dante Nania was sidelined.  After colliding with a referee, Bryan was in position, but the play was rushed and the kick was blocked.

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In the second quarter, Zenner (above) scored twice on runs of three and six yards that would stretch the South Dakota State lead to 21-6.

YSU closed the gap on a nice play-action pass from Kurt Hess to Martin Ruiz that covered 63 yards to close the gap to 21-13.  South Dakota State managed to put up another touchdown before half that made it 28-13.

In the second half, the YSU defense did a much better job on Zenner but Austin Sumner became the new headache.  Sumner was clutch on a drive that made the score 35-13.  The SDS quarterback ran a draw on a third-and-goal at the YSU seven-yard line and scored untouched.

“It starts on the line of scrimmage”, said Wolford.  ”The teams we played the last two weeks control the line of scrimmage.  They did a great job on third down.  I didn’t sense a lack of energy, I did see a bunch of missed tackles.  Anytime you are playing against a Zenner, you can’t miss tackles.”

The Penguins, down 22, had a drive stall at the Jackrabbit 42 to end the third quarter.

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The fourth quarter was merely a formality for both teams.  South Dakota State hit a 33-yard pass to get to the YSU four-yard line with just over twelve minutes left in the game.  Two plays later, Zenner scored off-tackle to make it 42-13.

The Penguins just didn’t have it Saturday.  No answer for the South Dakota State running game.  No holes for Ruiz (from Florida) to run through, and Hess closing out his Penguin career running for his life.

If the score of this game is something the playoff selection group looks at, YSU looks to be done until 2014.

“This senior class has gone through a lot of changes.  We had some big wins, including a win against Pitt.  They have been up and down.  It’s disappointing that the seniors do things right on an off of the field.  I want to see them be able to continue”, said Wolford.

However, if the committee looks at the quality wins the Penguins(8-4) have posted (South Dakota, Illinois State) and their overall position in the strongest conference in the FCS, they may get the invite.

“We played well in this conference and we are in third place.  If this is the hardest conference, we should get in”, said Hess.  ”It isn’t the way we needed to take care of business.”

YSU Handed 35-17 Setback To #1 North Dakota State

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#1 North Dakota State shredded Youngstown State’s defense with a powerful rushing attack that produced 270 yards, on their way to a 35-17 victory over the Penguins.  YSU had an unforeseen obstacle to deal with – an injury to Kurt Hess who tried valiantly to play, but was not 100%.

“I tried to push it today and tried to play”, said Hess.  ”It’s a sprain with a little ligament damage.  I will do all I can this week to be ready for next week, it is Senior Day, and I will be ready.  It was different watching, we still had a chance to win.  We need to win next week.  If we win, we deserve to be in the playoffs, if we lose we don’t deserve to be in the playoffs.”

No excuses though, Hess is not responsible for the “A” gap on defense.  His replacement, Dante Nania, entered the game with 11:10 to play in the second quarter.

Nania was effective on a drive to close out the first half that resulted in a field goal that  ended the opening session.  The 24-yard Joey Cejudo kick made it 14-10 in favor of the Bison.

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The Penguins got the ball to start the second half, trailing 14-10.  Nania, filling in for Hess, fumbled the ball and injured his shoulder in the process.  The Bison capitalized and seized a 21-10 lead on the 3-yard strike from Brock Jensen to Kevin Vaadeland.

“A loss like this stings”, said senior captain Dom Rich. “We played hard, we are a family here.  As a captain, we have to make these guys all realize that we still have a lot to play for and can make the playoffs.  We have to win.  We might get in with four losses, but we know we will get in with three losses.”

Hess tried to come back in to lead the Penguins, but a three-and-out would signal the end of his day.

North Dakota State would score again on a Jensen to Vaaderland strike, this time from 12 yards.  Vaaderland has 12 catches this entire year, six are for touchdowns after Saturday.

The Penguins were then forced to insert Tanner Garry into the game to play quarterback.  Garry had no live action before this game.

After a few first downs, the Penguins were forced to attempt a 44-yard field goal, but the kick was blocked.

The Penguins defense created a turnover and on a fourth-and-one, Garry threw his first ever touchdown pass, finding Nate Adams on a nice pay-action pass for a 24-yard touchdown that would cut the Bison lead to 28-17.

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YSU forced the bison to punt and got the ball back with 12:03 left in the game and trailing by 11.  Garry threw a long ball that Christian Dudzik camped under and picked off to end the YSU momentum.

After another Bison touchdown, YSU was forced to punt but recovered the muffed kick.  This would set up a last gasp shot for the Penguins, but they would turn the ball over on downs, getting to the Bison two.

The trio of quarterbacks for the Penguins combined to go 12-28 for 168 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception.

“Congratulations to Coach Bohl on his third title”, said Eric Wolford.  ”We have to take the approach to not leave it up to someone else.  We did some good things on special teams.  There were positives and we had our opportunities.  We will keep working hard and get back to work in preparation for another very big game next week.”

Brock Jensen had a solid day racking up 200 yards, completing 17 of his 22 passes.  Sam Ojuri had a big game for the Bison.  Ojuri had 17 carries for 146 yards and John Crockett added 120 yards for the Bison.  All said , the Bison cranked out 270 yards on the ground.

The Penguins (8-3) are almost forced to win at home next week against South Dakota State to make it into the postseason.  Kickoff is at 2.

#15 YSU Looking To Tie #1 North Dakota State With Win

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When Youngstown State takes on North Dakota State Saturday, one of two things will happen.  The first possibility is that the Penguins win the game, tie the top dog in the MVFC, and climb into the top five of every poll.  The second possibility is that the Penguins drop this game and drop out of the polls, forcing themselves to beat South Dakota State next week to cement their postseason chances.

Expect a close football game.  Last seasons blowout loss to the reigning champions following the bye week was a case of anything that could go wrong, did go wrong.  The two games played before last year were both close, hard-fought battles that went down to the wire.  The Bison have outscored their opponents 331-110 so far this season and they are a very disciplined and balanced football team loaded with talent.

Is this where the Penguins turn the corner and become the dominant force they once were?  Nobody can answer that.  With all of the strength in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, it is amazing that North Dakota State has been this dominant for so long. Youngstown State seems poised and hungry to get back into the national spotlight, and what better way to do so than to beat the reigning playground bully up?

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The keys for Youngstown State to win this game are very obvious, but hard to attain.

1.  The Penguins have to win the time of possession, move the sticks frequently, and protect the ball on offense.  Kurt Hess brings a heck of a resume to the table on ball control.  The X-factors are the two freshmen running backs – Martin Ruiz and Jody Webb.  If Ruiz and Webb can get into the open field, they are both gifted with another gear and can turn five yard gains into twenty yard bursts – they have been doing it all year.  However, they must protect the ball at all costs.

2.  YSU has to get pressure on Brock Jensen.  If Jensen has all day to read the field, he can pick any defense apart.  YSU’s front four has to find a way to get to Jensen and force him to hurry his reads, and consequently, his throws.  The best coverage for any secondary is a good pass rush.  Expect the Penguins to blitz a lot and get into Jensen’s head.

3.  Special teams must play better.  In both YSU losses this season, special teams have played a significant role.  Against Michigan State, the opening kickoff was fumbled and recovered by the Spartans.  Following the turnover, the fans got louder, the Spartans scored quick, and the momentum was shot for most of the game.  Last week against Northern Iowa, the punt block started the demise of the Penguins.  Those mistakes really kill your chances of winning, especially against a good football team.

4.  Wrinkles.  This will be the game that you will see some new wrinkles on both sides of the ball from YSU.  Last season, the Bison used a halfback pass to open the lead.  Don’t think for a minute that Eric Wolford and Shane Montgomery weren’t drawing plays up in the sand all week.  I guarantee there will be more trick plays run in this game than the previous ten games combined by the Penguins.

5.  Seven is greater than three.  Expect Coach Wolford to go for the jugular any chance he gets.  The Penguins will go for it on fourth down, they will not try a field goal unless it is fourth and more than ten outside of the ND State 20.  Keep an eye on Carson Sharbaugh.

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Way back when, at media day, Coach Wolford talked about how a “jury” could keep the Penguins out of the playoffs again.  What he is referring to is the FCS playoff selection committee.  Last season, the Penguins beat Pitt (counts as two in the owners manual), then went into a swoon, and basically were disposed of by the committee.

Wolford made mention of this committee not wanting the Penguins in the postseason again at the weekly press conference three weeks ago.

If you want to argue his logic, look at what has taken place in the last ten days.  YSU has fallen to 15th, tumbling seven spots for losing to a good Northern Iowa team.  Northern Iowa, with five conference losses, shows up in this weeks poll with a 5-5 record.  If the season ended today, they would probably get into the playoffs with five conference losses.  If YSU loses their last two games and end up with four total losses and third place in the conference – the possibility of being shunned exists.  Lots of “ifs” there, but speculation drives the mind.

Wolford knows what is at stake this week.  ”There is no doubt that this is the biggest game I have coached here at Youngstown State.  We are playing the two-time champions with a chance to win the conference.”

Game starts at 2.  Noise is mandatory.  Believe!

Offense Powers YSU To Dramatic 38-34 Win At South Dakota

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Youngstown State stayed unbeaten in Missouri Valley Conference play with a dramatic and wild 38-34 win over South Dakota.  More importantly, the Penguins are one step closer to a championship, and may only need one more win in their final three games to secure a playoff berth, the first of the Eric Wolford Era.

Martin Ruiz (above) scored the game-winning touchdown with 14 seconds to play to lift YSU.  The winning drive featured great clock management by Kurt Hess, great play calling by Shane Montgomery, and superb effort from the entire offensive unit.

Ruiz would finish the game with 131 yards on 23 carries with a pair of scores.

Jordan Roberts gave South Dakota a 34-31 lead when he hit the end zone with two minutes left to play.  Youngstown State (8-1, 5-0) snatched the win with a 10-play, 74-yard march, highlighted by Ruiz’s four yard touchdown.

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Both YSU freshman running backs, Ruiz and Jody Webb, made big plays when the Penguins needed them most.  Webb scored the Penguins first touchdown on a well-designed 40-yard wheel route that put YSU ahead 7-3.  Webb would score another for the Penguins and finished the game with five carries for 64 yards and two receptions for 52 yards.

“This is a tough place to win, I think they have gone 48-4 here”, said Wolford.  ”This is quite an atmosphere and Coach Glenn is doing a tremendous job here.”

Hess would finish the game with 283 passing yards and threw two touchdowns while running for another.

YSU would finish with 517 offensive yards, and that total could have been much higher if you take away a few costly penalties and three lost fumbles.  To have all of that working against you, and still come out a winner, makes for a good tale of overcoming adversity .

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Youngstown State had problems and could feel fortunate coming out with a win.  Andre Stubbs (above) had the ball stripped from behind on a return, Joey Cejudo missed an extra point breaking a string of 51 straight.

Next up for the playoff-seeking Penguins is another road game in a different dome.

This time the bus will point to Northern Iowa.  Uncharacteristically, UNI is 0-5 in conference play and 3 of those losses were consecutive, overtime defeats – an FCS record.  They are very capable of beating anyone in the league and YSU has to be ready to play.

Penguins Head Into Bye Week 7-1 Following Hard-Fought 24-14 Homecoming Win

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On a gloomy October afternoon, Youngstown State was tested in a big way by a very game Western Illinois team.  Joey Cejudo’s 33-yard field goal in the third quarter gave the Guins the lead for good and Kurt Hess found Nate Adams with 2:34 left in the game to ice a 24-14 Penguins victory on Homecoming Day.

“We left a lot of yards on the field, and no team is perfect”, said Adams.  ”They came in with a great game plan.  We will take the win when we can. ”

Youngstown State jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a 60-yard run by Martin Ruiz.  The talented freshman would finish the game with 199 yards on 20 carries.

“I wouldn’t have any yards if it wasn’t for my linemen, this is a good chance to give them their props”, said Ruiz on his great performance.

Western Illinois would tie the game by going 60 yards in 12 plays.  Quarterback Trenton Norvell would dive in from a yard out on a designed bootleg right.

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Nick Liste proved to be a valuable commodity for the Guins, again.  Liste buried the Leathernecks on their own one-yard line twice in the game, once in each half.

“Liste could be our MVP this season”, said Wolford.

With 5:08 left in the first half, Kurt Hess found Christian Bryan for a seven yard score.  The Penguins got the ball on the nine yard line when Leatherneck punter Nathan Knuffman had problems handling a low snap.  Once Knuffman gained possession of the ball, Kyle Sirl pried the pigskin loose.  Donald D’Alesio fell on the ball for the Penguins.  Sirl had ten tackles.

“We are gonna get everyone’s best shot when they come in here to play”, said Sirl.  ”If an opportunity comes my way, I am going to do my best to make a play.”

In the second half, the Leathernecks proved they were here to play with a game-tying 99-yard drive.  Norvell found Lance Lenoir for a seven-yard touchdown strike that would make it 14-14 with 7:26 elapsed in the third quarter.

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The drive that would end up making all of the difference in the world for the Penguins started in the third quarter and would result in a score in the fourth quarter.  Joey Cejudo connected on a 33-yard field goal that would put YSU ahead 17-14 with 11:34 left in the game.

Western would take the next possession all the way to the YSU 30-yard line before stalling and missing a 40-yard field goal attempt – wide left.  Sirl had a sack and a tackle for the Penguins to halt the momentum.

“It’s a good thing we had 250 rushing yards, because we didn’t throw the ball well”, said Eric Wolford.  ”We left some plays out there.  We will do some self-scout, and reassess what is working and what is not.”

From there, Ruiz rambled off a 57-yard scamper to get the ball to the Leatherneck 17-yard line. Demond Hymes took the next handoff for nine yards to the WIU eight.  Hess used a sneak to the left of his center, All-American Chris Elkins.

On third and goal from the five, Hess found Adams who made a nice diving catch to give the Penguins a 24-14 lead.  Hess would only finish the game with 47 yards on seven completions, but protected the ball well and again, made big plays.

Youngstown State Pounds Illinois State, 58-21, To Go To 6-1

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Youngstown State University looked as good as they have all season in destroying Illinois State, 58-21, in front of a good crowd of over 16,000.  Kurt Hess ran the offense as well as he ever has in leading the way and put up a career-high 311 passing yards in the win.

“It was a fun game, we had a good week of preparation.  The offensive line played great, and we were clicking”, said Hess.

Illinois State took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards to take a 7-0 lead on a Collin Keoshian 2-yard touchdown scamper.  YSU would respond when Carson Sharbaugh motioned to the right and slid behind the defense for a two-yard catch that would tie the game.  Sharbaugh has played an increasingly important role in the offense the last few weeks.  He would be used in short yardage situations as a ball carrier and converted every chance he got to touch the ball into a Penguin first down.

“We executed our game plan”, said Jelani Berassa, who scored during the 31-point second quarter explosion.  ”Kurt was on point tonight.  Before the game, I told Kurt I felt something in him tonight, and he proved it tonight.  It felt good to get in the end zone.”

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The Penguins scored three touchdowns in a five minute span to take control of the game.  Hess found Andrew Williams from 40 yards out, then Martin Ruiz scored on a 26-yard run.  The third touchdown was a beautiful 67 yard strike from Hess to Marcel Caver.  The bomb completion was perfect as Hess hit Caver in stride with a ball that traveled about 45 yards in the air.  Caver put himself into another gear to create separation from the defender and never broke stride.

“It was a good one because I made him {Caver} chase it.  He ran it down”, said Hess. “We accepted the challenge as a team and we can be as good as were on offense two years ago.  Sometimes we get penalties, we need to continue to iron it out.”

Illinois State tried to rally as Cameron Meridith caught a 73-yarder from Blake Winkler.   That would make the score 28-14 in favor of the Penguins.

The rally was short lived for the Redbirds.  Joey Cejudo nailed a 38-yard field goal to increase the lead to 31-14.  With thirty seconds left in the half, Hess threw his fourth score to a fourth receiver – Jelani Berassa.  The pitch-and-catch would send the teams to the locker room with YSU ahead comfortably, 38-14.

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In the second half, the Penguins kept rolling.  Demond Hymes got in on the action as he carried the ball 5 yards for a score.  Hess would tack on another, this time on the ground, as the senior signal caller dashed into the end zone for a 16-yard score.

Marshaun Coprich scored a fourth quarter touchdown for Illinois State to make it 52-21.  Coprich would be the first running back to go over the 100-yard mark since the North Dakota State State game in Week 6 of the 2012 season.

The 59 points put up by YSU were the most points put up in a conference game ever by a Penguins team.  The old record was 56 against Western Illinois.  The defense played equally led by senior captain Donald D’Alesio who intercepted a pass.

“We buckled down and got after them”, said D’Alesio.  ”We have goals to get three turnovers a game.  We are playing much faster than we have been playing in the past.”

 

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Statistically, the Penguins were a juggernaut on offense.  Nick Liste did not put until there were two minutes left in the third quarter.  All of the preceding drives (eight) resulted in points.  Liste did get his moneys worth kicking the ball off as he booted each YSU kickoff into the end zone.  NFL bound?

Ruiz finished the game with 85 rushing yards on just eight carries before he left the game with what looked like a sprained ankle.  His replacement, Hymes, tallied nine carries for 65 yards.  Jody Webb got in on the act too.  The gifted transfer had a 21-yard touchdown run which seemed like he was twice as fast as anyone else on the field.

In the receiving department, Hess connected with eight different targets.  Leading the way was Caver with three catches for 99 yards.

“Obviously a good effort by our football team tonight” said Eric Wolford.  ”We need to keep getting bigger and bigger.  On third down, the other team should not be able to communicate.  We need that to continue to grow here.”

The Penguins will host Western Illinois next Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium.  Kickoff is set for 4 pm.

Youngstown State Off To A 2-0 Conference Start, 35-24 Road Winnners

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Youngstown State continued attempting to make believers out of skeptics on Saturday.    The Penguins won the turnover count, ultimately resulting in winning the game against Indiana State, 35-24 to raise the record to 5-1 and 2-0 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference standings.

Martin Ruiz, who has emerged as the feature back, continued his consistent production as he scored three times from 44, 13, and six yards out.  Ruiz would finish the game with 141 of YSU’s 196 rushing yards on 23 carries.

The turning point of the game was a 95-yard interception return for a touchdown by Jameel Smith (below).  Indiana State was threatening to take the lead when Smith picked off Mike Perish and went almost the length of the entire field to completely kill the Sycamores momentum and giving the Penguins a 14-3 lead.

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The Penguins were ahead 21-10 at the half when the weather got ugly.  A thunderstorm rolled through and would delay the game 75 minutes.

After the lengthy delay, Kurt Hess found Christian Bryan for a two yard score that would increase the Penguin lead to 35-10.  Hess played his consistent brand of football for the Guins not turning the ball over and making plays while protecting the ball.  He would finish the game with 14 completions in 23 attempts for 164 yards.

Hess also reached yet another milestone.  Needing only five yards entering the game, he broke a record held by Tom Zetts for passing yards and total offense.

Indiana State racked up some yards as the Penguins were giving small yardage in exchange for clock in the fourth quarter.

Perish, the Sycamore quarterback, entered the game boasting the best passing game in the conference, but when a team is 1-4, many yards get compiled in late game situations when you are trailing.  He would finish the game with 392 yards and three touchdowns.

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Highly touted running back, Shakir Bell, was held in check by a stingy Penguins run defense.  Bell would finish the contest with seven carries for 17 yards and didn’t even lead the Sycamores in rushes.

Next up for YSU (5-1, 2-0) is Illinois State.  The Redbirds defeated Western Illinois 35-21 to even their conference record at 1-1.  The home game will mark the first time during the Eric Wolford era that a YSU team will be riding a two game road winning streak.

YSU Makes Halftime Adjustments And Rally, 28-27

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The opening game of Missouri Valley Football Conference play did not go so well for Youngstown State in the first half.  The Penguins got into a 27-14 hole in the opening session and had to make adjustments.  The changes resulted in Southern Illinois not scoring in the second half after having their way on offense in the first half and a 28-27 win for YSU.

The Penguins trailed 7-0 before a pair of Kurt Hess touchdown passes to Andre Stubbs  gave the Penguins a 14-7 lead.  SIU quarterback, Kory Faulkner, then went completely off throwing and running through the Penguins and leading the Salukis to a 27-14 lead at the half.  Thomas Kinney‘s missed extra point on the fourth touchdown would end up haunting Southern Illinois.

Then came the adjustments.  The Penguins defense found a way to contain Faulkner while applying much more pressure in the second half.  Offensively, YSU found a way to move the ball.  Martin Ruiz had a great game carrying the ball 20 times for 87 tough yards.  Ruiz also caught three passes for 50 yards with a huge reception in the fourth quarter on the game-winning drive.

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The offense unveiled a new chapter – Carson Sharbaugh.  The senior tight end from New Wilmington, PA was lined up in the backfield on short-yardage situations and given the ball to convert first downs for the Penguins four times in the game.

Lining up in the Sharbaugh formation on a fourth-and-goal with just over two minutes to play, the Saluki defense seemed convinced that with Sharbaugh back there he would get the handoff.  That theory was foiled when he motioned right and snuck behind the defense to haul in the game-winning pass from Kurt Hess.

Credit to Shane Montgomery for showing imagination at the right times in this win.

Hess played brilliantly.  He did not force much and made veteran decisions of when to throw the ball away and when to take off running.  He would finish the game 25-37 for 258 yards and four touchdowns.

Defensively, Donald D’Alesio was everywhere.  The senior captain made several key stops, 15 in all.  The whole secondary showed great improvement and covered Saluki receivers very well throughout the contest.

The Penguins (4-1, 1-0) will head back to the road next week to face Indiana State.