by Drae Smith
Host of "The Drae Smith Show" Tuesdays 7pm-9pm
The Youngstown State football team had their most disappointing performance of the season this past Saturday. They were dominated by #7 South Dakota State, losing by a final score of 38-8. The Penguins are now 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The Jackrabbits improved to 5-1 overall and 2-1 in conference play.
YSU running back Jody Webb fumbled the opening kickoff to give South Dakota State possession deep in Penguins territory. Just a few plays later, Brady Mengarelli found the end zone from four yards out to put the Jackrabbits ahead 7-0. A safety from the Penguins defense would make it 7-2, but that is the closest YSU would get. The SDSU lead was 17-5 at halftime and 17-8 after a second Zak Kennedy field goal in the third quarter. South Dakota State would then score 21 unanswered points to finish with the 38-8 victory.
The Penguins could never find a rhythm offensively on a cold, windy day at Stambaugh Stadium. Heading into the game, YSU was averaging an impressive 200.6 rushing yards per game. Against the Jackrabbits, they were only able to gain 125 yards on 30 carries. All-conference running back Martin Ruiz was slowed by an ankle injury, carrying the ball two times for three yards. Jody Webb had just 10 yards on nine carries while WR Andre Stubbs led the way with 51 rushing yards on four rushes.
Quarterback Hunter Wells had a tough day and could never get comfortable throughout the game. Wells finished the game 18 of 39 for 153 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. In the fourth quarter he was replaced by sophomore Ricky Davis who showed his running ability, gaining 38 yards on just six carries. Head Coach Bo Pelini said after the game that he thought about making a QB change earlier in the game.
Defensively, the Penguins played much better than the final score indicated. The unit was left on the field for a great amount of plays and was able to keep the game somewhat close until the the fourth quarter. Lee Wright led the way for YSU with nine tackles, two tackles-for-loss and a sack. All-conference defensive end Derek Rivers made history by breaking the Youngstown State career sack record. Rivers had two sacks against SDSU, giving him six this season and 23 for his career. He passed Jermaine Hopkins who collected 22 sacks from 1992 to 1995.
After a competitive performance against Illinois State, one of the best teams in the MVFC, it was extremely surprising to see YSU get blown out against South Dakota State. Coach Pelini was extremely frustrated and took responsibility for the performance, saying “I apologize, I clearly didn't have this team ready to play.” He also added, “I haven't been this disappointed in a long time.”
The Penguins can now lose just one more game if they want to have a realistic shot at making the playoffs. Things will not get any easier this week as YSU travels to Carbondale, Illinois to face Southern Illinois. The Salukis feature one of the most high-powered offenses in the FCS. Kickoff at Saluki Stadium this Saturday is scheduled for 7pm.