Host of “The Drae Smith Show”
November 27, 2014
Everyone knew there was a lot on the line when the Youngstown State Football team traveled to Fargo, North Dakota recently on November 22nd. A loss in their final regular season game against the three-time defending champs of North Dakota State would be their third straight, leaving them out of the playoffs in tragic fashion for the third straight season. The nightmare continued as the Penguins lost 38-14 in a game that was dominated by the Bison from start to finish. YSU finished what once looked like a promising 2014 season with a record of 7-5, 4-4 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
Most believed that head coach Eric Wolford would be fired if the Penguins missed the playoffs and they were proved right this past week. Wolford was relieved of his duties after 5 seasons, finishing with a record of 31-26 overall but just . He recruited well, had three straight winning seasons and got the YSU program back to national relevancy. However at a program with the history and tradition YSU has, making the playoffs and competing for national championships is the ultimate expectation. As a Penguins fan, the hardest part of seeing Wolford leave is knowing how close he was to accomplishing much more.
The past three seasons, the Penguins missed the playoffs by just one game and suffered crushing late season collapses after great starts. Last year in 2013, the team started 8-1 before losing three straight to miss the playoffs. This season in 2014, they started 7-2 before another three game losing streak to end the season. Mixed in those losing streaks are numerous close games that YSU should have won and could have won if not for a few plays. I stated that Wolford deserved one more chance next season because this young team is talented and I believe they are extremely close. I stand by that, but I fully understand why the change was made. As a head coach you simply cannot survive those painful late season collapses that continued to occur. Also, the fan base seemed disenchanted with Wolford and it showed at late season home games when attendance was embarrassingly low.
I believe that Eric Wolford leaves the Youngstown State Football Program in a much better place than it was when he was hired in 2010. He hands over a very talented young team that should be ready to compete for the playoffs immediately. I commend the job he did and appreciate how hard he worked to put a team on the field that Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley could be proud of. Wolford helped achieve some of the highest grade point averages and graduation rates in the football program’s history. He handled the media well and was loved and respected by his players. It was a pleasure to cover Coach Wolford and we appreciate how gracious he was to spend time with Rookery Radio on numbers occasions. We know he still has an extremely bright future in coaching and we wish he and his family nothing but the best.