Posts Tagged ‘Youngstown State University’

YSU Hangs On, Road Win Huge For Playoff Push

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Youngstown State University has not fared well against Austin Sumner and Zach Zenner.  Those two student athletes have spearheaded the South Dakota State football program past the Penguins for awhile.  Seems like Zenner has been there for about ten years.  Saturday, the Penguins successfully got that monkey off of their backs with a 30-27 triumph over the Jackrabbits in a matchup of nationally ranked teams representing the Missouri Valley Football Conference, aka the SEC of the FCS.

“I talked with Zach Zenner after the game and told him I admire his approach.  We often read about what is wrong and the bad things that happen, but this is an example of what a college student athlete should be and I would encourage the media to write about him”, said YSU Head Coach Eric Wolford.

Sumner did not play.  However, his backup, Zach Lujan gave the Penguins fits as he threw for 329 yards.  I guess if your name is Zach, you are sent to South Dakota State – automatically.  Lujan was under heavy pressure seemingly every down that the Jackrabbits attempted a pass.

Hunter Wells (below) played well for the Penguins (6-2, 3-1) and seems to have a lock on the starting quarterback job for YSU.  Wells played in a wide open offense in high school at Navarre that has poised him to be a throwing quarterback at the next level.  Wells threw for 256 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but more importantly, did a good job controlling the tempo of the offense, especially in the second half.

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With the win over the Jackrabbits, the Penguins garnered two MVFC awards.  Joey Cejudo was named the Special Teams Player of The Week.  Cejudo nearly had a perfect game in the win over South Dakota State. He averaged 49.4 yards on five punts, made a 32-yard field goal, was 3-of-4 on PAT kicks and had two touchbacks on six kickoffs. He had his best game as YSU’s punter just five days after he suffered a sprained right knee that almost forced him to miss the game. His last boot, a career-long 59-yard kick pinned SDSU at its own two-yard line and all but ended any comeback hopes for the Jackrabbits. He had punts of 44 (twice), 48, 52 and 59 in the game.

Derek Rivers was named the Defensive Player of The Week.   Rivers earned the first Defensive Player-of-the-Week honor of his career.   Rivers had a career-high eight total tackles, a career-best six solo stops and had three sacks as the Penguins defeated South Dakota State 30-27 in Brookings. Rivers had a sack in the first quarter on a third-and-5, in the second quarter on a first-and-10 and the third quarter on a third-and-9. The YSU defense had six sacks in the game, and seemed to be in the backfield causing havoc the entire game.

YSU welcomes South Dakota to Stambaugh Stadium for a 2 pm conference tilt.

Coach Wolford talked about the win.  ”We don’t ever practice on grass, but we went to a muddy high school field to prepare for the game on grass.  I was frustrated early, we were getting a lot of pressure on the quarterback and he was escaping. Once we tightened down our lanes, we were able to take the scrambling out of the game.”

 

YSU Starts MVFC Play With A 14-7 Road Victory

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Youngstown State University (4-1, 1-0) started their conference schedule on the right foot with a 14-7 win at #23 Missouri State.  The Penguins played brilliant defense in the win and the offense did just enough to secure the win.  Newly promoted Defensive Coordinator, Jamie Bryant, seemed to successfully put together a good game plan in showing blitz packages and coverages not shown in the previous four contests.

Junior Safety Tre’ Moore picked off two Kierra Harris passes including the proverbial nail in the coffin at the 2:21 mark of the fourth quarter to seal the win.  Harris saw pressure all day long from a vigorous YSU rush courtesy of Terrell Williams (above) and company.  Dubem Nwadiogbu, Desmond Williams, and Jaylin Kelly all recorded sacks for the Penguins defense.

Sloppy plays and problems on special teams allowed the Bears to hang around.  YSU missed a field goal and had a punt blocked in the fourth quarter which led to Missouri State’s only points.  Once YSU’s offense got the ball back, they successfully killed the clock to secure the win.

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Offensively, Dante Nania found Andrew Williams for an eight yard touchdown completion just over a minute after the game started.  The touchdown was set up by a 56-yard pitch and catch from Nania to Williams to the Missouri State nine yard line.

YSU would take a 14-0 lead into the locker room at the half courtesy of Jody Webb (above) busting an 81-yard touchdown run on a counter play behind Penguin center Stephen Page.  Webb would finish the game with 126 yards on 10 carries.  Martin Ruiz added 82 yards on 24 carries for the dynamic backfield duo.

Nania would finish the contest completing ten passes in 16 attempts for 160 yards while adding 20 yards on the ground.  Williams contributed 83 yards on five catches.

It should be noted that this win was YSU’s third to open conference play.  Following the first two conference opener road victories, the Penguins advanced to postseason play both times.  Good omen?

The Penguins will open their home conference schedule Saturday against Western Illinois with kickoff set for 7 pm at Stambaugh Stadium.  Show some support and head to the Ice Castle to root for the Guins!

Why The Big-10 Should Keep FCS Games On Their Schedules

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The Big-10 Football Conference, once a prestigious and worthwhile grouping of respectable teams, is now the laughing stock of the BCS.  Named a “Top Five Power Conference” because of past accolades, the Big-10 has a horrible chance at getting into the first-ever National Championship Playoff.  One of the moves that the conference made was the discouragement after the 2014 season to play no more games against FCS opponents.  Commissioner of the Big-10, Jim Delaney, decided that the non-conference schedule needed a serious upgrade so that teams can stay in the hunt when being considered for Bowl Games without losing credibility for playing the smaller schools.

My first attack is on Purdue, Indiana, and Northwestern.  These three teams have failed to even be competitive consistently through the last 30 years.  Purdue would not go .500 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.  Indiana has been lousy since Anthony Thompson was their tailback in 1990.  Northwestern had a recent wave of success, but I can’t block out the memories of them being 60-point underdogs from my childhood.  They are back to being Northwestern, the double-digit underdog again.

On the second weekend of the 2014 season, the Big-10 was horrid.  Michigan State played well for three quarters against Oregon before being slapped around in the fourth quarter.  On the same weekend, Ohio State was outplayed by Virginia Tech.  Those same Hokies lost to East Carolina the following week.  The Buckeyes rebounded playing angrily against Kent State.  Interestingly, Kent is a representative of the mighty MAC Conference, ranked 16th in the power conference polls, right behind #15 Missouri Valley (the FCS teams).

Mr. Delaney…  I can understand you wanting to schedule tougher non-conference opponents.  Do you understand that you have to win a few of those games against “tougher” opponents for any of this to translate positively?  It is great seeing a .500 team like Minnesota get to a Bowl Game.  It means more money for the conference, I get that.  But Minnesota played a couple of non-conference cupcakes to get to that vaunted level of mediocrity (aka  ”bowl eligible status”).  So go ahead and throw a couple of SEC teams against Minnesota in a couple of years.  I hate to break it to you, because I am not part of the committee, but winning four games and losing nine or ten will not get you qualified for much except revisiting playing FCS teams again.

Cole And Hain Power Penguins Over Detroit

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Youngstown State University has not had the best of luck when facing Detroit in Horizon League Basketball games.  The Penguins dropped their last four contests to the Titans.  Things were different Saturday night.  YSU didn’t look like a tribe of dwarves looking up at a gang of giants.

The other thing Detroit did not have was Ray McCallum.  The 2012-13 Horizon League Player of The Year skipped town on his old man for a beach house in Sacramento and a job playing for the Kings of the NBA.

To make things better, the Penguins were sporting some brand new uniforms (see photos).  They work.  YSU 77, Detroit 63.

“We are 1-0, so they work”, said Cole.

The Penguins opened up the game with a 9-4 spurt, but trailed 19-17 with 7:36 left in the opening half.  With 6:47 left, DJ Cole was fouled driving to the hoop and converted a pair of free throws to tie the game at 19.  After a Penguin turnover and a Titan bucket, the Kamren Belin hit the second of two free throws.

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Solid defense by YSU then set up a shot clock violation against Detroit.  With just under four minutes in the half, Kendrick Perry exploded to the hoop and scored to hand the Penguins back a 22-21 lead.  The Penguins, behind seven points from Perry, held a 28-26 lead at the intermission.

In the second half, YSU started to pull away.  Cole was a definite catalyst both shooting and passing, as well as, hustling.  With 11:54 left in the game, the Penguins were ahead 47-39 behind Cole’s eleven second half points.

“They were getting tired, so we kept running”, said Cole.  ”We really didn’t make any adjustments at the half, but our shots were just falling.”

The Penguins would maintain  51-47 lad with nine minutes left in the game.  Perry scooted the baseline on a nice reverse layup to stake the Penguins to the four point margin.  Coming out of a timeout, Ryan Weber nailed a three to put the ‘Guins up seven, 54-47.

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Weber would hit another three for the sixth consecutive Penguin point.  Bobby Hain, reacting to the pep band’s chants of “Bobby, Bobby”, responded scoring the next five points to build the lead to 14 points at 66-52, but with 4:45 left in the game Juwan Howard, Jr. collected his 19th point to keep Detroit around.

“Typical Hoizon League, 40-minute bloodbath”, said Coach Jerry Slocum.  ”We shared the basketball.  I thought that Kam {Belin} and Ryan {Weber} did a really good job tonight.”

With four minutes left in the game, Cole stole a pass on the Detroit end and threw an outlet to Perry streaking up the left side.  Perry was fouled hard and the refs were back at the video monitor.  The result was a flagrant one foul (two shots and the ball- courtesy Kyle Kroynovich).

The Penguins (12-8, 3-2) were lead by Cole who notched 22 points, a career high.  Rising folk hero,Hain added 18 and Kendrick Perry added 12.

Detroit got 20 from Howard.

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!

YSU’s Shawn Amiker Honored With Player of The Week Honor

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Youngstown State junior forward Shawn Amiker (Oak Park, Mich./Ferndale) has been named the Horizon League Men’s Basketball Player of the Week, while UIC guard Pat Birt (Plano, Texas/East) has been named the Freshman of the Week, for the week of Dec. 23-29. The award is the first for both Amiker and Birt.

 

Returning from the holiday break, Youngstown State (9-6) rolled in its final non-conference game, 85-59, over South Dakota.   Amiker played just 18 minutes against South Dakota, but notched a career-high 20 points. Coming off the bench, Amiker went 8-of-9 from the floor while collecting a team-high seven rebounds.

 

Emerging as the Penguins’ sixth man, Amiker now has four games this year with 10 or more points off the bench and five total. The junior has posted consecutive double-digit scoring efforts for the second time this season after he scored 10 at St. John’s.

 

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!